A mentoring platform gives aspiring Saudi designers a leg up in the industry

Through her own love for jewelry design, Princess Nourah Al-Faisal has created Adhlal, a platform to help young Saudis get on in the industry. (Supplied)
Through her own love for jewelry design, Princess Nourah Al-Faisal has created Adhlal, a platform to help young Saudis get on in the industry. (Supplied)
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Updated 31 May 2021

A mentoring platform gives aspiring Saudi designers a leg up in the industry

Through her own love for jewelry design, Princess Nourah Al-Faisal has created Adhlal, a platform to help young Saudis get on in the industry. (Supplied)
  • Princess Nourah Al-Faisal is encouraging and cultivating a generation of local designers
  • She established Nuun Jewels in France in late 2013 before moving back to the Kingdom

DUBAI: As Saudi Arabia aims for its ambitious Vision 2030, one member of the royal family has taken it on herself to encourage and cultivate a generation of young, local designers.

Through her own love for jewelry design, Princess Nourah Al-Faisal has created Adhlal, a platform to help young Saudis get on in the industry while remaining inside the Kingdom.

“I’ve always loved design in all its forms,” Princess Nourah told Arab News. “I grew up in that atmosphere. We have a lot of artists and creatives in the family and it was always in the air we breathed.”

Initially, architecture was her passion and jewelry designing was more of a hobby. Given the dearth of opportunities in Saudi Arabia in the late 1990s and difficulties in traveling for education at the time, she chose to study English literature at King Saud University, as reading was her second love. The idea then was to become a writer or perhaps to work in education.




After studying interior design at Richmond University, Princess Nourah started to see overlaps between architecture and jewelry.

“In those days, not many women traveled for education,” she said. “And there were only a few Saudi female interior designers beginning at that time.”

As she pursued her interests, Princess Nourah experimented with design, which allowed her to explore. After graduating, she flew to London and for a year pursued her passions. From art classes and pottery to glass cutting, she left no stone unturned in her creative pursuits.

After studying interior design at Richmond University, she started to see overlaps between architecture and jewelry. In a twist of fate, she was able to showcase some of her sketchbook ideas at an exhibition given by a friend of her mother’s in London, alongside a roster of international jewelers.

“I got publicity from it and, after that, Guerlain had seen my sketchbook and contacted me to offer me an apprenticeship,” she said.

“My father really supported me. He told me to start my business in France so I could compete on an international level from the beginning.




Following a few commissions for weddings in the Kingdom, Princess Nourah established Nuun Jewels in France in late 2013. (Supplied)

“At the time in Saudi Arabia, things were very different.”

Following a few commissions for weddings in the Kingdom, she established Nuun Jewels in France in late 2013. But moving back to her homeland was always at the back of her mind, especially after getting married that year. By then, Saudi Arabia offered more opportunities, and possibilities started opening up.

“I, like many other designers, was manufacturing outside of Saudi Arabia,” Princess Nourah said. “I thought I could run my production from home, but I found it difficult to get the information I needed. I needed craftspeople and I make a certain quality of jewelry. My market is very niche, so my production had to be of the same quality.”

But finding the right people was not straightforward, especially as she wanted to employ Saudis. The cost of flying staff in to train also did not make financial sense. “I wanted and needed something, so I created Adhlal,” she told Arab News. “I understood that I, and many other designers, didn’t really understand the lay of the land, who the movers and shakers were.

“There were little pockets of activity but nothing connecting them — it was word of mouth.”

BIO: Princess Nourah Al-Faisal

* Studied English literature at King Saud University.

* Studied interior design at Richmond University.

* Apprenticed with Paris’ Place Vendome workshop.

* Founded her first design venture Nuun Jewels in Paris in 2014.

* Established social-enterprise Adhlal in Riyadh in 2018.

Adhlal, which translates as mentors or patrons in Arabic, began with research and, over the past three and a half years, has sought to analyze data generated by focus groups. It has published three white papers, which chart the happenings in the local design community, and disseminated knowledge.

The idea is to replicate the kind of success enjoyed by Saudi couturiers such as Mohammed Ashi and jewelry designers such as Lillian Ismail — but to allow them to develop inside the Kingdom rather than outside.

“We are close to publishing our industry report for free to give an idea on what design is in Saudi Arabia now from the community,” Princess Nourah said. “It gives you a road map of where the gaps are and what we should be focusing on. I believe that we, as designers, need to build our own ecosystem. And I feel like it’s the government’s role to enable, which they’re doing in so many different ways.”

She speaks of a need to focus on what designers need help with, as they are the ones with experience of what is needed and what is not. Accordingly, Adhlal offers a step-by-step toolkit for designers to ensure they structure their businesses correctly.

