Inside Zari Fashion Bazaar, Saudi Arabia’s first virtual fashion event

Zari Fashion Bazaar is a 3D platform that allows shoppers to virtually browse and shop collections, attend workshops and more. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Inside Zari Fashion Bazaar, Saudi Arabia’s first virtual fashion event

  • The three-day digital-only event was a direct response to the myriad cancelations brought on by COVID-19

DUBAI: There is no denying that the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) — declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March — has disrupted the fashion industry and challenged it to adapt to a new, digital environment. 

Next month, London Fashion Week Men’s will be replaced with a digital-only platform, starting with a virtual fashion week from June 12 to 14. Milano Fashion Week Digital has been announced for July 14 to 17 and will take place via immersive video content. The Paris collections will show virtually from July 9. 

In the Arab world, the industry is also opening up to new channels of communication and creativity. 

Last week, Sara Obeid, founder of a Riyadh-based event management company, teamed up with Saudi visual effects producer Jumana Shaheen to host the country’s first-ever 3D fashion event. 

The Zari Bazaar is a virtual marketplace showcasing designs from local talent. (Supplied)

Entitled “Zari” — named after a traditional type of embroidery that uses metallic thread — the three-day digital-only event was a direct response to the myriad cancelations brought on by COVID-19. 

“Having friends who work in fashion, I’ve come to know first-hand the disastrous effects those in the industry have had to endure due to the pandemic,” said Obeid to Arab News. “As it was Ramadan, we began to think how wonderful it would be to bring people together over a traditional bazaar. From that idea, we developed it further to become a virtual fashion forum that hosts four main sections,” she added.

The four sections include: Zari Bazaar, a virtual space where local designers can showcase their products in booths; Zari Academy, a panel of fashion experts such as Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council Caroline Rush hosting discussions, workshops and talks; Zari Exhibit, a collection of images of traditional Saudi clothes and accessories; and Zari Lounge, a digital infinity pool for guests to virtually hang out and network. 

The Zari Lounge. (Supplied)

“COVID-19 has had an immense impact on the fashion industry in Saudi Arabia,” notes Obeid. “All fashion retail stores and spaces are closed, and shopping at malls is a huge part of our culture. A lot of established local brands don’t have an online presence and rely heavily on their customer foot traffic to sustain their businesses,” she explained. 

The event, which took 40 days to conceive, aimed to bolster the country’s fashion industry and promote regional talent by showcasing and selling jewelry, accessories, and clothing from a number of local designers. 

Guests were invited to create Sims-like avatars to browse and purchase pieces from fine jewelry brands such Salama Khalfan and Yataghan, as well as ready-to-wear labels like Nabila Nazer and Al Areej, from the comfort of their own living room. 

The Zari Workshop room. (Supplied)

However, dreaming up the event was not without its obstacles.

“We spent a lot of time on research. It is surprising that the virtual technology of 2020 is not as one might expect it to be. Finding photographic inventory of traditional and historical Saudi clothing was also not an easy process,” said Obeid.

But after more than a month of hard work and dedication, the virtual event proved successful, allowing local designers to reach and connect with much larger audiences. 

“Since the pandemic began, there has been a general feeling of hopelessness and fear among people,” Obeid says. “By providing a platform for the designers where they could still connect with their customers, we hope that we are at least minimizing the effects that COVID-19 has had on them.”

Moroccan actor Youssef Kerkour receives BAFTA nomination

Youssef Kerkour is nominated for Best Male Comedy Performance for his role as Sami Ibrahim in the comedy series “Home.” (Instagram)
Updated 04 June 2020

Moroccan actor Youssef Kerkour receives BAFTA nomination

DUBAI: Moroccan actor Youssef Kerkour has landed a nomination for the 2020 British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA), the academy announced on Thursday, after the awards were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The actor, who grew up in Rabat, is nominated for Best Male Comedy Performance for his role as Sami Ibrahim in the comedy series “Home.”

Kerkour, who is also known for roles in “Dracula,” “Redemption,” “Criminal” and “Marcella,” took to Twitter to thank his supporters. 

“Thank you all for your lovely messages this morning. It is a tremendous honor to be nominated in such stellar company,” the 41-year-old actor said.


La famille MAISON @channel4 #home #season2

A post shared by Youssef Kerkour (@youssefkerkour) on

The series, created by British writer and actor Rufus Jones, follows a middle-class London family who find a Syrian asylum seeker named Sami (Kerkour) hiding in their luggage while returning from holiday in France.

Kerkour’s tweet also paid tribute to Jones. 

“I must however say that there is a name missing IMO (in my opinion). That name is Rufus Jones. His writing will give you nominations,” he wrote.