A thing we never would’ve expected to see in our lifetime yet here it is in all its glory; Riyadh’s Fashion Week. Riyadh’s first Fashion Week was basically the Saudi arm of the Arab Fashion Week that ran from April 10-14 at the golden-rimmed halls of Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton no less. Holding such an event at the ultra-conservative Kingdom should come as no surprise this time since we are witnessing history in the making with the Saudi Crown Prince changing strategies and opening up the country and loosening social restrictions. Ban on women driving is lifted, religious police are no where to be seen and public concerts are being confidently held.
Despite the fact that most Saudi women still need to wear an abaya in public but it is a fact that women in the Gulf and Saudi’s in specific have extravagant tastes in fashion and are very particular about their clothing. They gravitate towards European clothing yet they want that extra touch, a certain detail that would make them stand out among the crowd. It is rumoured that Saudi princesses are the world’s biggest collectors of haute couture, add to that the fact that Saudi Arabia has a large young-adult population with great purchasing powers and you will realise how fitting it is that Riyadh should host this event.
Supervised by the Arab Fashion Council (AFC), Riyadh’s Fashion Week boasted an impressive list of designers from the USA, UAE, Lebanon, Brazil, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Prominent names included Jean Paul Gaultier, Roberto Cavalli, Naja Saade, Tony Ward, and local Saudi designers such as Arwa Al Banawi and Mashael Alrajhi among others. Arwa Al Banawi made use of the fashion week to send a powerful message of female empowerment locally and internationally; her collection which included business suits aims at making life easier for the independent woman who is juggling both family and career, the designer explained.
The event faced a number of logistical obstacles and delays and it had to be postponed two weeks from the original planned date. The organisers were also faced with problems regarding delayed visas for the designers and models. And unlike other fashion weeks, this one was open to women only and the organisers were the only ones allowed to take pictures at the shows and these had to be cleared by government censors prior to publishing.However it is hoped that holding such events in the region will help the international world to see that they are not just an oil-producing nation. It will also help ground those fashion-oriented local creatives who feel the need to leave their countries in an attempt at finding their own voices and instead are able to make their voices heard from the comfort of their own homes.