Italian fashion world adopts manifesto promoting diversity

Italian fashion world adopts manifesto promoting diversity
A model presents a creation for fashion house Dsquared2 in Milan. (AFP)
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Updated 13 January 2020

Italian fashion world adopts manifesto promoting diversity

Italian fashion world adopts manifesto promoting diversity
  • Its manifesto backed by major Italian fashion brands aims to increase racial and gender diversity in key roles in Milan’s fashion houses

MILAN: The Italian National Fashion Chamber is promoting a diversity agenda among Milan’s major fashion houses, a year after several top Italian brands faced criticism for designs and remarks seen as culturally and racially insensitive.

Its manifesto backed by major Italian fashion brands aims to increase racial and gender diversity in key roles in Milan’s fashion houses, which fashion chamber president Carlo Capasa acknowledged was lagging in a recent interview ahead of Milan Fashion Week.

“We have been speaking for many years against discrimination based on gender, religion, skin color and physical ability. But we must acknowledge that this has not been truly implemented,’’ Capasa said. 

“We looked at our industry and we saw there is disparity. We saw that a disparity of gender persists, that there are conditions not favorable to women in the workplace and in some cases there is discrimination.’’

While Capasa resisted framing the manifesto as a direct reaction to the scandals involving blackface designs by Gucci and Prada, and a Chinese backlash that forced fashion house Dolce&Gabbana to cancel a major Shanghai show, the incidents show the cultural blind spots that can arise when a fashion house is too homogeneous.

Capasa said the Milan fashion world must work harder to attract people of color.  “If global companies want to represent the world they are targeting, they must welcome diversity and look beyond their own borders,’’ he said, citing the relative homogeneity of Italian society.

Milan has lagged the other main fashion cities of Paris, New York and London in racial diversity on the runway, according to season diversity reporting by the Fashion Spot. 

Capasa said the stories that fashion houses want to tell are often linked to their Italian roots, and that runway choices are linked to model agencies’ offerings since not all models come to Milan.

While many Milan fashion houses take their creative direction from women — including Miuccia Prada, Donatella Versace, Silvia Venturini Fendi and Angela Missoni — and more women than men work in the fashion industry, Capasa said efforts are needed to get more women into decision-making roles.

‘’If we look at the boards, at the CEOs, at other key roles, there might be an advantage for men,’’ Capasa said. ‘’But we don’t want to introduce quotas obligating companies to promote women. We want to create the conditions so that women can have the same chances.’’

The chamber’s manifesto does not include hard commitments. Instead, it presents concepts that ‘’will serve as a model for a radical reform in terms of diversity and inclusion.’’

They were adopted by the chamber’s more than 100 members, which include most major Milan fashion houses with the notable exception of Dolce&Gabbana, and will be monitored every year for progress.

They call for changing representations of the standards of beauty on runways and in magazine campaigns, acknowledging that ‘’canons of physical beauty and harmful psychological models have spread throughout the industry.’’ They also present inclusion as a business opportunity that can boost financial results while improving trust with clients.

Gucci and Prada have independently made efforts to address the scandals. 

Gucci’s efforts include launching a scholarship program to reach students who have been underrepresented in the fashion industry, while Prada announced a diversity council headed by two Americans, artist Theaster Gates and film director Ava DuVernay.

Capasa put the fashion chamber’s initiatives in the context of an ever more globalized industry where 2.5 billion people follow the fashion world on social media accounts and can, with a single post, shift a fashion company’s fortunes.

Meanwhile the center of fashion’s commercial gravity has shifted to Asia, with Chinese consumers accounting for 90 percent of luxury sales growth last year, according to a study by the consultancy Bain & Co.

“The push to speak about diversity of inclusion comes directly from the fact that globalization made us understand that you cannot speak in the same way that you spoke before,” Capasa said. 

“The audience has become much bigger.’’


