Saudi Arabia is cutting its cloth to become the next kingdom of fashion

Special Saudi Arabia is cutting its cloth to become the next kingdom of fashion
Under the Fashion Commission, which was one of 11 such bodies established in 2020 by the Ministry of Culture, a plethora of initiatives to further grow the sector both publicly and privately are being implemented. (Saudi Style Council photo)
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Updated 17 September 2023

Saudi Arabia is cutting its cloth to become the next kingdom of fashion

Saudi Arabia is cutting its cloth to become the next kingdom of fashion
  • Saudi Arabia’s market for fashion is on the rise, thanks to both public and private players

RIYADH: Until recently, the Saudi capital of Riyadh was hardly ever looked upon as a hotspot on the global fashion circuit. New York, Milan and Paris — these are the mainstays for fashion weeks, the cities where established and aspiring designers, buyers, and journalists have long gathered.

But times are changing, and Gulf countries are quickly becoming new hubs for the industry, particularly Saudi Arabia, where retail demand for fashion products has been forecast to increase by 48 percent to $32 billion in 2025, with the luxury field set to enjoy a 19 percent growth.


Times are changing, and Gulf countries are quickly becoming new hubs for the industry, particularly Saudi Arabia, where retail demand for fashion products has been forecast to increase by 48 percent to $32 billion in 2025, with the luxury field set to enjoy a 19 percent growth.

With the first ever Riyadh Fashion Week underway from Oct. 20 to 23, Saudi designers will come into the spotlight on the catwalk in the capital of their own country. It is one of several of the Fashion Commission’s recent initiatives, following the launch of the ‘Saudi 100 Brands’ exhibition during Paris Fashion Week in June.
“Fashion retail has always been an attractive sector, specifically for women in Saudi,” Marriam Mossalli, a Saudi lifestyle editor, journalist and founder of communications agency Niche Arabia, told Arab News. “From sourcing fabric to working with local tailors; to selling within their immediate community; the profession has fit comfortably within our local ecosystem.”

She added: “Today, however, the appeal is global. With social media and e-commerce, the potential for many designers has grown exponentially as it’s not limited to their local market.”
The attention being paid to the industry signals the government’s belief in the sector’s potential for economic growth.
This shift has not happened by chance. The fashion industry has been identified as a key avenue for economic diversification for Saudi Arabia and is one of the non-hydrocarbon sectors rapidly on the rise.
Under the Fashion Commission, which was one of 11 such bodies established in 2020 by the Ministry of Culture, a plethora of initiatives to further grow the sector both publicly and privately are being implemented.
The commission’s March 2023 report “The State of Fashion in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2023” provides an analysis of the Kingdom’s fashion value chain.
It revealed Saudi Arabia’s plan to reduce reliance on overseas imports and put the country on the map by using homegrown talent. It also highlights the sector’s potential for growth.
In the report, Saudi Fashion Commission CEO Burak Cakmak said: “We are building the foundations for the future of fashion right now, here in Saudi Arabia.”
With retail demand for fashion products projected to increase by 48 percent to $32 billion by 2025, the Saudi fashion industry is positioned for significant expansion.
In 2021, Saudi Arabia’s fashion industry spent $7.3 billion on imported goods, showcasing the potential economic impact of fostering domestic capabilwities.

