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Saudi Arabia sashays along its first Arab Fashion Week Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Saudi Arabia sashays along its first Arab Fashion Week

This marks the first event of its kind in Saudi Arabia [File Photo: Getty]

Date of publication: 11 April, 2018

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Jean Paul Gaultier and Roberto Cavalli are in Saudi Arabia - headlining Riyadh's first ever Arab Fashion Week, a women-only event that opened to excitement in the slowly changing kingdom.

The conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is headlining its first ever Arab Fashion Week, hosting leading international designers including Jean Paul Gaultier and Roberto Cavalli at the now infamous Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh - the holding place of hundreds of royals and businessmen arrested in a state-sponsored 'corruption' crackdown.  

The four day event, which was attended by honourary president of the Arab Fashion Council in Riyadh, Princess Noura Bint Faisal Al-Saud, brings together designers from Europe and the Arab world including the kingdom's own Arwa Banawi, whose The Suitable Woman line is adored by fashionistas across the region, as well as Mashael Alrajhi, the eponymous gender-inclusive label of a rarely-seen Saudi sheikha. 

"Fashion has always an interest of Saudi Arabia," Princess Noura told AFP at the event. 

"It has not been something that wasn't on the table or in the picture," she added. "Our fashion council is trying to bring the fashion industry in Saudi Arabia to a whole new level, a whole new industry." 

"We are so excited today to be announcing a history and new era for the kingdom, and for the entire Arab world, which is Arab Fashion Week," said Jacob Abrian, CEO of the Arab Fashion Council. 

Listed as an international fashion week alongside Paris and Milan, Arab Fashion Week offers exclusively see-now-buy-now collections and pre-collections. Until this week, it had been hosted exclusively by Gulf fashion capital Dubai. 

But unlike Dubai, the Riyadh shows are not open to cameras, and attendees remain women-only. 

While a second edition of Saudi Arab Fashion Week is already scheduled for October, Dubai will continue to host its own parallel Arab Fashion Week, with the sixth edition slotted for May 9-12.  

The ultraconservative Saudi kingdom has witnessed rapid policy change since the June appointment of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, son of the king and heir to his throne. 

As of this summer, women will be allowed to drive in the kingdom. The crown prince has also hinted that the abaya, the long loose robe worn by women from the neck down, may not be compulsory. 

In February, Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority announced it will stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of last year, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.

Last week, Saudi Arabia kicked off its first-ever card game tournament in the capital Riyadh with a popular cleric in attendance as par of plans to try boost local sports and entertainment.

Thousands of Saudis flocked to attend the first day of the Baloot Championship on Wednesday, which is offering a total prize of one million Saudi riyals ($270,000) for the top four teams, state-run SPA reported.

The reform stems partly from an economic motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the kingdom reels from an oil slump since 2014.

Saudi Arabia's first cinema in over three decades is also due to open on April 18 in Riyadh after a ban was lifted last year.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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