Saudi Arabia is set to host its first Arab Fashion Week in March, a move that will overturn decades of stiff policies on arts and entertainment.
The announcement was made by the Arab Fashion Council on Monday, February 19.
The powerful heir to the Saudi empire, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has reportedly been leading a drive to reform the country’s dependence on oil while expanding the private sector and empowering women.
The Arab fashion Council which is based in Dubai, said via its website, that fashion week would be held in Riyadh from March 26 to March 31, with a second edition already scheduled for October.
The Arab Fashion Week 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.
Arab Fashion Week has been hosted in the past so far exclusively by Gulf fashion capital Dubai.
Dubai will continue to host its own parallel Arab Fashion Week, with the sixth edition slated for May 9 to May 12.
You would recall that in December, the Arab Fashion Council announced that a regional office will be opening in Riyadh and named Saudi Princess Noura Bint Faisal Al-Saud as its honorary president.
“The first Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh will be more than a world-class event, it is a catalyst through which we believe the fashion sector will lead other economic sectors such as tourism, hospitality, travel, and trade,” Princess Noura said in a statement on the council’s website.
Now listed as an international fashion week alongside the likes of Paris and Milan, the twice-yearly Arab Fashion Week offers exclusively see-now-buy-now collections and pre-collections.
AFP reports that the line-up for the Riyadh event is yet to be revealed and it is still unclear if it will be limited to modest designs as might be expected of a Muslim nation and in accordance with the strict dress code observed in Saudi Arabia.
However, Prince Mohammed has introduced series of reforms over the past months in favour of women.
Shaking off old traditions
In January, Saudi women were allowed for the first time ever to enter a football stadium to watch a game.
The kingdom is also opening several sectors of the workplace to women.
You would also recall that Saudi Arabia has also announced an end to a longstanding ban on women driving, which is to take effect in June.
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The Gulf kingdom, which has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women, and requires them to wear, by law, a loose-fitting abaya robe to shroud their bodies in public, seems to be rethinking decades of tradition.
Earlier this month, a senior Saudi cleric, Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlak, a member of the Council of Scholars — the kingdom’s highest religious body, said Saudi women should not be “forced to wear abayas”.
The government is yet to reveal whether it will change the law.