Made in KSA: How to take fashion forward

From left: Julien Hawari, Ghizlen Gunenez, Philippe Blanchard, Rania Masri and Ramy Fares at the Ithra conference in Dhahran on Thursday. (AN photo)
Updated 26 October 2018

Made in KSA: How to take fashion forward

  • Princess Norah said: “For me ‘Made in KSA’ is about the ability to manufacture in the same place that I work and live
  • Hatem added: “We are having so many fashion weeks in the country but we are not getting solutions

DHAHRAN: Fashion was the talk of the town as the creativity season at Ithra, Dhahran, continued its celebration of the creative arts. Fashion movers and shakers Rania Masri, Ramy Fares, Philippe Blanchard and Ghizlan Guenez took a look at the future of fashion at “Tanween” on Oct. 25. They took the floor to discuss the hot topic of “Tech Disruption” — how technology is changing the fashion industry.
Rania Masri, the chief transformation officer at Chalhoub group, kicked off by describing how technology works as a catalyst in the retail industry. “Digital has disrupted our industry quickly evolving our consumer in a way that we were not expecting, and we need to react very quickly to it,” Masri said.
Ramy Fares, the director of retail at Microsoft in the Middle East and North Africa agreed that “retail has been fundamentally transformed by effective technology.
“The market player we are all trying to catch up with in retail is Amazon, and at the heart of Amazon is artificial intelligence, learning just from your clicks what you have in your shopping cart (and using that information) to profile the kind of products (the company needs) to have in the warehouses to fulfill your needs.”
Ghizlan Guenez, the founder and CEO of UAE online women’s fashion retailer was asked if she would have been able to conduct her business in the same way without this digital revolution, and she said no. The Modist has built a reputation as a portal offering modest fashion from luxury brands.
“What we wanted to do is to reach all modest dressers globally, regardless of why they do so and smash a little bit of a stereotype around modesty — that it’s about a particular religion or one particular culture or religion.”
Guenez also discussed how technology allowed her business to stretch beyond national boundaries to capture a wider market.
“For us it was very important to be able to reach a large audience — from Indonesia to the Middle East all the way to America — to ensure that this positioning was clear. And so e-commerce was crucial for us in the way we launched the business.”
Philippe Blanchard, founder and CEO of sport technology company Futurous, discussed the relationship between humans and technology.
“We cannot be in a situation where we are setting new sets of rules, policies and tools and we expect that artificial intelligence will substitute human intelligence and responsibility. He elaborated: “It is our collective responsibility to keep our humanity and to make sure we are not becoming dependent or unaccountable.”

Fashion and innovation
Discussions on fashion and innovation continued at “Made in KSA” with Hatem Alakeel, Reem Alkanhal, Cyrille Fabre and Princess Nourah Al-Faisal.
This event focused on how culture, fashion and entrepreneurship need to work together to move society forward and tackle the challenges that Saudi designers face in producing their designs locally.
Princess Norah, the founder of Nuun Jewels, said: “For me ‘Made in KSA’ is about the ability to manufacture in the same place that I work and live, and to have the structures that allow me to do so.
“I am talking about having training, infrastructure, workshops creating essentially an industry that does not exist at this time. I think in terms of design in Saudi Arabia you are talking about creating industries that do not exist and that’s a big job. That’s huge!”
She emphasized the importance of working collectively to achieve this target. “It is not something that one person can do ... it’s down to those of us who are already in the business and the only way we are going to be able to do it is by working together.”
The award-winning designer Reem Al-Kanhal talked about her determination to have pieces manufactured locally.
“I insisted ever since the day I started that I want ‘made in KSA,’ and I did it. I had one of my collections distributed in some Gulf cities and the label said ‘made in KSA.‘ It was really difficult, and I took a longer time to finish the collection, but I found out that it’s like a ripple effect; you see everything in front of you.”
To Al-Kanhal the problem was clear: “We have a lot of local tailors who cannot find jobs because there are no factories, and as a designer I need investors and I need a whole team.”

Hatem Alakeel, the designer and founder of menswear brand “Toby,” shared the concerns of fellow designers: “We are forced to become industrialists.”
“We, as designers, find ourselves wearing too many hats; we have to become entrepreneurs, we have to think of ROI (return on investment), we have to think about all these details,” he said.
Hatem added: “We are having so many fashion weeks in the country but we are not getting solutions. I always have to go out of the country to manufacture when I we would like to be able to manufacture where we are; logistically and cost-wise it makes more sense.”
Cyrille Fabre, Middle East Bain & Co. partner and director, said the problem was the lack of local brands: “In France, Italy or the UK almost everybody would be wearing a brand from their own country. You go to the mall in France or UK and at least 60 percent or more of the mall would be national brands.”
Fabre said the problem is caused by the small number of experts in the region. “There are just a few SMEs, but let’s try to say mostly in the creative industry.”
Reem, Princess Norah and Hatem also talked of the importance of changing consumer perceptions of pieces made in the Kingdom, agreeing it was essential to change the consumer’s mindset and educate designers. The panelists agreed that working as a team, rather in silos, was the only way to rebuild the industry and change perceptions in Saudi Arabia.

Pentagon confirms its ‘long-term’ commitment with Saudi Arabia

Updated 28 May 2020

Pentagon confirms its ‘long-term’ commitment with Saudi Arabia

  • The US removed two of its four Patriot anti-missile units from Saudi Arabia, earlier in May

DUBAI: The United States remains committed to long-term defense contracts with Saudi Arabia, Pentagon spokesman Sean Robertson told Arab News sister newspaper Asharq al-Awsat in a statement.

US forces maintain “strong capabilities” in various regional operations, including air defense, to deal with any emergencies related to Iran, Robertson was cited by the paper on Thursday.

Earlier in May the US removed two of its Patriot missile systems from Saudi Arabia.

But Robertson said this was about relocating, rather than removing.

“The Department of Defense is doing routine work in managing its power around the world,” he explained

“In light of the current global crisis, some of its equipment and forces are being rotated to address emerging threats and maintain preparedness.”

“We continue to work with the international community and the Saudi armed forces to strengthen regional air defense capabilities,” he said.

“This is a multi-lateral and long-term effort, as the US-Saudi defense partnership is long-term. And includes a group of cooperation to include the fight against terrorism, maritime security and air defense,” he said.

Washington aims to maintain its ability to increase its forces in the region in a short time, the US Naval Commander said.

The statement came shortly after the US and Saudi forces conducted a routine and joint sustainment training on and around Karan and Kurayn islands this week.

The training follows a training program that took place from April 20 to 22.

Commanding officer, Col. Trevor Hall said the US appreciated Saudi Arabia for allowing the US navy to train on these islands.

“Being able to train on these islands allows our team to expand upon our previous training by adding capabilities and assets from our partners in the region. The ability to plan and operate with other forces supports our ability to rapidly deploy aviation, maritime, and ground combat elements – all from over the horizon – at a moment’s notice in order to support maritime security, freedom of navigation, and the free flow of commerce,” Hall said.

The Saudi and US naval forces carried out deck operations, underwater beach surveys, maritime patrolling, boat lane security operations, and will establish a forward arming and refueling point for aviation assets to refuel.

“These islands in the Arabian Gulf provide our Navy-Marine Corps team an ideal setting to prepare for a wide range of operations, while exercising seamless integration with our highly qualified partners,” said Capt. Lance Lesher said.