Saudi resilient as emerging markets shares hit 7-month lows on China rout

Saudi resilient as emerging markets shares hit 7-month lows on China rout
Updated 2 min 39 sec ago

Saudi resilient as emerging markets shares hit 7-month lows on China rout

Saudi resilient as emerging markets shares hit 7-month lows on China rout
RIYADH: Emerging market stocks slid 2 percent to a seven-month low on Tuesday, extending heavy losses to a third session, as a sharp sell-off in Chinese stocks continued.
Saudi Arabia's Tadawul rose 0.2 percent, while the Dubai Financial Market Index was little changed and Abu Dhabi's Securities Exchange General Index was up 0.6 percent.
China’s blue-chip index dropped 3.5 percent to its lowest in nearly eight months as worries lingered about regulatory crackdowns in the education and property sectors.
Hong Kong’s benchmark sank almost 4.5 percent, with losses over the past three days pushing the index more than 8 percent into the red for the year.
The Chinese yuan hit its lowest since April, weakening 0.4 percent to trade at 6.504 to the dollar.
“The question for investors is whether the sell-off presents an attractive opportunity to bottom fish,” said analysts at BCA Research.
“We argue otherwise and expect further pressure from regulators to continue to weigh down on Chinese stocks over a six- to 12-month horizon,” they said, adding that the medical industry could be the next target.
Adding to worries around China, profit growth at industrial firms slowed for a fourth straight month in June, while a surge in the Delta variant COVID-19 cases centered on the eastern city of Nanjing.
MSCI’s index of Asia shares excluding Japan hit its lowest so far this year, as did a broader index of EM equities as China stocks have the biggest weightage on both. Western European bourses traded well in the red, while US stock indexes looked set to retreat from all-time highs.
South Africa’s main index lost 1.7 percent, moving sharply away from 1-1/2-month highs, while Turkey’s index extended losses to day four. Polish stocks led losses across eastern Europe.
Tunisian bonds stabilized after their worst slide in a month on Monday following the government’s ouster by President Kais Saied.
Saied extended existing COVID-19 restrictions on movement on Monday and vowed any violent opposition would be met with force.
In currency markets, the South African rand slid 0.7 percent against a strengthening dollar ahead of the US Federal Reserve’s policy decision on Wednesday.
Investors are hoping to get clues on the world’s largest economy’s standing, as well as any hints on the timeline for stimulus tapering and interest rate hikes.
Massive support from major central banks and ultra-loose monetary policy to stimulate economic activity and growth has helped inflows into riskier assets of emerging markets.
Turkey’s lira and Russia’s rouble were broadly flat. Hungary’s forint was steady against the euro, staying near three-month lows ahead of a central bank meeting. An extension of a hiking cycle with a 20 basis-point increase in its base rate to 1.1 percent is expected.

Saudi Arabia tops emerging markets league table

Saudi Arabia tops emerging markets league table
Updated 27 July 2021

Saudi Arabia tops emerging markets league table

Saudi Arabia tops emerging markets league table
  • Analysis of MSCI EM Index puts Kingdom at the top of the list with a near 27% rise in market value

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia has been the best performing of all the emerging markets since the onset of the pandemic, according to new data from global information provider Refinitiv.

An analysis of 25 countries in the MSCI Emerging Market Index put Saudi Arabia, home to the Tadawul stock exchange in Riyadh, at the top of the list with a near 27 percent rise in market value since the start of 2020, when COVID-19 began to impact the global economy.

That compares with an average increase of just 1.6 percent in the overall index, and easily outstrips the 14.2 percent jump in the MSCI World Index of all countries.

Turkey was the worst performing of the emerging markets, with a 22.8 percent fall since the pandemic began, followed by Peru and Colombia, with drops of more than 20 percent. Of the other Middle East countries, Egypt witnessed a 6.5 percent decline, while Qatar barely grew, with just a 1.2 percent increase. 

The UAE placed second in the post-pandemic emerging market ranking, with a 21.3 percent rise.

Market experts said one of the reasons for the Kingdom’s outperformance was the authorities’ effective response to the economic recession brought on by the pandemic.

“The Saudi authorities were relatively quick to react with a series of measures, especially relating to smaller businesses, to help ease the burden of the pandemic economic effects, and the market has reacted to that,” Tarek Fadlallah, chief executive of Nomura Asset Management in the Middle East, told Arab News. 

