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
Short Url
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.”


Cairo International Film Festival announces 2021 dates

Lebanese actress Nour poses on the red carpet at the opening ceremony of the 41st edition of Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF). AFP
Lebanese actress Nour poses on the red carpet at the opening ceremony of the 41st edition of Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF). AFP
Updated 13 April 2021

Cairo International Film Festival announces 2021 dates

Lebanese actress Nour poses on the red carpet at the opening ceremony of the 41st edition of Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF). AFP

DUBAI:The 43rd edition of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) is set to take place from Dec. 1-10, 2021, it was announced this week.

Egyptian film producer Mohamed Hefzy, president of the Cairo International Film Festival, said in a released statement: “Film Festivals have found a way to adapt and survive, acting as a lifeline for films and filmmakers that have been affected and challenged by the pandemic, including such threats as disrupted productions, and the closure of theatres throughout the world. Very few festivals managed to hold a physical edition, and we are proud to say that Cairo was one of them, setting the bar for an even more successful physical edition this year.”

This year’s festival will also offer prizes to 15 film projects.

“The festival’s programming team and management are thrilled by the challenge that this upcoming edition offers, and we are eager to present a diverse and rich lin0eup of films and a selection worthy of the festival’s audience that has come to expect more in terms of quality and surprises year after year,” added Hefzy.

“During the last three years we did strive to realize our fullest ambitions and utmost success in our offering of programming, and in the various support platforms offered to professionals by Cairo Industry Days, including the Cairo Film Connection which last year offered prizes valued at nearly $250,000 to 15 very different quality projects.”

As with the previous three editions, the festival will also feature the industry-focused Cairo Industry Days and its Cairo Film Connection co-financing event.

Last year’s edition featured more than 95 films from over 40 countries.

Despite challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, including 50 percent less capacity due to social distancing, the festival sold 30,000 tickets while 200 international guests also attended in 2020. 

CIFF is not only the region’s oldest and largest annual film festival, but also the only internationally accredited one in the Middle East and Africa.

In 2019, the cinematic event also became the first Arab film festival to sign the 5050×2020 gender equality pledge, committing to empowering women and increasing transparency about issues of gender disparity in the Middle Eastern film industry.

That same year, CIFF achieved Oscar-qualifying film festival status in the Short Film category, becoming the only festival in North Africa to join Cannes, Venice, Sundance, and other prestigious events in this recognition.


Instagram partners with Bahraini artist Hala Al-Abbasi on Ramadan stickers 

Instagram partners with Bahraini artist Hala Al-Abbasi on Ramadan stickers 
Updated 13 April 2021

Instagram partners with Bahraini artist Hala Al-Abbasi on Ramadan stickers 

Instagram partners with Bahraini artist Hala Al-Abbasi on Ramadan stickers 

DUBAI: Social media platform Instagram has teamed up with Bahraini artist Hala Al-Abbasi on three new stickers for Ramadan that were released on Monday.

The first sticker is an illustration of a mosque against the backdrop of star and a crescent. The second picture is a visual of tea and dates to represent Ramadan traditions. The last image is also an illustration of a crescent and stars. 

According to Instagram Design’s account: “Hala Al-Abbasi, an illustrator in Bahrain, was inspired by her favorite aspects of the holiday, and chose to reflect on the ‘beautiful moments that we share together.’” 

“Hala hopes that her stickers will be used throughout Ramadan to mark moments of celebration, from greetings to special suhoors and iftars, all the way to celebrating Eid,” the design-focused account added. 

To use the stickers, you will need to open the Instagram Story tray and add your favorite sticker to your story. 

Instagram/@haluulie

In celebration of the Ramadan, Instagram has added a feature that allows you to see stories with these stickers from people you follow all in a shared story.

Al-Abbasi took to her account to share her excitement for the collaboration. “OMG I DID RAMADAN STICKERS!! THEY ARE FINALLY OUT (sic),” she shared in her stories.

Instagram/@haluulie

“ENJOYED every process of creating these cute stickers for you guys! So you can use them as much as you can during your daily routine in Ramadan (sic),” the designer added. 


Bella Hadid fronts Fendi’s latest collection

Bella Hadid graces the Fendi limited-edition capsule collection. Supplied
Bella Hadid graces the Fendi limited-edition capsule collection. Supplied
Updated 13 April 2021

Bella Hadid fronts Fendi’s latest collection

Bella Hadid graces the Fendi limited-edition capsule collection. Supplied

DUBAI: This week, British designer Kim Jones unveiled a limited-edition capsule for Rome-based brand Fendi and tapped part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid to front the campaign.

The 23-year-old is joined by fellow model Lila Moss in the lookbook photos. The catwalk stars are seen in elegant draped white satin gowns, form-fitting black dresses, crisp cotton shirting, ballerina slippers embossed with Karligraphy beaded monograms and knee-high satin boots that make up the capsule.

When it comes to the accessories, new iterations of the Baguette and Peekaboo handbags have been added to the line, which are either accented with pearls or boast prints influenced by the Bloomsbury Group — a 20th century group of English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists —and their Sussex home, Charleston House. 

Bella Hadid graces the Fendi limited-edition capsule collection. Supplied

Inspired by the legacy of the influential literary cohort, the Bloomsbury Group and Virginia Woolf’s novel “Orlando,” the capsule will be exclusively available for only two weeks at select boutiques around the world starting on April 15.

