The Saudi fashion designer inspired by her bedouin roots in AlUla

Lama Al-Bluwi says her inspiration was mainly bedouin heritage. (Supplied)
Lama Al-Bluwi says her inspiration was mainly bedouin heritage. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 11 December 2020

The Saudi fashion designer inspired by her bedouin roots in AlUla

The Saudi fashion designer inspired by her bedouin roots in AlUla
  • Jeddah-born Lama Al-Bluwi’s yearning for her heritage has found expression in a remarkable collection
  • Hand-drawn portraits printed on local fabrics in modern cuts speak to her family’s bedouin roots in AlUla

DUBAI: Growing up in Saudi Arabia’s coastal metropolis of Jeddah, Lama Al-Bluwi always felt somehow detached from her family’s bedouin roots in AlUla far to the north. Now her yearning for this rich cultural heritage has found expression in a remarkable fashion collection, which melds the traditional fabric designs of her ancestors with the latest modern trends.

Young Saudis across the Kingdom are looking deep within their own heritage for inspiration, and Al-Bluwi is no exception. The 23-year-old’s prizewinning collection debuted last winter, just months after she graduated in fashion design from Jeddah’s Dar Al-Hekma University.

“My inspiration was mainly bedouin heritage and I tried to depict heritage in a more fashionable and modern way,” Al-Bluwi told Arab News. A college prize for the Most Creative Fashion Collection motivated her to enter her designs for AlUla Season — a festival celebrating local creativity.




Born and raised in Jeddah, Al-Bluwi remembers traveling to the family’s farm in AlUla every winter while growing up. (Supplied)

What makes Al-Bluwi’s work distinctive are the hand-drawn portraits of the bedouin that she prints onto local fabrics, making her coats, jackets, crop-top hoodies and oversized T-shirts an instant hit on Instagram among customers tired of the more predictable high-street fare.

“I have always drawn bedouin portraits, so I mixed all my ideas to present a fashionable collection for my senior collection and my senior project at university,” she said.

Born and raised in Jeddah, Al-Bluwi remembers traveling to the family’s farm in AlUla every winter while growing up. She recalls with fondness the warmth of the local community and the proud culture of the bedu — nomadic Arabs who inhabit the region’s desert expenses. “I find something real in them and that sense of being, of authenticity and of realness inspires me,” she said.

“The simplicity of their life is what fascinated me. I find them very hardworking and very inspiring people in so many ways. They are very generous, and I love that. The way they appreciate their heritage is really touching and they find a lot of pride in where they come from.”




What makes Al-Bluwi’s work distinctive are the hand-drawn portraits of the bedouin that she prints onto local fabrics

AlUla is host to a breathtaking ancient walled city, packed with historic mud-brick and stone houses. Situated in the Madinah region of northwestern Saudi Arabia, it is also home to the Kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage site — the 2,000-year-old Nabataean wonder of Hegra, also known as Mada’in Saleh. Given AlUla’s increasing prominence as an archeological landmark on the Middle East tourist trail, the local population is naturally proud of their history and culture.

Despite the annual visits to her ancestral home, Al-Bluwi's childhood and early education in Jeddah left her feeling far removed from her heritage. Curious about her roots and eager to look beyond the cultural bubble of “the Jeddah scene” as she calls it, Al-Bluwi delved deeper into her origins.

This personal journey soon found creative expression. After an initial interest in the fine arts, encouraged by a love of sketching and family trips to European museums, Al-Bluwi discovered her passion for fabrics.




Fashion designer Lama Al-Bluwi’s creations salute her AlUla roots, above and inset, while hand-drawn portraits of bedouin, below, are a hit among customers. (Supplied)

“I used to beg my mother to go with me to a museum,” she recalled. “None of my family was interested but I made them go and they loved it, but I was the one who initiated it.”

And although AlUla and bedouin heritage form the foundation of her work, her designs were also influenced by a dash of Japanese culture, particularly the concept of wabi-sabi — the art of imperfection.

“Everything that is raw and imperfect is perfect, rather than being polished,” she said. “That was my main concept. When you see my garments, you will notice that the seams are inside out, and the edges are raw. I implemented the imperfections in my designs.”

A love of “weird, imperfect things” motivated her research. “I don’t like seeing something polished, so I started to go into the history of imperfection, and I came across this Japanese philosophy,” she said. “I read more about it, researched it and found it amazing.”




Lama Al-Bluwi's yearning for AlUla's rich cultural heritage has found expression in a remarkable fashion collection. (Supplied)

Al-Bluwi says there is no dearth of interest within Saudi Arabia in her creations, and many of her friends enjoy wearing them. “I love it when a product gives you a sense of identity or presents something to you,” she said.