The International Monetary Fund recently applauded the Kingdom’s pandemic response, as well as reforms to its capital markets that have enhanced its position as the biggest equities trading hub in the Gulf.

Tadawul has introduced derivatives trading which has broadened its appeal, especially to foreign investors accustomed to more sophisticated trading techniques.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Market experts said one of the reasons for the Kingdom’s outperformance was the authorities’ effective response to the economic recession brought on by the pandemic.

• The International Monetary Fund recently applauded the Kingdom’s pandemic response, as well as reforms to its capital markets that have enhanced its position as the biggest equities.

• Saudi Arabia’s market outperformance reflects its sustained course of economic transformation, along with liquidity boosting by the central bank, says expert.

“Saudi Arabia’s market outperformance and strong corporate valuations reflect its sustained course of economic transformation, along with liquidity boosting by the central bank,” financial expert Nasser Saidi told Arab News. 

“Economic and structural reforms, along with social liberalization policies, including opening up foreign markets to foreign investors, allowing for 100 percent foreign ownership in certain sectors, resulted in massive investment inflows.”

He highlighted the effect of the “policy-shattering” initial public offering of Saudi Aramco, and the steady stream of market flotations continuing this year, as a key feature of the Kingdom’s progress since the pandemic began.

The Saudi performance rates highly even in the context of rising global markets, buoyed by low interest rates and big government stimulus. New York’s S&P index has gained 33 percent since the onset of the pandemic.


Startup of the Week: Tuma Taiba feeding vegan needs

Startup of the Week: Tuma Taiba feeding vegan needs
Updated 26 July 2021

Startup of the Week: Tuma Taiba feeding vegan needs

Startup of the Week: Tuma Taiba feeding vegan needs

JEDDAH: Veganism has become a growing trend in Saudi Arabia with ever more people opting for a plant-based diet.

For some it is for health reasons, while for others it is a moral decision. As a result, supermarket shelves in the Kingdom have over the past four years seen an increase in stocks of vegan products.

In 2019, Amani Nouri, who gained a diploma in nutrition, founded Tuma Taiba — Arabic for good bite — in Jeddah, to cater for the burgeoning vegan market in the country.

“I chose to name it Tuma Taiba because good food is the foundation for a good body,” she told Arab News.

Her company offers vegan cheese spreads made from different nuts, and they come in flavors such as olives, pomegranate, and bell pepper. It also produces vegan and gluten-free pastries made with dates, sourdough bread, and kombucha tea in flavors including a mix of berries or apple, pineapple, and cinnamon.

The startup sold more than 500 products last year and aims to triple that amount this year.

Nouri said 85 percent of her diet was now plant-based after she made the decision to change her eating regime due to suffering from a number of health conditions that cleared up when she switched to a healthier diet.

“I suffered migraines once or twice a week to the point I needed strong painkillers, and this of course could hurt my kidneys and body in general.

“After I turned to the plant-based diet, I lost weight, I even look more youthful, all the pains and conditions I suffered from are cured, the cysts went away without any medication, and the hormonal imbalances too,” she added.

Family and friends encouraged Nouri to pursue the vegan business after trying her recipes. “On the insistence of family and friends, I started sharing my dishes with people because of the community’s need for different vegan-friendly food.”

She noted that the number of people in the Kingdom opting for vegan food was steadily increasing.

And some of her customers were non-vegans. “They find a delicious plant-based alternative that satisfies their tastes, and benefits their bodies, and notice the difference after eating more plant-based foods,” she said.

Tuma Taiba is planning to expand its product range and open a restaurant in the next couple of years.

• Details are available on Instagram @tumataiba.


Low interest rates boosted mortgage demand by 27% through May

Low interest rates boosted mortgage demand by 27% through May
Updated 26 July 2021

Low interest rates boosted mortgage demand by 27% through May

Low interest rates boosted mortgage demand by 27% through May
  • Residential real estate financing contracts offered to individuals by local banks reached 133,006 through May, with a value of SR69.5 billion

RIYADH: Mortgage lending in Saudi Arabia increased 27 percent this year through May, as interest rates decreased to between 1 percent and 4.9 percent, compared to about 6 percent early last year.

