Saudi Fashion Commission CEO Burak Cakmak unveils plans for the future

Burak Cakmak had been appointed to lead Saudi Arabia’s Fashion Commission. File/Getty Images
Burak Cakmak had been appointed to lead Saudi Arabia’s Fashion Commission. File/Getty Images
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Updated 27 February 2021

Saudi Fashion Commission CEO Burak Cakmak unveils plans for the future

Burak Cakmak had been appointed to lead Saudi Arabia’s Fashion Commission. File/Getty Images

DUBAI: Last week it was announced by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture that Burak Cakmak had been appointed to lead the Kingdom’s Fashion Commission, one of the 11 bodies under the Kingdom’s Ministry of Culture, to help develop the country’s burgeoning fashion industry.

“I was honored to have a chance to join the team at the Fashion Commission to lead the implementation of an ambitious strategy to build a robust fashion industry in Saudi Arabia,” said Cakmak, a former Dean of Fashion at the Parsons School of Design in New York, to Arab News. 

“Saudi Arabia has all the key elements for building a successful fashion industry today. With traditions and heritage to inspire, its creative community keen to build new businesses and a fashion conscious young population engaged in retail and social media with fashion. Saudi (Arabia) is in a great place to become a key influencer in the region and globally,” he added.

In his new role as the CEO of the Fashion Commission, Cakmak will be responsible for a string of tasks, including supporting and empowering talent, professionals and entrepreneurs in the local fashion industry, developing and regulating the fashion sector as well as encouraging finance and investment.

“One of my main focus areas is to identify opportunities for Saudi to create fashion solutions that are innovative, technology driven, sustainable and aligned with the expectations of the 21st century global consumer,” said Cakmak of some of the changes he would like to implement in his new role. 

“As we are building and growing a relatively new industry in the country, we need to ensure we don't repeat the mistakes of the West from the past century.  This means that we need to focus on building new business models that are able to manage social and environmental impacts, (and that are) transparent and innovative in the way they engage the consumer.”

In addition to managing and developing the fashion sector in Saudi Arabia, Cakmak also hopes to shine a positive spotlight on the Kingdom’s burgeoning fashion scene. 

 “At the moment there is not enough information available about the creativity coming out of the Kingdom to the rest of the world,” he noted. “The richness of the country’s heritage and crafts, as well as its designers, with both traditional and modern takes on Saudi fashion, is a great starting point for us to start shaping perceptions around the Saudi creative industry.”

In the past two years alone, Saudi Arabia has rolled out a series of changes that can be attributed to Vision 2030, a plan that focuses on modernizing Saudi culture, diversifying its economy away from oil, attracting new global investments, and supporting small local businesses. One of the areas that is showing real potential is the country’s fashion sector.

“Recent initiatives around tourism and a deeper focus on diversifying local economic sectors have been a great catalyst in stimulating the fashion industry,” Cakmak said.  




Models backstage ahead of the Arwa al Banawi show at Fashion Forward October 2017. Getty Images

Indeed, the country’s fashion sector is rapidly on the ascent. In the last couple of years, the country hosted its first-ever Fashion Week in Riyadh in 2018, the Dubai-based Arab Fashion Council opened up an office in Riyadh and Saudi fashion designers are getting more recognition than ever as they lay the groundwork for a real, thriving fashion industry.

“Mohammed Khoja’s brand, Hindamme, produced a jacket embroidered with the words ‘24 June 2018’ – the date women in Saudi started driving, which was acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London as part of their permanent fashion collection. Meanwhile at the end of last year, the brand of Saudi sisters – Sarah and Siham Albinali – Lurline, was declared joint second runner-up in the Vogue Arabia Fashion Prize.  And one of Mohammed Ashi’s creations was worn on the red carpet by Oscar-nominated director and screenwriter Ava DuVernay at the Academy Awards in 2017,” recalled Cakmak, highlighting some of the many success stories from Saudi Arabia.




