RIYADH: The Saudi capital will play host to its first-ever fashion week beginning on Friday.
The event, staged by the Ministry of Culture’s Fashion Commission, will take place at the King Abdullah Financial District from Oct. 20-23, and will set the stage for a new fashion capital in the Middle East.
“Riyadh Fashion Week is a platform to nurture Saudi’s emerging fashion sector by connecting Saudi brands with local and international buyers,” Burak Cakmak, CEO of the Saudi Fashion Commission, told Arab News.
“We have fashion’s creative talent, data, state-of-the-art facilities, and countless educational programs. Now, we will also have an annual trade event in Riyadh that draws on global audiences to promote Saudi designers and facilitate new business opportunities.”
The inaugural fashion week, which will also be livestreamed, seeks to expand the Saudi fashion industry at home, regionally and internationally.
A showroom will present local brand products, giving local and international buyers an insight into the growing Saudi fashion scene and its range of styles.
The week will feature a host of the Kingdom’s up-and-coming and established fashion designers, including Honayda Serafi, who designed for Jordan’s Crown Princess Rajwa Al-Saif, and Mohammed Ashi, who recently became the first Gulf designer to show at Paris Haute Couture Week.
“I am thrilled and honored to be part of the historic event, the inaugural Riyadh Fashion Week,” Saudi designer Mona Alshebil told Arab News.
Alshebil will show a collection inspired by what she calls “The Saudi Dream.”
“It mirrors the concept of the American dream,” she said. “Just like the belief that hard work, determination, and persistence can lead to achieving goals and aspirations, Saudi Arabia is a land of opportunities where dreams come true for those who believe in themselves, and work hard and never give up.”
According to the Fashion Commission’s “State of Fashion in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (2023),” retail fashion sales in Saudi Arabia are expected to be worth $32 billion by 2025.
This growth is expected to be fueled by the Kingdom’s economic expansion and rising population, with apparel, accessories, footwear and luxury goods poised for significant gains. The value of luxury fashion purchases in the GCC hit $9.6 billion in 2021.
The report also explored Saudi Arabia’s plan to reduce its reliance on overseas imports and put the Kingdom’s fashion scene on the map by supporting homegrown talent.
“Vision 2030 is about diversifying the economy away from oil and over a few short years fashion has become a key economic driver in Saudi. We look forward to welcoming the fashion community to see Saudi’s progress at fashion week this month and for years to come,” Cakmak told Arab News.
For many Saudi designers, it is a source of pride to show in the capital city of their home country.
Adnan Akbar, dubbed Saudi Arabia’s first designer, established the Kingdom’s first couture house when he returned from France in 1970. Often described by the media as the “Saint Laurent of the Middle East,” Akbar studied embroidery in Lebanon and Pakistan before entering a licensing agreement for embroidered luxury fabrics with the French textile company Bianchini Ferier. In 1989, he launched a ready-to-wear collection in the US.
“My father’s dream is coming true with the first Riyadh Fashion Week,” his son Abdullah Akbar told Arab News.