At just 17 years of age, Saudi Arabia’s first couture model had heads turning at the opening of the Antonio Grimaldi couture show earlier this week, as part of Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris. Taleedah Tamer rocked a sleek, all-white pant suit, a billowing cape, gold hoops, and a burnished bird-claw belt, moving elegantly through the grand setting of the Salons France-Amériques. Later in the show, she had all eyes watching as she walked the runway in a pale pink column gown, embroidered by hand with vertically-lined sequins and adorned with a feather accent on one shoulder.
Tamer, who has openly expressed love for her Saudi culture and heritage, spoke to The New York Times before this week’s Grimaldi show saying, “I cannot believe I am finally here in Paris. It still feels like a dream.” Her couture runway debut came just days after her first magazine cover, the July issue of Harper’s Bazaar Arabia.
Born and raised in Jeddah to a Saudi father and Italian mother, Tamer enjoyed support from both her parents to pursue a career in the fashion industry. Her father, Ayman Tamer, is chairman of the Tamer Group, a health care, pharmaceutical, and beauty company, while her mother, Cristina, is a former model who worked for Giorgio Armani, La Perla, and Gianfranco Ferre. In fact, it is her mother who has been helping Tamer chart a sensible path into the fashion world.
“She taught me how to walk, about my angles, and about understanding my body and face […] My mum’s also taught me what’s most important in this industry, and that’s to be kind to everyone, to be professional, to make people feel comfortable and do everything to the best of your ability.”
Tamer, who plans to move to Milan, Italy, later this year to pursue her higher studies spoke positively about the recent reforms targeted at improving the lives of women in Saudi Arabia but was also pragmatic about the criticism that a career as a model might attract in the Kingdom.
“I know there will be Saudis that will not agree with me modeling,” she said. “I respect their right to have an opinion, but also feel very proud that I am able to broaden perceptions of what it means to be a modern Saudi woman in the eyes of the world.”