In parallel, the platform is currently building a learning and development section, which will promote established local designers and provide practical advice to help younger entrants moving up. It helps connect manufacturers to designers, while providing advice from lawyers on copyrighting and contracts, as well as insights on pricing, freelancing, the manufacturing process, and how to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.




From art classes and pottery to glass cutting, Princess Nourah left no stone unturned in her creative pursuits. (Supplied)

“It’s about connecting the community to each other,” Princess Nourah said. “We also hold workshops, and we focus on infrastructure. Saudi Arabia right now is doing something that has not been seen anywhere else in the world — we are creating our own design industry. In France and Italy, it’s part of their identity.”

She highlights the importance of building a thriving design support network, a process that has been held back by COVID-19 and resulting disruptions in imports. The pandemic “has taught us that importing and manufacturing outside is no longer feasible and we need to have our own infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities within the country,” Princess Nourah said.

“And that’s exactly what Vision 2030 is about. It’s about creating different avenues, other than petrochemicals, and design is essential also in connecting us to our heritage. Someone will understand your culture a lot better if they’re drinking from a cup with patterns from a particular region. So, it opens up our culture to the world and it’s tangible.”

With almost 4,000 members on Adhlal’s Instagram account, the platform is growing. A large network of like-minded mentors, who have been working in the area for years, is actively going out and sharing knowledge and experience. “Our focus is to work with everyone else in the field to create our own world.

“We’re in a really special place right now because we have a government that’s really pushing and opening up so many possibilities, from funding to competitions. Even within our educational system, there’s so much going on in terms of supporting local designers and incubators,” she said. “There are many opportunities for young designers to participate in creating their own future.”

She speaks enthusiastically about the position in which Saudi Arabia is today, where young Saudis can design, implement and witness a change in their world as they know it. “That’s a really exciting place to be in,” Princess Nourah said. “It’s like having a superpower.”

She refers to her generation as one that had been waiting for such changes and is now attempting to keep up with them, adding that the younger generation is extremely talented and budding with ideas.

“There are a lot of people like me and all we want to do is ensure they are enabled, getting the right support they need and being pointed in the right direction so they can achieve what we all want,” Princess Nourah said.

“You have a generation now that’s so caught up in Vision 2030 and they are manifesting their reality. What I would have done to have been able to be in their position, at their age, with their energy. The world is open to them.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Timeless craft of cane carving sees Saudi statement pieces go global

Visitors to Saudi Arabia are constantly on the hunt for souvenirs such as swords, or canes. (Photos/Supplied)
Visitors to Saudi Arabia are constantly on the hunt for souvenirs such as swords, or canes. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 12 min 22 sec ago

Timeless craft of cane carving sees Saudi statement pieces go global

Visitors to Saudi Arabia are constantly on the hunt for souvenirs such as swords, or canes. (Photos/Supplied)
  • Adel Al-Shehri turns handmade sidr pieces into online phenomenon using local talent, materials

MAKKAH: A young Saudi in the south of the Kingdom is bringing back the timeless craft of hand carving wooden canes with a new look to suit modern tastes, driving demand from Hajj pilgrims and online customers from around the world.

Walking canes have always been associated with the elderly and ill, and usually comprise simple designs that focus more on function rather than appearance.
That association has prompted Adel Al-Shehri to give the concept a new life by bringing back an old craft and turning canes into famous statement pieces used by Saudis.
Through his work, he can convey the cultural and historical essence of Saudi Arabia by engraving cultural designs on sidr wood.
Al-Shehri grew up in the southern mountain ranges of the Kingdom and uses the old indigenous tree to create unique intricately designed canes just as his forefathers once did.
The sidr tree, known as Christ’s thorn jujube, is an evergreen species that is a deep-rooted part of the culture. It can be used in medicine and also in the construction of canes and wooden objects found in many homes in the south of the Kingdom.

FASTFACT

The sidr tree, known as Christ’s thorn jujube, is an evergreen species that is a deep-rooted part of the culture. It can be used in medicine and also in the construction of canes and wooden objects found in many homes in the south of the Kingdom.

He told Arab News that he inherited from his ancestors a love of artifacts, such as shiny swords and jambiyas, a type of dagger with a curved blade. Growing up surrounded by architecture adorned in stones and wood, Al-Shehri said that he wanted to bring the rich history of design back using a product found right in his backyard.


“Visitors to Saudi Arabia are constantly on the hunt for souvenirs, swords, or canes. However, shipping swords is a real problem, because they are considered white weapons. Meanwhile, some items lose quality or are damaged during shipping. This is why I shifted my entire focus to making canes,” he added.
Al-Shehri said that while carrying out his Hajj pilgrimage, he used his cane as a “crutch,” engraving his name on it. Soon after, he decided to use the phrase “Made in Saudi Arabia” and focus on the Umrah and Hajj seasons to introduce the product as a souvenir that could be carried back home by pilgrims. Al-Shehri said that some Hajj institutions even reached out to give out his canes as gifts at the end of pilgrimage tours.