Jory Al Maiman and Lujain wearing the Hindamme embroidered jacket. Photographed by Ekleel Al Fares

But despite growing interest and support from events like Arab Fashion Week, a lot of brands struggle with a lack of access to capital and resources necessary in a functioning fashion ecosystem. Cakmak hopes to change that in his new role.

“A brand can only succeed if they are able to couple creativity with a sound business strategy,” he explained, adding “I am working closely with the Fashion Commission team and the Ministry of Culture to ensure we are creating the right infrastructure to develop the industry. First and foremost, we want to support fashion entrepreneurs with the right regulatory frameworks relevant to the fashion industry. As we assess the local fashion ecosystem, we are identifying areas for new job opportunities and fashion businesses that can be created locally to support a growing fashion industry in Saudi Arabia.”

Cakmak received a bachelor’s degree at the Middle East Technical University in Turkey in 1997. 

His career in the fashion industry began in 2000, serving as Gap Inc.’s senior manager of social responsibility. After eight years, he relocated to London and was hired by European conglomerate Kering to lead sustainability strategies for the luxury group’s brands — including Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga — as its first director of corporate sustainability. 




In January, Saudi designer Ahmed Alwohaibi staged the kingdom's first-ever independant fashion show in Riyadh. Supplied

He was appointed as dean of fashion at Parsons School of Design in 2016, where he made it his mission to educate the next generation of fashion creatives about the importance of environmental and social responsibility.

With his 15-year-strong background in sustainability, Cakmak hopes to make the topic a key focus in his new role in Saudi. 

“As the Fashion Commission, we are keen to bring the latest tools for measuring and reporting on the sustainability impact to local brands and share knowledge on how to build more sustainable business models for the fashion industry,” he shared. 

“Made in KSA will be a key focus to create short supply chains where we can encourage on-demand production and mass customization to minimize returns and left-over inventory for the industry,” he added of his strategy to minimize the impact of the fashion supply chain in the Kingdom.

As for his long-term goals for Saudi’s fashion sector, Cakmak just wants to position the country as a key player in the global fashion industry.

“In collaboration with the Fashion Commission team, Ministry of Culture and all other relevant government entities, I hope to put in place the incentive and infrastructure to achieve this goal,” he said.

“I have worked with fashion businesses all across the globe and have a good understanding of the opportunities and challenges they face. I also have a good view on the latest developments in the industry, and access to a global network of experts who we can tap into to shape the future of fashion in the Kingdom. I am really excited to be a catalyst to bring such positive change to the country.”


Founders of fashion label NIILI seek to share UAE design ethos with the world

Founders of fashion label NIILI seek to share UAE design ethos with the world
Updated 10 May 2021

Founders of fashion label NIILI seek to share UAE design ethos with the world

Founders of fashion label NIILI seek to share UAE design ethos with the world

DUBAI: As UAE-based luxury womenswear label NIILI readies to bring its unique line to Saudi Arabia via the Homegrown Market, a concept store that showcases contemporary emerging Arab brands, the founders spoke to Arab News about their global hopes for the brand that was launched mere weeks before the debilitating COVID-19 pandemic. 

NIILI’s “N21” Fall/Winter 2021/22 capsule collection, which will be available at the Homegrown Market, is inspired by the rich heritage of the UAE and features two of symbols of the country’s culture — palm trees and henna, the ancient art that is commonly used to design women’s hands and feet for weddings and other religious events like Eid. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by NIILI (@niili_official)

A customized pattern melding the two is visible throughout the capsule collection on the label’s signature flowy kaftans. The new line is marked by soft pastels and natural hues, a color palette that was chosen to highlight elegance and femininity.

Launched mere weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the Middle East, NIILI has been fighting to build a name for itself in the competitive fashion market. 

The co-founders of the ready-to-wear brand, Emirati Khaled Al-Zaabi and Spanish Paula Quetglas Llop, discussed the fashion house’s main goals, how the brand is succeeding despite tough times and its new collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by NIILI (@niili_official)

“What we wanted to do was really create a truly wonderful luxury brand out of the region that would cater to the tastes of the region, but also share with the world our own views of design inspiration and luxury,” said Al-Zaabi.  