The report showcases the sector’s rapid development, its strategic alignment with the nation’s Vision 2030, and how the Kingdom’s youth are putting the country on the global fashion stage through new designs and product launches.
It states how the fashion ecosystem is estimated to contribute to 1.8 percent of the total Saudi workforce, employing 230 000 people. The industry has a 52 percent female participation in the Saudi fashion workforce and 66 percent Saudization within core fashion jobs. This workforce is made up of 90,000 core fashion occupations and 140,000 related roles.
Moreover, domestic retail sales in the Kingdom are forecasted to reach $32 billion in 2025, a 30 percent growth from 2021’s total of $24 billion. Luxury fashion is a significant driver of growth, with the market growing by 19 percent in 2021 due to repatriation of spending given travel restrictions, increased female empowerment and the continued rise of e-commerce.
The market for fashion in the Kingdom is also growing due to external players and their eagerness and readiness to do business in Saudi Arabia.
These include the major luxury and fashion retail powerhouse Dubai-based Chalhoub Group, which has increasingly been doing business in the Kingdom.
Jasmina Banda, chief strategy officer at Chalhoub Group, says the business has been operating in the Kingdom for over 30 years, and currently operates over 250 stores spread across the Kingdom.
It also has over 4,000 team members, six warehouses, and is currently building a state-of-the-art fulfillment facility in Riyadh. It has dedicated offices across the Kingdom, including retail academies.
“For Chalhoub, the Kingdom remains our second-largest market,” Banda told Arab News. “In the luxury space, Saudi Arabia is overall the second-largest market, even though that varies by category.
“For example, in prestige beauty, Saudi is a strong number two, competing with the UAE, while in high-end fashion it comes in at No. 4, after the UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar, as it is a category extensively bought abroad.”
She added: “Over the last few years the Saudi fashion market has seen a strong growth, especially during the COVID-19 years when the borders were closed.
“Since reopening, we continue seeing increased offshoring of luxury spend abroad and we expect major transformations in our retail categories to happen in the coming years, as new shopping malls open — currently there are more than five luxury destinations in different stages of construction in the Kingdom.”

Saudi women have long been known as big buyers of luxury fashion, Banda said, adding that people in the Kingdom are known for following trends on social media and being well-traveled.
“That is further shifting with the socio-demographic changes in Saudi Arabia, stemming from female empowerment and increasing workforce participation, as well as changes in the habits driven by entertainment options – cinemas, restaurants, concerts, etc.,” she said.
Banda also explained how when it came to marketing to Saudi consumers, buying and merchandising are tailored to the consumer preferences in terms of silhouette, color palette and sizing.
“Especially important seasons, such as Ramadan, are addressed through dedicated capsule collections, and specific marketing campaigns and activations. It is important to be bring to the customer global brands, in a tailored ‘glocal’ way,” she said.
All of Chalhoub’s largest luxury fashion brands are already present in Saudi Arabia.
Banda notes how in the luxury sector, Saudi Arabia represents 9 percent of the global market, due to the offshoring of spend. Saudis are often the top nationality shopping in Dubai, and increasingly in Qatar. In prestige beauty, however, Saudi Arabia represents one third of the Gulf Cooperation Council market.
“On the other hand, for some of the leading watches and jewelry brands, Saudi Arabia is the No. 1 market in the region by size. Maturity really varies by category,” she said, adding: “However, Saudi consumers are also frequent clients of top luxury brands in Europe, previously in the UK and France, and now predominantly in France — since the UK stopped tax free.”
Saudi spending on fashion will likely grow “exponentially,” she emphasizes, “once the country fully delivers on its tourism ambitions.”
The Fashion Commission’s report states how major opportunities for economic growth now lie within the sector’s nascent domestic fashion industry.
Rajaa Moumena, who sits on the board of the fashion association that works directly with the commission, believes the local industry is still in the early stage of development.

She said: “It is currently at the phase of awareness and setting up the appropriate legislation to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs to start their businesses.
“This involves addressing various aspects such as licensing, permits, and regulations that govern the industry.”
One of the primary focuses, stresses Moumena, of Vision 2030 is to promote local production and reduce reliance on imports. This includes the production of all types of clothing, ranging from ready-to-wear garments to high-end haute couture. By encouraging local production, Saudi Arabia aims to create job opportunities, boost economic growth, and retain revenue within the country.
She emphasized that education is key for the domestic sector to grow.
“As the industry evolves and adopts new concepts, it is essential for educational institutions to keep pace with these changes. This means updating curricula, offering specialized courses, and providing students with practical skills required for the fashion industry. This will help opening doors to many jobs where skillful people are needed in the industry,” said Moumena.
By encouraging the Saudi youth to be creative and business savvy, Riyadh may soon be a permanent fixture on the global fashion calendar.

Rockwell Automation opens first Digital Center of Excellence in Saudi Arabia

Rockwell Automation opens first Digital Center of Excellence in Saudi Arabia
Updated 29 September 2023

Rockwell Automation opens first Digital Center of Excellence in Saudi Arabia

Rockwell Automation opens first Digital Center of Excellence in Saudi Arabia

KHOBAR: At the top of the Al-Fardan Tower, overlooking the glistening corniche water with the manicured buildings below, stands Hussain Al-Khater, managing director for Rockwell Automation in Saudi Arabia.