At the same time, she hopes to make her mark beyond the Kingdom by spreading awareness of her culture and heritage near and far.

Despite the strain placed on small businesses and the fashion events calendar by the coronavirus pandemic, Al-Bluwi says her business is blossoming, with growing interest from abroad. “That people from other cultures find (my collection) interesting made me very happy,” she said.




Lama Al-Bluwi's designs were also influenced by a dash of Japanese culture. (Supplied)

Catering for an international client base will not only help Al-Bluwi build her brand but also broaden the global appeal and appetite for Saudi Arabia’s bedouin heritage.

“It is important for us as artists or designers to change our perspective on that,” she said, referring to an earlier reluctance to engage with the global marketplace. “We are doing that slowly, but a lot of people have seen my collection, so we are going in the right direction.”

Although she has missed out on promotional events this year, the pandemic has given Al-Bluwi time to hone her skills and to learn from others in Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning fashion industry. “I have learnt that it is very important to have a really good platform or website where everyone can see your work, and not be over-depend on events,” she said.




Young Saudis across the Kingdom are looking deep within their own heritage for inspiration. (Supplied)

With the Saudi government investing heavily in young entrepreneurs as part of its Vision 2030 economic diversification plan, Al-Bluwi is excited to see more designers spread their wings.

“I’m so happy to be alive at this time in Saudi Arabia. What they’re doing here is beautiful. They are supporting us in so many ways — not just in fashion but in a lot of sectors in the country,” she said.

“It’s a lovely thing to see. It makes us push ourselves even more in the best way possible and it makes me proud of all our talent because we truly all drive each other.”

Twitter: @CalineMalek

The rebirth of AlUla
Hegra, ancient city of the Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla Valley, is emerging from the mists of time to take its rightful place as one of the wonders of the world

Enter


keywords

Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 2 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 536,900
  • A total of 8,760 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced two deaths from COVID-19 and 45 new infections on Saturday.

Of the new cases, 20 were recorded in Riyadh, five in Jeddah, two in Tabuk, two in Makkah, two in Al-Khobar, and two in Yanbu. Several other cities recorded one new case each.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 536,900 after 41 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,760 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 44.4 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation
Updated 16 October 2021

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation

KSA, Egypt discuss environmental cooperation
  • The men praised their countries’ successful cooperation in the field of environmental protection

CAIRO: Egypt’s Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad and her Saudi counterpart Abdulrahman Al-Fadley discussed environmental cooperation between their two countries.

They praised their countries’ successful cooperation in the field of environmental protection, with Fouad saying the environment is a priority for Egypt’s leadership.

She also welcomed cooperation with Saudi Arabia in terms of converting waste into energy.

The two sides discussed cooperation in the fields of coastal management, marine policies, environmental monitoring, management of chemicals and hazardous waste, and integration of environmental knowledge into educational curricula.

Al-Fadley expressed his aspiration to cooperate with Egypt in the field of water desalination and reusing extracted salt.

The two sides agreed to focus on cooperating to preserve the Red Sea, with Fouad noting its richness in coral reefs and marine life.


Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince

Saudi envoy to UK details rapid modernization under crown prince
  • Prince Khalid: “We have a very young population. They want a different world”
  • “I grew up with religious police telling us what to do, but now it’s about letting people make their own choices”

LONDON: The Saudi ambassador to Britain has praised the wide-ranging modernization efforts carried out by the Kingdom’s leadership.

“In the last five years the pace has been huge — 1,000 laws have been altered or removed,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan told The Times.

“There is a misconception about Saudi that we never change, but going back 100 years it’s been dramatic. My grandfather went to work on horseback, my father flew fast fighter jets, and my cousin went into space.”

Prince Khalid said the way the Kingdom legislates for women is also changing. “Just before I was posted here (in the UK), I went back for two days and I called one of my sisters and said, ‘Let’s go for a coffee. Shall I come and pick you up?’ and she said, ‘No, I’ve got my car.’ It brought a real smile to my face,” he said.

“Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable for her to have a job, let alone drive. We are still a very conservative society but we have a very young population. They want a different world.”

The ambassador, who attended the prestigious Eton College before Oxford University and Sandhurst, said: “I feel very Saudi, but I was brought up in the West.” 

His links to Britain are strong, not only through being educated in the UK but also through his English wife Lucy Cuthbert, a niece of the duke of Northumberland.

Prince Khalid has seen some of the modernization he witnessed in Britain appearing in his homeland, including mobile phones, which he said have made a huge difference to Saudi society.