The canes I create are enough to stop importing canes that neither accentuate our identity nor highlight our intellectual and cultural message.

Adel Al-Shehri

He said that many people from across the world have requested their canes through Hajj institutions or on social media.
Most recently, he added, a German citizen requested four canes with different designs inspired by Saudi culture, but some customers request personalized canes or ones that are specifically customized to illustrate a memory.
Al-Shehri said that the canes he designs are delivered in handmade luxurious boxes that serve as a masterpiece to be displayed in a customer’s home. He described the cane as a “sign of prestige, warmth, and hospitality.”
The first thing that caught his attention as a child was how his family stores their ancient swords, guns, and jambiyas — all wrapped in ornate fabrics and stored in old boxes.

I inherited the love of artifacts from my ancestors.
Adel Al-Shehri

Al-Shehri had always wanted to put this heritage in the limelight and share it with other Saudi cities. The public’s broad praise of his initial work was the first building block in his dream toward producing his canes. He stressed that he often uses sidr wood for the canes because the diameter must be more than 40 centimeters.
For the wood fibers to grow, the sidr must also be dried for six months. “The handle is made from the core of sidr wood so that it could bear the grafting, which sometimes may reach a thousand grafts inside,” Al-Shehri said. With no educational experience, his drive to create such masterpieces taught him to push through and learn the craft with time and patience. “The manufacturing stages became an inspiration and taught me the ins and outs of this creative craftsmanship, which shaped the features of my personality and led me towards worlds of magic and beauty,” he said.
“I was first concerned with the metal lathe and mastering its unique way of manufacturing accessories and adding wood to them. I then focused on the element of touch and adding luster in the absence of real manufacturers in this field. I insisted on mastering the metal lathe myself so I would not have to depend on anyone else. My workshop, filled with nickel, chrome, stainless steel, and brass, along with the metal and wood lathes, became my best friend.
“I work for hours on end to meet the various requests, especially if a customer places an order for a special occasion with a tight deadline,” he added.
Al-Shehri said that what he and many other craftsmen in the Kingdom do promotes the Saudi culture and is a sign of pride in the Saudi identity. “The canes I create are enough to stop importing canes that neither accentuate our identity nor highlight our intellectual and cultural message.”


16 Saudi companies join Arab Health Exhibition under ‘Made in Saudi Arabia’ program in Dubai

The Arab Health Exhibition 2021, in Dubai, UAE, is being held from June 21 to 24, with participation from 16 Saudi companies. (Screenshot)
The Arab Health Exhibition 2021, in Dubai, UAE, is being held from June 21 to 24, with participation from 16 Saudi companies. (Screenshot)
Updated 5 min 44 sec ago

16 Saudi companies join Arab Health Exhibition under ‘Made in Saudi Arabia’ program in Dubai

The Arab Health Exhibition 2021, in Dubai, UAE, is being held from June 21 to 24, with participation from 16 Saudi companies. (Screenshot)
  • Saudi companies in the health, pharmaceutical and specialized medical equipment fields took part
  • The program also aims to expand regionally and globally through actively participating in international exhibitions and conferences

RIYADH: The “Made in Saudi Arabia” program is participating in the Arab Health Exhibition 2021 in Dubai, UAE, from June 21 to 24.
A total of 16 Saudi companies in the health, pharmaceutical and specialized medical equipment fields have signed up for the exhibition.
The “Made in Saudi Arabia” program is part of an initiative to promote Saudi national products and services locally, regionally and globally.
The program seeks to market national products to raise the private sector’s contribution to GDP to 65 percent and raise the percentage of non-oil exports in non-oil GDP to about 50 percent by 2030.
The program also aims to expand by participating in international exhibitions and conferences with member partners. It will provide a package of opportunities for member companies enabling them to use the program’s logo “Made in Saudi Arabia” on their products to ensure commitment to a recognized quality.
A total of 66 countries are participating in the exhibition in Dubai, with more than 3,500 participants, and the number of visitors to the exhibition is expected to reach nearly 52,000.