As part of Rockwell Automation, Inc. which boasts as being one of the world’s largest companies dedicated to industrial automation, he is witnessing the transformation of his company, and country, in real time.

Al-Khater was on hand to inaugurate the Center of Excellence which aims to help fulfill one of the main priorities of Vision 2030, which is digital reforms. This will enable the Kingdom to transform the country into a place of excellence.

“Rockwell Automation has been working in Saudi Arabia for several decades supporting local companies with automation and control technology,” Al-Khater told Arab News, adding: “With the opening of the Center of Excellence, we will enhance the support for Saudi Arabia’s vision to have more technology companies located in the Kingdom.

“We will be physically on the ground to support our customers’ technology transition; they can come and visit the center to learn how Rockwell automation can guide them in their digital transformation.

“It’s a very special day for me – it’s in my hometown and my country."

The serene background to the innovative space is strategic; it marks Rockwell Automation’s first such dedicated Center of Excellence in the Middle East and only their third worldwide, following its original flagship in Milwaukee, US and Bologna in Europe.

It also is a statement on highlighting the importance of having Saudi Arabia be a leader in the digital future.

Headquartered in the US, Rockwell Automation has become a global leader in industrial automation and digital transformation and employs approximately 28,000 “problem solvers” in more than 100 countries.

This newly established Center of Excellence in Khobar aims to support local companies and their employees, as well as students in the region, by letting them experience the power and scope of digital transformation.

The first of two interactive zones takes the visitor on a digital journey explaining how technology can enhance maintenance operations by providing a 3D pump to help visualize the entire process.

Using Microsoft HoloLens and a smartphone, clients are guided through a seamless experience of repairing and maintaining a pump without ever leaving the room.

This cutting-edge process utilizes Vuforia, an augmented reality solution, ThingWorx, an Internet of Things platform, Kepware, a sensor connection solution, and Fiix, a computerized maintenance management system – which all link back to the ERP system.

The first demo highlights electric submersible pump diagnostics, testing and forecasting.

Users would be able to glance at an iPad and witness vital data populate from five wells. The data would then be analyzed instantaneously and potential pain points could be addressed before they even happen.

Michael Sweet, Director of New Energy at Rockwell Automation. (Supplied)

The second zone, dedicated to the oil and gas sector, brings oilfields to your fingertips, with multiple interactive demos using Sensia, a collaboration between Rockwell Automation and Schlumberger; Avalon for data set visualization and monitoring, and Avocet to analyze that data and execute workflows.

The Center of Excellence will not only show but also tell the journey.

The digital transformation which Rockwell Automation is spearheading aims to support sustainability in two main areas: reducing energy and water use.

“There is vast potential for growth in the Saudi Arabian market beyond just the oil, gas and petrochemical industries. Central to this expansion is the implementation of digital solutions and technologies to fuel localization,” Al-Khater said.

He insists that this would not only benefit society through digital advancement, but would also direct capital towards local infrastructure, facilities and manufacturing capabilities, all the while simultaneously fostering a groundswell of talent development for Saudi workers.

“The driving force is an innovation mindset. This positions Saudi Arabia attractively to manufacturing companies looking to invest in the region, aiming to create a global innovation hub based on local talent,” he said, adding: “Digitalizing the region and embracing automation will generate huge, positive change for both manufacturers and the broader society in Saudi Arabia.”

In his view, in order for this vision to fully come to fruition and materialize, companies must collaborate with technology and digital solutions leaders who understand the specific needs of the region, ensuring “not just initial success but sustained growth.”

In conjunction with the launch of the Center, Rockwell Automation also hosted their first ever Decarbonization Conference in the Kingdom on Sept. 26 at the Mövenpick Hotel’s Al-Maha ballroom, not far from its Center, which highlighted the automation and digital solutions available to decarbonize Saudi Arabia’s industrial sector.

The seminar brought together experts in the field to share experiences on decarbonization, including carbon capture and storage, electrification, emission monitoring and management through measurement and control technologies, and digitalization methodologies.