Residential real estate financing contracts offered to individuals by local banks reached 133,006 through May, with a value of SR69.5 billion, according to data from the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA).

Real estate financing grew by 50 percent compared with the same period in 2020 when SR46.6 billion was lent via 104,000 contracts.

“There is great competition between banks and real estate finance companies to obtain a greater share of the housing demand, after government support and joint financing programs with the Real Estate Development Fund (REDF), which led to an increase in the volume of lending for home purchases,” Riyadh-based Menassat Reality Co. CEO Khaled Almobid told Arab news.

“I expect more lending during the last quarter of this year despite the difficulties it is facing due to the rise in some housing prices in major cities and the lack of supply,” he said.

Saudi banks are offering mortgages with interest rates as low as 1 percent at Al Rajhi Bank, 2.5 percent at the Saudi National Bank (AlAhli Bank) and up to 4.5 percent at some banks.

Residential villas made up about 80 percent of the total financing, apartments 17 percent, while the purchase of residential lands’ financing made up the remaining 3 percent.

Saudi real estate financing achieved a record growth during the past three years, amounting to about 295,590 contracts, worth SR140.7 billion in 2020, compared to 22,259 financing contracts, worth SR17 billion in 2016, local media reproted citing SAMA data.


Lebanon sells cheapest Big Mac in the world as currency collapses

Lebanon sells cheapest Big Mac in the world as currency collapses
Updated 26 July 2021

Lebanon sells cheapest Big Mac in the world as currency collapses

Lebanon sells cheapest Big Mac in the world as currency collapses
  • Lebanese pound is 70 percent undervalued according to the Big Mac Index
  • A split is emerging between those paid in Lebanese pounds and those in dollars

RIYADH: Lebanon is home to the world’s cheapest Big Mac after the pound slumped in value, leaving it more than 70 percent undervalued against the US dollar, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

At 29,904 Lebanese pounds, a Big Mac is not cheap for those being paid in local currency, but with an exchange rate of 17,800 to the dollar, it costs just $1.68 for tourists and those lucky enough to get paid in dollars.

The slump in the Lebanese pound is exacerbating and accelerating inflation on a basic basket of goods, such as rice, sugar and flour, on a daily basis, said Lebanese economic analyst Bassel Al-Khatib.

Most people are paid in the local currency in Lebanon, where the national minimum wage stands at 675,000 Lebanese pounds per month, which was once worth almost $450 at the official exchange rate, but today barely fetches $30 on the black market, according to the Crisis Observatory at the American University of Beirut (AUB).

The Observatory said the cost of food has soared by 700 percent over the past two years, and this increase had picked up pace to 50 percent in the past few weeks alone.

Most Lebanese people are getting poorer on a daily basis, pushing some of them to sell their gold, cars and even furniture to survive, while others wait for US dollar transfers from their relatives abroad, or wait for civil society aid, Al-Khatib told Arab News.

This is all reflected in Lebanese social media, which is flooded with donation requests for new-born baby milk and medications that are not available anymore in the markets or are sold for extremely high prices. There are also numerous donation requests for people in need of food.

At the same time, others are sharing their expensive restaurant bills, such as Babel Baher who spent 5 million Lebanese pounds on a meal and posted the cheque on Facebook.

“$250 is almost nothing for someone coming from abroad,” a Facebook user called Rania wrote under the post. “This is a very cheap bill for someone who has US dollars and this dinner is not expensive at all compared to abroad.”

Al Khatib said that those paid in US dollars are living an affordable life with only $300 out of their salaries while before they needed $3,000 to have the same quality of life.

“The patchwork policies to support some commodities is not helping as all commodities that are subsidized are smuggled, ” said Al Khatib.

The country’s mismanagement with no plan or economic vision to save Lebanon from its worsening crisis, led us here, and there are no positive prospects as long as there are no radical solutions in the country, he said.