The entrepreneur said that he wanted to share Emirati culture with the world, but also stay true to the nature of the UAE. “It is a very inclusive country and a very global country to actually have that international view and international appeal,” added the founder. 

For Llop, she believes that this is the best time to “consume local.” She said that with the pandemic, the trend in countries now is to support “what’s going on in one's country.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by NIILI (@niili_official)

When speaking about the effect of the pandemic on NIILI, Al-Zaabi joked: “You could conduct all the analysis and industry studies… and then you launch on the 15th of January 2020, then a few weeks later there is a major global pandemic that hasn’t happened in a hundred years.”

He said that launching during the time of a pandemic was challenging. “It was and still is extremely difficult… tghankfully we are quite a lean structure as well. We’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices as well (with) cuts,” he explained. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by NIILI (@niili_official)

“It also allowed us to revise our strategy, revise our business plans and rethink a lot of aspects,” added Al-Zaabi. 

According to Llop, the major change for NIILI was going entirely digital. “We really had to think about how to proceed to get a space in the digital world that is absolutely flooded with brands and new things,” she said. 

However, the brand has been making moves since its launch. Just last month, NIILI launched on Ounass for customers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and beyond.


French model Cindy Bruna stars in the L’Oreal x Elie Saab beauty campaign

French model Cindy Bruna stars in the L’Oreal x Elie Saab beauty campaign
Cindy Bruna is one of the most recognizable models in the fashion industry. File/Getty Images
Updated 10 May 2021

French model Cindy Bruna stars in the L’Oreal x Elie Saab beauty campaign

French model Cindy Bruna stars in the L’Oreal x Elie Saab beauty campaign

DUBAI: Cosmetics giant L’Oreal has released a limited-edition makeup collection of nine products with Lebanese couturier Elie Saab. Saab is the latest designer to team up with the cosmetics company, which has partnered with other fashion houses such as Balmain, Isabel Marant and Karl Lagerfeld in the past. The campaign for the L’Oreal x Elie Saab makeup range was unveiled this week, starring French model Cindy Bruna.

The catwalk star appears in a beauty advert wearing a heavily-embellished gossamer dress designed by the Beirut-born couturier. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

Bruna, who was born to an Italian father and a Congolese mother in France, actually landed one of her first modeling jobs for Elie Saab shortly after signing with Wilhelmina Models in 2012. 

She would go on to become one of the most recognizable models in the industry, making headlines as the first Black woman to walk exclusively for Calvin Klein in that same year.

Bruna, has been ranked as a “Money Girl” on models.com, alongside the likes of Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, meaning she is predicted to have longevity in the fashion world. She has walked the runway a clutch of high-end labels, including Chanel, Saint Laurent and Gucci, to name just a few.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

Throughout her career, she has remained loyal to the designer who gave her one of her first modeling gigs and recently served as the face of Elie Saab Parfum’s 10-year anniversary campaign. 

Meanwhile, the exclusive L’Oreal x Elie Saab makeup collection is exactly what you’d expect from a designer beloved by celebrities for his stunning haute couture gowns.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

The nine-piece collection, which marks the designer’s first foray into beauty, includes four shades of lipstick, three creamy lip glosses, a nine-pan eyeshadow palette and an oil-infused mascara. Each comes in sleek, gold-tinged packaging that evokes the luxury of the designer’s signature ethereal gowns.

“My goal has always been to make women look beautiful and this collection allows me to bring an array of products to fit into women’s lives, helping them to feel more elegant and confident,”  Saab said in a statement about the collaboration.


Arab artist Nourie Flayan collaborates with luxury label Carolina Herrera on Eid illustrations

Arab artist Nourie Flayan collaborates with luxury label Carolina Herrera on Eid illustrations
Updated 10 May 2021

Arab artist Nourie Flayan collaborates with luxury label Carolina Herrera on Eid illustrations

Arab artist Nourie Flayan collaborates with luxury label Carolina Herrera on Eid illustrations

DUBAI: Lebanese artist Nourie Flayan is collaborating with US luxury fashion house Carolina Herrera on a set of Eid Al-Fitr illustrations. 