“Digital transformation and automation technology offer solutions that will enable the oil and gas value chain to drive efficiency and reduce costs while carefully navigating the transition terrain,” Ediz Eren, regional vice president for the Middle East, Turkiye and Africa region at Rockwell Automation told Arab News.

“This Digital Center of Excellence highlights how solutions from Rockwell Automation and its partners can improve performance all along the oil and gas value chain within the region. By working with government, industry, and academia, the Center of Excellence will enable local companies and workers to increase their understanding of what digital technologies can achieve,” he added.

One of the speakers was Michael Sweet, director of New Energy at Rockwell Automation who participated in a panel discussion titled: “Realizing sustainable industries with automation technology.”

He told Arab News: “Automation and digitalization have a pivotal role in enhancing energy efficiency within manufacturing entities. However, these benefits can only be realized by first understanding an organization’s current operational baseline. Identifying where a company is starting from on their automation journey is instrumental in determining its future trajectory.”

Hussain Al-Khater, managing director for Rockwell Automation in Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

Sweet added: “Without this foundational knowledge, there is no one area to target automation efforts, leading to solutions that are general and unfocused.

“Among the primary concerns for manufacturers is minimizing energy consumption and automation can offer creative ways to achieve this goal.”

He explained that he has seen artificial intelligence used to analyze inspection images and to detect patterns as well as to mitigate waste.

“A key benefit of automation – in relation to energy usage – is that tasks are completed much more rapidly than when relying solely on human capabilities,” said Sweet, adding: “AI has been used to optimize operations for energy trading and modeling energy prices based on prevailing conditions. This helps manufacturers understand how much they are consuming, how much they will likely need moving forward, and where energy can be optimized or saved.”

He went on to explain that since technology is ever evolving, demand for energy still remains high despite global concerns over the environmental impact of such use.

External factors can affect its availability and optimizing energy efficiency will be something that all manufacturers should be considering as they look to the future.

According to Faissal El-Osman, Rockwell’s Enterprise Software Solution Consultant, the future is already here.

The vivacious, multilingual El-Osman injects a much needed youthful energy to the ongoing efforts. As a millennial, he aims to use the wisdom of the past to help find innovative ways to use the technology at his fingertips to propel the Kingdom, and the region, into the future.

He is hoping to help entice the emerging generation to join the efforts by showcasing the powerful and effective ways Rockwell Automation is bringing to the digital table.

“I’m excited about the technologies. Why am I excited about it? Because I am young and I know it’s something that interests the youth. We all know that there is a lack of men and women power currently, many are not interested in manufacturing because they know there is no technology, but thanks to AR they changed their minds,” he told Arab News.

“Managers can put the Microsoft HoloLens and wander in the factory and see, in real-time, the metrics and the productivity of each asset. It requires some training, but it’s efficient, and, most importantly – it’s really fun,” concluded El-Osman.

KSA ministry acquires Kuwaiti Arabic dictionary

KSA ministry acquires Kuwaiti Arabic dictionary
Updated 29 September 2023

KSA ministry acquires Kuwaiti Arabic dictionary

KSA ministry acquires Kuwaiti Arabic dictionary

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture has reached an agreement with Kuwait-based Sakhr Software Company to acquire the Sakhr Contemporary Arabic Lexicon (Al-Mu’jam Al-Mu’asir).

The agreement includes transfer of intellectual property rights related to the dictionary, which offers source identification, material selection, arrangement, interpretation, explanation, and user-friendly presentation.

Fahad Al-Sharekh, son of the founder of the Sakhr Software Company, told Arab News that the deal is the result of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to protect the Arabic language as part of Vision 2030. 

“We are very happy and excited,” he added. “We are honored that the King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language has acquired the lexicon.”

Al-Sharekh said that the lexicon contains words spanning more than 100 years of cultural content, with entries from as far afield as Syria or Lebanon. 

“We input 100,000 words with new definitions,” he said.

Abdullah Al-Washmi, secretary-general of the King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language, said the acquisition highlights the academy’s efforts to promote the Arabic language in contemporary applications.