Suzan Al-Yahya appointed as director general of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Institute of Traditional Arts

Suzan Al-Yahya appointed as director general of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Institute of Traditional Arts
Updated 26 min 44 sec ago

Suzan Al-Yahya appointed as director general of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Institute of Traditional Arts

Suzan Al-Yahya appointed as director general of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Institute of Traditional Arts
  • Al-Yahya will be responsible for managing the institute, implementing its strategic directions and developing traditional arts according to the institute’s vision
  • The institute will launch its first training courses in September aimed at enriching the traditional arts

RIYADH: Dr. Suzan Mohammed Al-Yahya has been appointed director general of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Institute of Traditional Arts.
Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, minister of culture and chairman of the institute’s board of trustees, made the announcement, the Saudi Press Agency has reported.
Al-Yahya will be responsible for managing the institute, implementing its strategic directions and developing traditional arts according to the institute’s vision.
She is one of the top academic experts in the field of art and design, having worked as a faculty member at Princess Nourah Bint Abdul Rahman University and held a number of administrative and advisory positions there. She also worked as a consultant and was a member of advisory committees inside and outside the university.
Al-Yahya holds a master’s degree in art education and a PhD in educational technology, as well as a PhD in educational policies and leadership from the University of Northern Colorado, USA.
She has published research in various fields and participated in several scientific conferences.
The institute will launch its first training courses in September aimed at enriching the traditional arts, training specialized national cadres, raising the level of public awareness and preserving the assets of the tangible and intangible cultural heritage in the traditional arts field.
The Royal Institute of Traditional Arts is one the initiatives of the Quality of Life Program, part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan. The Ministry of Culture aims to develop the local cultural sector and develop it through education and knowledge, as the institute will provide advanced educational programs for national skills to ensure.


Red Sea Development Company, KAUST sign research agreement

The Red Sea is home to abundant species of coral and marine life, including a large number of species found nowhere else on earth. (Courtesy: Red Sea Project website)
The Red Sea is home to abundant species of coral and marine life, including a large number of species found nowhere else on earth. (Courtesy: Red Sea Project website)
Updated 55 min 37 sec ago

Red Sea Development Company, KAUST sign research agreement

The Red Sea is home to abundant species of coral and marine life, including a large number of species found nowhere else on earth. (Courtesy: Red Sea Project website)
  • The agreement will see the two organizations cooperate in fields such as marine environment sustainability, food security and energy conservation

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Development Company signed a research agreement with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) on Monday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

“There is a growing realization that tourism must be more sustainable and renewable, and the Kingdom’s Red Sea coast is among the purest ecosystems in the world, so our collaboration with KAUST helps go beyond just conservation. on the environment to enhance this unique ecological treasure for future generations,” John Pagano, CEO of the Red Sea Development Company, said.

The agreement will see the two organizations cooperate in fields such as marine environment sustainability, food security and energy conservation.

Pagano pointed out that the first task within the framework of the new research agreement is the continuous scientific monitoring of environmental changes over time, as this helps the Red Sea Development Company to fulfil its commitment to achieve an increase in the value of biodiversity in the project area by 30% by year 2040.

The head of Environmental Sustainability at the Red Sea Development Company, Dr. Rusty Brainard, explained that achieving carbon neutrality and improving biodiversity at the site is a difficult task, but  is extremely important for the company.

He reported that 11 of the current employees in the Environment and Sustainability Department of the Red Sea Development Company have previous professional experiences at KAUST, including seven employees who obtained a doctorate degree, and two who completed an associate's degree at the same university.

A joint working group between the Red Sea Development Company and King Abdullah University of Technology and Science is currently planning to establish a joint center for marine research and the protection of coral reefs on the Red Sea coast, which will become a permanent base for marine research and monitoring, and will open its doors in the future for visitors to learn about the natural environment and wildlife in this area.


1,082 licenses issued through Saudi Entertainment Gate

A picture taken late on June 3, 2021 show a theatre hosting the first concert in the Saudi capital Riyadh since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP)
A picture taken late on June 3, 2021 show a theatre hosting the first concert in the Saudi capital Riyadh since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP)
Updated 59 min 58 sec ago

1,082 licenses issued through Saudi Entertainment Gate

A picture taken late on June 3, 2021 show a theatre hosting the first concert in the Saudi capital Riyadh since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP)
  • Saudi Arabia has been putting its best effort to build a world-class entertainment hub

RIYADH: The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has so far issued 1,082 licenses to investors in the Kingdom’s entertainment sector through its digital platform, the Entertainment Gate.
The platform facilitates procedures for investors and companies working in the sector to apply for licenses, permits and accreditation certificates for specialized activities and services.
Through the platform, the GEA also issues permits to organize entertainment activities in the Kingdom.
The launch of the Entertainment Gate was part of the Kingdom’s efforts to offer online services to investors to make it easier for them to operate in the country.
The Saudi entertainment and amusement sector is forecast to be worth $1.17 billion by 2030 and grow by a massive 47.65 percent per year, according to a new industry report.
The US-based Research and Markets study said that the growth compares with just $23.77 million in 2020.
“Saudi Arabia has been putting its best effort to build a world-class entertainment hub,” the report said.