The British designer was announced as the new artistic director of Fendi, seven months after the passing of the late Karl Lagerfeld, in September. He assumed his new role while remaining at the creative helm of Dior Men.

Jones presented his debut collection as artistic director of Fendi in January 2021 in Paris during Haute Couture Week.

Bella Hadid graces the Fendi limited-edition capsule collection. Supplied

For the Spring 2021 couture show, the designer invited the modeling world’s brightest stars to bring his clothes to life, including Dutch-Palestinian Bella Hadid.  

Hadid featured in the video-streamed show in a diaphanous cape. Moss also starred in the show, alongside her mother, iconic supermodel Kate Moss. For the presentation, Lila wore a beaded sheer gown over a cream bodysuit, while her 47-year-old mother was dressed in a silver maxi dress with capelet sleeves.

Hadid’s involvement with Fendi’s latest capsule collection comes just after she appeared in French maison Mugler’s fashion film, which debuted recently on the brand’s Instagram and YouTube accounts.

The short film showed Hadid, alongside other models Hunter Shafer and Irina Shayk, jumping and flipping their way down the runway in death-defying stunts.


Fast-fashion website PrettyLittleThing makes its debut in Saudi Arabia

Fast-fashion retailer PrettyLittleThing launched an Arabic version of its website in Saudi Arabia. Supplied
Fast-fashion retailer PrettyLittleThing launched an Arabic version of its website in Saudi Arabia. Supplied
Updated 13 April 2021

Fast-fashion website PrettyLittleThing makes its debut in Saudi Arabia

Fast-fashion retailer PrettyLittleThing launched an Arabic version of its website in Saudi Arabia. Supplied

DUBAI: Popular online shopping destination PrettyLittleThing has just landed in Saudi Arabia. The e-commerce platform, beloved by It-girls and celebrities including Kourtney Kardashian, Hailey Bieber, Saweetie and Maya Jama, has launched an Arabic website in the Kingdom to cater to its growing Saudi market. 

“We are so excited to further propel our presence into the global scene and continue to acknowledge and empower the women of the GCC, by inspiring them to narrate their own stories in PrettyLittleThing,” said Umar Kamani, Owner and CEO at PrettyLittleThing in a released statement. 

The new platform features the retailer’s ready-to-wear, handbags, shoes and accessories. Supplied

The new platform aims to facilitate the online shopping experience of shoppers based in the Gulf country by introducing an all-Arabic website.

Boasting a selection of the UK-based retailer’s ready-to-wear, handbags, shoes, accessories and highly sought-after celebrity collaborations,  the online platform offers Saudi shoppers simplified access to the fast-fashion brand’s products with a tap of a button. 

This move further bolsters the brand’s digital portfolio. PrettyLittleThing already has an online presence in a number of countries, including the UAE.


Oscar-nominated ‘Minari’ depicts immigrant family’s American dream

Oscar-nominated ‘Minari’ depicts immigrant family’s American dream
Updated 13 April 2021

Oscar-nominated ‘Minari’ depicts immigrant family’s American dream

Oscar-nominated ‘Minari’ depicts immigrant family’s American dream

CHENNAI: Minari is a kind of vegetable that grows in the East Asian wilds and is treasured for its medicinal properties and detoxifying effect. In the film directed by Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari” takes on a mysteriously providential sign, indicating that good things can come from the soil.

We watch how the movie’s protagonist Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) insists on a livelihood from his land. While “Minari” was unfairly given a thumbs down in this year’s Golden Globes and disqualified in the Best Picture (drama) race, it flourished in the Oscars with a nomination in several categories: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress.

Yeun plays a Korean immigrant in America, a place he believes to be a “garden of Eden.”

Set in the 1980s, the story tells of how the US is not quite the land of honey and milk he thought it would be. Jacob and his wife Monica (Han Ye-hi) move from the stability of California, where she struggled in her job at a chicken hatchery, to the beautiful, expansive Arkansas. Jacob and his family, including his daughter Anne (Noel Cho) and son David (Alan Kim), may be stuck in a trailer for a home, but the 500 acres of land that come with it are sheer joy for the man, who plans to grow Korean vegetables for his cousins who miss their home cuisine.

Monica is less exuberant, given the fact that life in her new home is a lot harder than what it was in California. David is strained by a cardiac problem and the nearest hospital is an hour’s drive away, worrying his mother. But Jacob relentlessly pushes ahead with his dream, and even invites Monica’s elderly mother Soon-ja (Korean screen legend Youn Yuh-jung) to take care of the children while the couple are away at work.

Chung peppers his work with delightful incidents, although there is understandable tension and disappointment when Jacob finds it hard to strike water for his land. But with the kids’ grandmother playing a pacifist, calming frayed nerves and acting as a bridge between Korea and the US by introducing some traditional Asian values, the small family ploughs on.

Chung weaves into the script his own experiences growing up in an Arkansas farm in the 1980s, and gives it a pleasurably languid feel. Lachlan Milne’s camera captures the soothing radiance of the green environment with the glowing rays of the sun beating down. Emile Mosseri’s score adds to this calming effect with a score that has a lovely old-world charm. Yeun’s intelligent piece of acting, and Han’s performance as a worrying mother with Kim adding the mischievous element, ensures that “Minari” is a must-watch for all who believe that cinema must be more than just a restless string of images and drama.