He commended the efforts of Minister of Culture and Chairman of the Board of Trustees for KSAA, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, in elevating the cultural system through a range of channels and applications to serve both national and Arab cultures.

Al-Washmi said that this commitment reaffirms the Kingdom’s pioneering global role in this field.

Founder of Sakhr Software Company, Mohammed Al-Sharekh, said the acquisition will benefit Arabic language users and propel the language toward new horizons. 

The Sakhr Software Company is known for the creation of the world’s first “Arabized computer” created in collaboration with Japanese giants Hitachi and Yamaha. 

*With SPA

Global Markets – world stocks nudge up, bonds rally in bright end to grim quarter

Global Markets – world stocks nudge up, bonds rally in bright end to grim quarter
Updated 29 September 2023

Global Markets – world stocks nudge up, bonds rally in bright end to grim quarter

Global Markets – world stocks nudge up, bonds rally in bright end to grim quarter

LONDON: World shares nudged higher on Friday, while better-than-expected euro zone inflation data boosted government bonds, with both asset classes still set for their worst quarter in a year in response to central banks’ pledge to keep interest rates high, according to Reuters.

MSCI’s broad index of global stocks gained 0.4 percent on Friday, while European and US government bonds rallied strongly to reflect markets resetting interest rate bets.

In a surprise bout of good news for hawkish central banks, data showed headline inflation in the euro area rose 4.3 percent in September year-on-year, below economists’ forecasts for a 4.5 percent rise and its lowest in two years.

The yield on Germany’s two-year bond, which tracks rate expectations and falls as the price of the debt rises, dropped 7 basis points to 3.23 percent.

Germany’s 10-year government bond yield fell 12 bps to 2.848 percent, with the euro area debt benchmark heading for its best trading day in more than a month.

And with strong sentiment flowing across the Atlantic, the yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell 6 bps to 4.6 percent.

That provided a bright end to a torrid quarter for government bonds. Germany’s 10-year yield has shot up 45 bps this quarter, reflecting the worst three-month sell-off since the third quarter of 2022.

The yield on the 10-year US Treasury is up 72 bps since July, also its worst quarterly performance since the same quarter last year.

The debt market relief came as some analysts argued bonds had become too beaten up in recent months.

The European Central Bank and the US Federal Reserve have signaled that the best investors could hope for, following their sharpest monetary tightening cycle in decades, was a long period of interest rates staying where they are.

“Yields are way too high and will move lower but we’re in that gap between now and when that happens,” said James Rossiter, head of global macro strategy at TD Securities in London.

Strategists at Barclays pointed out in a note to clients, however, that because stock valuations fall when the income yields on lower-risk bonds rise, “if the bond market were to turn more disorderly, equities are unlikely to be immune.”

Elsewhere in markets, Europe’s Stoxx 600 share index jumped 1 percent and Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.8 percent.

Futures contracts that track the performance of Wall Street’s S&P 500 share index indicated the blue-chip equity benchmark would open 0.5 percent higher later on.

In currencies, the euro added 0.5 percent against the dollar.

Sterling rose 0.4 percent after a revision of official data on Friday showed Britain’s economic performance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was stronger than previously thought.

Later on Friday, the latest release of the US personal consumption expenditures price index will provide a fuller picture of inflationary trends in the world’s largest economy.

Investors will also turn their attention to Washington, where the Democratic-led US Senate forged ahead on Thursday with a bipartisan stopgap funding bill aimed at averting a fourth partial government shutdown in a decade.

“People are getting used to partial shutdowns but if it is prolonged and the stakes are raised then the economic consequences start to mount,” said Nordea chief markets strategist Jan von Gerich, adding that the dollar could be hurt if no agreement is reached.

The dollar index eased 0.5 percent to 105.69 but hovered near 10-month highs of 106.84 touched earlier this week.

In Asia, the Japanese yen was at 149.08 per dollar, a slight respite from recent falls that have put markets on alert for potential currency intervention.

MSCI’s index of Asian stocks outside Japan rose 1.2 percent on Friday, with Chinese markets closed for a holiday.

Oil prices regained ground after a brief pause in a rally as traders weighed expectations of supply increases by Russia and Saudi Arabia versus forecasts of positive demand from China during its Golden Week holiday.