In celebration of the holiday, the brand is releasing a series of illustrations aiming to bring “together friends and families after Ramadan and highlight the strong family values that are at the core of the Carolina Herrera brand heritage,” according to a released statement. 

The artist also used the jasmine flower, which is a tribute to the iconic flower Venezuelan-American designer Carolina Herrera seeks inspiration from. (Supplied)

The illustrations that Flayan created for Carolina Herrera evoke a modern festive atmosphere, which fits both Ramadan and Eid, featuring traditional prints such as the Mashrabiya, an architectural element that is a characteristic of traditional architecture in the Islamic world. 

The artist also used the jasmine flower, which is a tribute to the iconic flower Venezuelan-American designer Carolina Herrera seeks inspiration from — the imperial jasmine.

Many of her illustrations feature multiple hands. (Supplied)

Flayhan is a well-known advocate of women’s rights.

She often draws colorful sketches of women in the region and many of her illustrations feature multiple hands or eyes.

She often draws colorful sketches of women in the region. (Supplied)

Flayhan studied textiles in university before delving into illustration. During her career she has collaborated with international brands such as Shopbop, Gucci, Loewe, Yoox and Selfridges. This is her first collaboration with Carolina Herrera.


Vin Diesel talks ‘Fast and Furious 9,’ director lauds Mideast fans 

Vin Diesel talks ‘Fast and Furious 9,’ director lauds Mideast fans 
Updated 10 May 2021

Vin Diesel talks ‘Fast and Furious 9,’ director lauds Mideast fans 

Vin Diesel talks ‘Fast and Furious 9,’ director lauds Mideast fans 

LOS ANGELES: Twenty years after the first film premiered, “Fast and Furious 9” is finally coming out in theaters — and fans of the high-octane franchise can expect the usual high-speed thrills, lead star Vin Diesel told Arab News.

The release of the newest installment of the film series was delayed five times, at first to avoid competing with other films and later due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When we were filming in London in 2019, we had no idea (of) the year that was to come,” Diesel told Arab News. “We had no idea that we would be all isolated from one another. We had no idea how much we missed a movie like this that brings people together, that we can all look up on the screen and see a part of ourselves on the screen as a part of a global family.”

“Fast and Furious 9” sees criminal-turned-hero Dominic Toretto take a break from the fast lane as he cares for his young son. But action speeds back into his life with the return of his long-forgotten brother, a skilled assassin who is out for revenge.

“We’ve grown accustomed to accepting the fact that family and brotherhood is everything for Dom,” Diesel explained. “His mantra is ‘never turn your back on family’ and yet when he becomes a father, he has to take a closer look into his past, to a broken brotherhood.”

Wrestler John Cena joins the cast as the film’s chief antagonist, Jakob Toretto, while Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren will reprise their roles from the 2017 and 2019 films, respectively.  

They are joined by franchise mainstays Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang and Tyrese Gibson. 

The series is set to end after two more movies, but the producers are planning something that could be exciting for fans in the Middle East.

“All last week, I was working with (director) Justin Lin about ‘Fast 10’ and the Middle East, the return to the Middle East, came up in our discussions,” Diesel hinted.

Lin elaborated, saying: “The Middle East has some of the most loyal and amazing fans so that kind of started us talking about, in this final chapter if we’re looking for to reengage, where do we want to take the story? So, there’s a lot of talk and it was very organic and I’m very excited.”


Burj Al-Arab’s SAL: Come for the views, stay for the food at this Dubai hotspot

Burj Al-Arab’s SAL: Come for the views, stay for the food at this Dubai hotspot
The restaurant overlooks the main star of the venue, the 100-meter infinity pool. Supplied
Updated 10 May 2021

Burj Al-Arab’s SAL: Come for the views, stay for the food at this Dubai hotspot

Burj Al-Arab’s SAL: Come for the views, stay for the food at this Dubai hotspot

DUBAI: First things first: If you’re familiar with the Instagram account @influencersinthewild, then chances are you’ll spot similar examples of the content it posts at Burj Al-Arab’s SAL. Because for every few individuals who are at the venue for the resplendent views and excellent hospitality, there’s that one “influencer” at work, taking part in an impromptu photo shoot. It would be extreme to claim that they’re ruining the experience for everyone else, but you’ll probably pause and have a chuckle or two at the confidence of it all.