“We have one of the highest percentages of phones per capita in the world, nearly three phones per person,” he added.

“The young are all over Instagram. In my generation, there wasn’t much entertainment at home so we had to go abroad. Now the young want to go to shops and cinemas, and there has been an explosion of events,” he said.

“There are women-only sections but no enforced separation. I grew up with religious police telling us what to do, but now it’s about letting people make their own choices.”

He told The Times that his sister said she “discovered there wasn’t a glass ceiling — it was more of a soft tent and she could push it out.”

The ambassador said 34 percent of the Saudi workforce is made up of women, dramatically leaping from 18 percent in 2016.

“We have had our first graduation for women in the army, there are women in government, in the police, we are training female judges, we have an equal opportunities and equal pay law,” he added.

Prince Khalid also detailed the rapid expansion of the Saudi tourism industry, including the giga-projects being planned. 

“In 2019 we launched our tourist visa online. We issued 440,000 visas before the pandemic started, 60,000 to the UK,” he said.

“We are developing resorts with a Red Sea project and NEOM, a new futuristic city. Saudi Arabia is the size of Western Europe. We also have 330 heritage sites.” These giga-projects are part of $7 trillion of investment under the Vision 2030 reform plan.

The Kingdom is expected to participate in the UN Climate Change conference, also known as Cop26, in Glasgow later this month. 

“We decided to move away from fossil fuels in 2016. We don’t want to be an oil provider but an energy provider,” said Prince Khalid. “We have committed to producing 50 percent of our energy by renewable sources by 2030.”


Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization
Updated 16 October 2021

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Who’s Who: Alaa Abdulaal, VP at the global Digital Cooperation Organization

Alaa Abdulaal has been the vice president of strategy and governance at the Digital Cooperation Organization since September 2021.

The organization, a global multilateral entity that aims at increasing social prosperity through accelerating the growth of the digital economy, was established by a group of countries that share an interest in collaborating to realize their collective digital potential. These countries are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, and Pakistan.

Prior to joining the organization, Abdulaal had served for more than a year as the director of IT strategy and governance at the Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services. For over nine years, beginning in 2011, she worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a database unit leader, technical operation strategist, and a strategic planning and development manager.

In the latter role she established key performance metrics, designed reporting solutions, and promoted the use of structured information to drive enhanced business performance. She also led critical communication development and business reporting.

In 2015, she spent eight months as a research intern at Riva Modeling Systems in Toronto, where she demonstrated a strong interest and aptitude for user experience.

Before that, she worked for more than four years as a database administrator at the Saudi Exchange Market. There, she helped enhance the database’s performance and security. Her job responsibilities also included evaluating the proposed auditing systems and developing the availability process from scratch with the IT service management project consultants. Moreover, she created availability dashboards for Tadawul production services.

Abdulaal received a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2006 from King Saud University, where she graduated with first class honors. In 2014, she obtained a master’s degree, majoring in applied computing, with the highest GPA result.

She is a certified strategic business planner and a professional business process manager.


Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan
Updated 16 October 2021

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

Saudi air defenses destroy Houthi drone targeting Jazan

RIYADH: Saudi air defenses intercepted a Houthi drone aimed at Jazan, the Arab coalition said early Saturday.

The Houthis consistently target civilian infrastructure in the Kingdom using explosive drones.

The Kingdom has labeled Houthi attempts to target civilians as war crimes.

Earlier this month, attacks on Abha and Jazan airports in southern Saudi Arabia sparked widespread condemnation of the militia’s tactics of targeting civilian sites.

The Arab coalition has been fighting the Iran-backed Houthis, after the militia seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

Saudi Arabia as repeatedly said the only way to a peaceful Yemen is through dialogue, and has called on the Houthis to end the fighting. The Riyadh Initiative, which was launch by the Kingdom in March, includes a nationwide ceasefire and a plan to reopen Sanaa airport. The plan has been rejected by the Houthis.

Fighting in Marib province has claimed thousands of lives, among both government and Houthi forces. The resource-rich region has been heavily contested as the militia seek to strengthen their control of northern Yemen.

The Arab coalition said on Friday that ten military vehicles were destroyed and over 180 Houthis killed in operations it carried out in Abedia, a district in Marib that has been under siege since Sept. 23.

The Houthi action in Abedia has hindered the movement of civilians and impeded humanitarian aid flows, including medical supplies, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said earlier this week.

The war, which has now lasted for seven years, has cost thousands of Yemenis their lives and has forced many more to depend on humanitarian assistance.

Saudi relief agency, KSrelief, has poured billions of dollars worth of aid into Yemen and has hundreds of projects focusing on food and health.