US crude rose 0.5 percent to $92.16 per barrel and Brent was at $95.75, up 0.4 percent on the day.

Saudi businesses expect low levels of security threats in 2024: report

Saudi businesses expect low levels of security threats in 2024: report
Updated 29 September 2023

Saudi businesses expect low levels of security threats in 2024: report

Saudi businesses expect low levels of security threats in 2024: report

RIYADH: Driven by the increased use of advanced technologies, most large companies in Saudi Arabia expect low levels of security threats in 2024, a threat assessment investigation has revealed.  

According to the World Security Report released by London-based global security firm G4S, the Kingdom is consolidating its position as one of the best countries in the region to do business, thanks to its widespread adoption of advanced technology.  

“The government’s measures to stamp down on cybercrime, along with its substantial investments in advanced technologies and digital upskilling in the context of Saudi Vision 2030, make the country an attractive hub for businesses,” said Mahmoud Mudhaffar, managing director of G4S in Saudi Arabia,  in a statement.  

The study found that the Kingdom had the lowest intrusion and competitor sabotage rates at 11 percent and 13 percent, respectively.  

Last year, Saudi Arabia experienced lower levels of external threats related to vandalism, trespass and distributed denial of service attacks compared with the global average, the report added. 

A DDoS attack is a cybercrime that involves multiple machines working together to overwhelm a target with internet traffic. 

The report surveyed 1,775 chief security officers of large organizations across 30 countries, including 235 CSOs in the Middle East from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. 

The research revealed that companies in the Middle East faced the least security threats involving violent criminals at 19 percent.  

CSOs who participated in the survey opined that Saudi Arabia plans to increase its use of technologies like artificial intelligence, facial recognition and machine learning.  

“In particular, it appears to be embracing the use of AI. Saudi Arabia is the second highest country in the region behind Jordan to say it will adopt AI-powered surveillance and monitoring systems at 46 percent,” said G4S in the report.  

The Kingdom is also the second-highest country in the region to expect to use biometrics and facial recognition technology behind the UAE at 49 percent over the next five years.  

Similarly, at 44 percent, more companies in the Kingdom plan to use internet-connected technologies and connected devices compared to any other country in the region. 

Oil Updates – crude up $1 on tight US supply, China demand

Oil Updates – crude up $1 on tight US supply, China demand
Updated 29 September 2023

Oil Updates – crude up $1 on tight US supply, China demand

Oil Updates – crude up $1 on tight US supply, China demand

LONDON: Oil prices rose on Friday and were headed for a gain of about 3 percent for the week, driven by tight US supply and expectations of strong fuel demand in China during the Golden Week holiday, according to Reuters.

US West Texas Intermediate crude was up $1.31, or 1.43 percent, to $93.02 per barrel at 3:08 p.m. Saudi time.

Front-month Brent November futures were up 88 cents, or 0.92 percent, at $96.26 per barrel ahead of the contract’s expiry later in the day. The more-liquid Brent December contract was up 97 cents, or 1.04 percent, at $94.07 per barrel.

A backdrop of tight supplies in the US provided further price support, with storage at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for crude futures, already at its lowest since July 2022.

“Any additional decline would threaten to bring them down to a critical level, which could make further withdrawals difficult,” said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.

China’s fuel demand was set to firm as the week-long Golden Week holiday began on Friday.

“(An) increase in international travel during the Golden Week holiday is boosting Chinese oil demand,” ANZ analysts said in a client note.

Domestic travel is also expected to boost demand, with data from flight app Umetrip showing the average number of daily flights booked is a fifth higher than for Golden Week in 2019, before COVID.

Meanwhile, inflation in the euro zone fell to a two-year low of 4.3 percent in September, the latest Eurostat flash reading showed, suggesting the European Central Bank’s policy of steady interest rate hikes was taking effect.

Russia is considering introducing fuel export quotas if the current export ban is not effective in bringing down domestic prices.

Russian gasoline and diesel exchange prices on the St. Petersburg International Mercantile Exchange fell slightly on Friday.

Brent is forecast to average $89.85 a barrel in the fourth quarter, and $86.45 in 2024, according to a survey of 42 economists compiled by Reuters on Friday.