That being said, to reduce SAL to a social media “hotspot of the moment” would be doing it a disservice because judging by our own experience, there’s so much more to it than a backdrop for Insta-models. Jumeirah Group describes SAL, which opened in the second half of last year, as a “chic lifestyle experience at Burj Al Arab where barefoot luxury at an iconic pool and beach destination meets culinary excellence in a striking new dining venue.” With hues of blue forming the picture-perfect landscape, the restaurant overlooks the main star of the venue, the 100-meter infinity pool.

Jumeirah Group opened SAL in the second half of last year. Supplied

However, we’re here to dine, not dip (into the pool), and our entire meal was a feast for the eyes and the stomach. Headed by Culinary Director Marco Garfagnini, SAL’s menu “pays homage to the sea,” with the majority of the dishes made for sharing.

Greeted by a very welcoming and friendly team of hosts, we were guided to our seats before being offered a detailed run-through of the menu.

The heirloom tomato carpaccio, feta cheese and black olives was laid out on a platter in a pretty pattern. Supplied

To start, my dining partner and I opted for the heirloom tomato carpaccio, feta cheese and black olives, and the tuna tartare with caviar. As we waited, we were served water from freshly cut coconuts.

Once our appetizers arrived, it became clear that our phone photography would be reserved for the dishes and not only for the view. The carpaccio was delicately laid out on a platter in a pretty pattern, while the tartare was served in a perfect circle with a dash of gold dusting on top.

Tartare is served in a perfect circle with a dash of gold dusting on top. Supplied

The tartare was divine. Its citrus-based Ponzu sauce marinade offered the perfect balance, “cooking” the fish to eliminate any offending aftertaste sometimes experienced with tartare. In fact, it was one of the best tartare dishes I have ever sampled.

The main course certainly had a lot to live up to, bringing us to the first — the recommended Portuguese dourada, a gilt-head sea bream fish common in the Mediterranean. At SAL, it’s served baked with tomatoes and potatoes. Again, absolutely flawless. Its cod-like meatiness paired with a spinach-infused sauce made for a moreish main that was delightful on the palette.

The Portuguese dourada made for a moreish main that was delightful on the palette. Supplied

Another fish dish we were recommended was the sea-salt-crusted seabass for two, but since my guest isn’t the biggest fan of seafood, we opted to try the third recommendation — the stone-oven-baked lemon chicken empanada, with French fries and baby spinach salad. Now, SAL likes to entertain guests, so similarly to the seabass, this one is carved and served right in front of you. Given the show, we were expecting something big, but if there was one dish that was more “meh” than “marvelous,” it was this one. It was underwhelming after it was cut open and presented, looking more like some lemon chicken in pita bread rather than a baked turnover. It still tasted delightful, but we both agreed that if we could, we would advise the restaurant to serve it as is, as it looked much more appealing at the start.

The stone-oven-baked lemon chicken empanada is carved and served right in front of you. Supplied

It was nearly time to wrap up, and as much as we wanted to go for something sweet, we were simply running on full. One lovely staff member did try to tempt us with the dessert trolley offering a selection from the restaurant’s master pastry chefs, but we stayed strong. In the end, we were presented with a cute little meringue-based dessert topped with fresh berries — just the right amount of sugar to conclude our visit with.

Needless to say, this Burj Al-Arab beach restaurant is definitely one to add to your must-visits. As someone who has been based in this region for many years, this was easily one of the best meals I have had in a long time. 

I don’t make that claim lightly.

A little meringue-based dessert topped with fresh berries. Supplied

Info:

SAL @ Burj Al Arab

jumeirah.com/SAL