Saudi Arabia, a country known for its draconian policies on arts and entertainment, is all set to host its first-ever fashion week next month, report agencies.
The Dubai-based Arab Fashion Council, which Saudi Princess Noura Bint Faisal Al-Saud heads as the honorary president, made the announcement in London on Monday.
“This event is just the beginning,” Princess Noura has told the Arab News, adding that designers from all over the world are welcomes to take part at the event.
“Saudi Arabia’s artistic community has been growing in size and in confidence for a number of years,” she said citing a letter of the General Entertainment Authority in Saudi Arabia.
The Arab Fashion Week will be held in Riyadh from Mar 26-31, with a second edition already scheduled for October, reports the Arab News.
The event will take place at Riyadh's eco-friendly Apex Centre, a white honeycomb-like venue designed by the late celebrated Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid.
Saudi Fashion designer Arwa Al-Banawi, a regular exhibitor at Paris Fashion Week, is eager to showcase her designs to an international audience in her own country.
“Saudi Arabia is becoming more and more developed and I’m seeing a lot of Saudi designers following their dreams, it’s a very special time for female empowerment and also for the world to see the beautiful creative talent in our country,” the Arab News quoted her as saying.
The line-up for the Riyadh event has not been revealed yet and it remains unclear whether it will be limited to designs in accordance with the strict dress code observed in Saudi Arabia.
The Muslim kingdom recently softened its rule that Saudi women need to wear ‘abaya’, a loose-fitting, full-length robes symbolic of religious faith.
Muslim women should dress modestly, but this did not necessitate wearing the abaya, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars in the kingdom said on his television programme on Feb 10.
Saudi women have started wearing more colourful abayas in recent years, the light blues and pinks in stark contrast with the traditional black.
Open abayas over long skirts or jeans are also becoming more common in some parts of the country.
The changes follow the recent pattern of freedoms the kingdom has been witnessing with the ascent of young Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to power.