Saudi Arabia holds its first official fashion show with some runway restrictions

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Saudi Arabia holds its first official fashion show with some runway restrictions

Saudi Arabia held its first official fashion show this week to showcase fashion from all over the Arab world. But there are some restrictions on fashion design – no cleavage, no transparent transparency or above the knee.

AUDIE CORNISH, moderator:

As part of the country’s first Arab Fashion Week, fashion models are making a big show today in the fashion show in the capital city of Saudi Arabia. This is one of several new forms of entertainment that the ultra-conservative kingdom now allows. But the fashion week didn’t start well. NPR’s Jackie Northam reports from Riyadh.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Saudi Arabia’s first fashion week should actually start a few weeks ago. However, there are problems with the number of travel visas and international audiences exceeding expectations. The organizers decided to keep on track and scramble to find new venues and get more visas and tickets. The new target date is yesterday, but workers need to be able to build runways and carpets today.

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NORTHAM: Backstage, makeup artists and hair stylists use their magic. With most Russian and Eastern European models coming out of the audience, the designers made the last minute adjustments.

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NORTHAM: The first dress is a super feminine long train, sequins, feathers and beads. These are the fashions that Saudi women usually wear privately. Usually, they wear full length robes in public. The organizer is the only person who is allowed to take pictures. It must be approved by a government examiner before publication.

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NORTHAM: Saudi women often attend Fashion Week in New York, Paris and Milan. But the kingdom is still highly conservative, and there are limits on what type of fashion can be shown on the show – no cleavage, no knees, no transparency. However, Lebanese designer Naja Saade said that the luxury taste of Saudi women and the many special details on the clothes are very popular.

NAJA SAADE: Saudi women like European style, they like to organize and special dresses. They don’t like being like others.

NORTHAM: Jacob Abrian, CEO of the Arab Fashion Council, which organized the event, said that Princess Saudi is the biggest collector of high fashion. Abrian said that Riyadh would not be surprised to see his fashion week.

JACOB ABRIAN: We decided to hold a fashion week in Riyadh, taking into account the importance of Saudi Arabia as the center of the Arab world and the most important market in the Arab region for the high purchasing power and population of the fashion industry. – 70% of citizens who are under 30 years of age.

NORTHAM: The audience is only female, no males allowed. Most designers come from Europe or the Middle East. Several from Saudi Arabia, including Arwa Al Banawi. She said that while Saudi Arabia offers more opportunities for women, such as driving and working, her design conveys a strong message about empowering women.

ARWA AL BANAWI: These changes are happening now, and now there is a fashion week, which makes sense, because the timing is justified. So this is undoubtedly inspiring for me, because women now – they want to become more independent. They are at work. So for me as a designer, I want to provide a simple solution for this independent woman, she is between life, family and work.

NORTHAM: Even a few years ago, it was unthinkable for Saudi Arabia to hold such a fashion event. But the government has tried to make the kingdom a more popular place to shop and relax. The organizers plan to hold another fashion event this fall, hoping to make Riyadh a regional center for fashion. Jekyntham, NPR News, Riyadh.
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