RIYADH: Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture set up 11 new cultural authorities to drive the development of sectors such as film, fashion, music, heritage and the arts.
The Fashion Commission was one of the 11, to help develop the country’s burgeoning fashion industry, and among the first initiatives it launched is “Saudi 100 Brands,” an extensive mentorship program that sees 100 Saudi designers shortlisted from over 1,300 people selected to take part in a rigorous year-long scheme curated by subject-matter experts.
On Friday, the commission opened a week-long heritage exhibition as part of the program, which is underway at King Abdullah Financial District.
The carefully-curated exhibition is showcasing clothing and accessories from the shortlisted designers, which includes 2D2C2M, Daneh, Nadine Jewelry, Alaa Hashim, Torba Studio, By Sadeem, Abadia and more.
The exhibition is split into eight categories: Modesty, conceptual, ready-to-wear, premiere, demi-couture, bridal, bags and jewelry.
The participating designers were tasked with creating a piece or a look that reflects elements of Saudi heritage.
“Saudi 100 Brands opens multiple opportunities for us; not only creative opportunities, but business opportunities as well,” said Ahmad Alwohaibi, the creative director of 2D2C2M (Too Dark To See Tomorrow). “Before, everyone was doing it on their own. Now, there is a unified platform and also an acknowledgement for us fashion designers as creatives,” he added.
Alwohaibi is showcasing a black leather coat with a high neck and a skirt.
The designer flew to Florence last month to produce the piece, creating about ten items before he ultimately settled on the final design.
“I wanted to create something that is very conceptual and at the same time functional,” he explained.
“The high neck expresses the fragility of our bodies exposed to the instability brought on by the threat of war, economic crisis and the current health pandemic. I wanted to do something with a post-apocalyptic theme using leather.”
For the skirt, the designer says that he drew inspiration from the tanoura, the full skirt worn by Sufi dervish dancers.
Alwohaibi was encouraged to apply for the Saudi 100 Brands mentorship by Princess Noura bint Faisal Al-Saud, adviser to the Ministry of Culture and founder of the Saudi Fashion Community. “She told me, ‘it’s going to be valuable for you as a fashion designer,’” he recalled.
Other standout designs on display include a stunning golden palm tree embroidered gown by Tima Abid. Inspired by several elements existing within the Kingdom’s natural landscape, the velvet features Swarovski crystals and golden thread embroidery.
A shimmering, asymmetrical fringed gown designed by Glidah is an effortless bohemian piece that transcends eras, and Razan Alazzouni’s heavily-embellished wedding gown featuring embroidery inspired by the flowers that bloom in the Kingdom is also impressive.