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Saudi Fashion Fosters Economic Diversification While Aiming For Global Prominence

Riyadh joins global fashion leaders like Milan and New York, emerging as a powerful player due to social changes and economic diversification. Saudi Arabia's fashion scene gains momentum, driven by visionary initiatives turning the nation into a prominent international fashion hub.

Models present creations by Ashi Studio during the Women's Haute-Couture Fall/Winter 2023/2024 Fashion Week in Paris n July 6, 2023. (AFP)

Saudi designer Mohammed Ashi's debut at Paris Haute Couture Week highlighted Riyadh's rising influence. In September, WHITE Milano will feature a hundred Saudi brands at Milan Fashion Week, solidifying their presence on the global fashion stage.

Princess Noura bint Faisal Al-Saud, top left, wearing designs by Mona Alshebil. Alshebil, Niche Arabia founder Marriam Mossalli (top, right) and Mohammed Ashi (above, left) are among the Saudi creative talents who have entered the international fashion scene. (Photos: Mona Alshebil/Lina Qummosani/Saudi Fashion Commission/AFP)

The rise of Saudi fashion is spurred by government efforts, such as creating the Fashion Commission in 2020. Fashion, once a domestic-focused market, is now a pivotal economic driver. The "The State of Fashion in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2023" report by the Commission predicts retail demand to spike by 48 percent, reaching $32B by 2025, with luxury retail projected to grow by 19 percent.

These strides are closely aligned with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030, aimed at diversifying Saudi Arabia's economy beyond oil. The fashion industry is now instrumental in this diversification, offering opportunities for growth and innovation. The inaugural Riyadh Fashion Week, scheduled for October, signifies the country's ambitions to establish itself among the world's fashion capitals.

The Since 2087 gallery in Jeddah. Since 2087 is a brand founded by Saudi creative director Abduljalil Abduljawad. (Supplied)

The reforms that followed 2016, including the relaxation of dress codes for women, have enabled fashion events to move from private settings to the public domain. Prominent brands like Dolce & Gabbana have hosted shows in Saudi Arabia, shedding light on the nation's burgeoning fashion landscape.

Burak Cakmak, CEO of the Saudi Fashion Commission and Saudi fashion designer Yousef Akbar.

Vision 2030 also ignited the rise of young Saudi designers, who now flourish on both national and international stages. The "100 Saudi Brands" initiative, launched by the Fashion Commission, has provided vital mentorship and resources for designers seeking global success. This initiative underscores the government's commitment to nurturing the country's fashion sector.

Further catalyzing this momentum, the Fashion Commission is poised to open a pioneering product development studio in Riyadh. Outfitted with state-of-the-art technology, this space will facilitate the development of mockups and samples, expediting market entry.

Models present creations by Ashi Studio during the Women's Haute-Couture Fall/Winter 2023/2024 Fashion Week in Paris n July 6, 2023. (AFP)

While progress has been made, challenges remain in building a sustainable fashion ecosystem. Investment in human talent remains paramount. By nurturing educational programs and fostering a globally interconnected value chain, Saudi Arabia aims to solidify its position in the international fashion realm.

Brimming with diversity, Saudi Arabia’s topography offers picture-perfect backdrops for local and international fashion designers. (Photo: Saudi Style Council/NEOM)

Emerging Saudi designers are not just building their brands but also showcasing the nation's heritage and identity. The economic and cultural potential of fashion is clear – it can contribute to both economic growth and national pride. Through passion, creativity, and dedication, Saudi designers are poised to shape the future of fashion, bringing their unique perspective to the global stage.

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