Models and makeup artists preparing for the inaugural Saudi episode of Arab Fashion Week said they were surprised the event was taking place in the kingdom.
“We are so excited because this is the first fashion week in Saudi Arabia, so we are making history,” model Anita Dmycroska said.
• Saudi Arabia hosts its first Arab Fashion Week
• 'Abaya not necessary': Saudi crown prince
• Saudi women take up jobs in Makkah hotels
• Saudi Arabia to hold first cycle race for women
• Saudi women allowed to join Civil Defence
With recent reforms, women in some Saudi cities have begun to don more colourful abayas, sometimes trimmed with lace and velvet or left open to reveal long skirts or jeans.
No abayas feature on the catwalk. The event hosts invitation-only fashion viewings and a Harvey Nichols pop-up store in a tent that was still being erected hours before the first show.
Another tent holds the catwalk, featuring designers from Brazil, Lebanon, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the US and the UAE.
Women attend the opening ceremony of Arab Fashion Week. AFP
Layla Eisa Abouzeid, Saudi Arabia country director for the Dubai-based Arab Fashion Council (AFC) organising the event, said 1,500 people were expected to attend, including 400 from abroad.
She hopes the event will bring revenue into the kingdom and highlight local talent.
Foreign and Saudi women attend the opening ceremony of Arab Fashion Week at Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh. AFP
“People go to Paris on the Paris Fashion week, the hotels are completely fully booked,” she said. “I want to create the same demand in Saudi Arabia, twice a year. I want to create a platform for the local designers to go worldwide.”
Lebanese designer Naja Saade came to Riyadh to display his couture collection. “I’m very proud to participate in this first edition of Arab Fashion Week in Saudi Arabia, because it’s a part of the revolution of the women in this country,” he said.
By bringing talent from Europe and placing international brands on the same catwalk as Arab brands, he hopes to elevate local fashion designers.
AFC wants to introduce fashion courses, internships and scholarships to Saudi Arabia and develop a fashion district in Riyadh.