Saudi Arabia, the next international fashion destination?

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In search of alternatives to oil revenues, the Kingdom is diversifying into the fashion sector. At the same time, it is encouraging tourism in the region through its Saudi Vision 2030 plan. A way of enhancing an image tarnished by religious rigorism, which was still predominant 5 years ago.

 

As a sign of this new international soft power, Saudi Arabia is organizing its very first fashion show season this October in Riyadh. The country is also enjoying unprecedented notoriety on the fashion scene with designer Mohammed Ashi (Ashi Studio), the first Saudi-born guest member of Haute Couture Week, which opens in Paris on July 3.

 

A wind of Emirates-inspired social liberalization is blowing through the Kingdom, which is eager to take Qatar’s place as the preferred trading partner of Western countries among the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Ndlr: includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar).

 

 

Paris showcases emerging Saudi fashion scene

 

 

On July 6, Saudi-born Mohammed Ashi, founder of Ashi Studio, will become the very first designer from a Gulf country to parade as a guest at Paris Haute Couture week.

 

It’s an auspicious invitation for a designer who had to study in the USA at the age of 15. There, he discovered a passion for fashion, a discipline still taboo in the kingdom in the 1980s, so much so that in the 1990s, he was the sole representative of savoir-faire couture.

 

He declares on Instagram: “This nomination is the highlight of my career. It gives me the opportunity to share with you who I am.

 

Mohammed Ashi first cut his teeth with Riccardo Tisci, then head of creation at Maison Givenchy, then as artistic director of the Lebanese Maison Elie Saab, before founding his own eponymous label in Beirut in 2006.

 

Since 2018, the architecturally-styled Saudi designer has moved his headquarters to Paris, and now seduces the biggest international show business stars on the red carpets of the Oscars at the Cannes Film Festival.

 

He is also behind the famous fuchsia pink dress worn by Beyoncé at the Global Citizen: Mandela 100 Festival in Johannesburg in 2018, and the black dress worn by singer Cardi B in her music video Money, released the same year. For the Cannes Film Festival, the designer created a bespoke gown for Bollywood film star Sonam Kapoor.

 

Fuchsia pink Ashi Studio dress worn in turn by Bollywood film actress Deepika Padukone and singer Beyoncé in 2018

 

He also made an immaculate white dress for Queen Rania of Jordan in 2020. An act that undoubtedly influenced him in the development of his bridal line, unveiled in July 2022 as part of Paris Haute Couture Week.

 

Whether for evening or formal wear, the designer offers flamboyant, bold collections with pure lines that he describes as animated by a “poetic romanticism“.

 

 

 

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

 

Une publication partagée par Ashi Studio (@ashistudio)


 

Embroidery and the combination of tulle and lace have become his signature style.

 

With this historic new arrival for the Kingdom, Ashi Studio joins previous guests from Arab countries on the July haute couture show calendar, such as Lebanese designers Zuhair Murad (2001) and Georges Hobeika (2017).

 

Riyadh fashion week for October

 

 

The capital of Saudi Arabia will host its very first fashion week from October 20 to 23.

 

This news echoes the organization of a fashion week in the country in October 2018, but which at the time was a private initiative.

 

According to Burak Çakmak, CEO of the Saudi Fashion Commission, the kingdom hopes to eventually become “the new international fashion destination” and thus, why not, count alongside the current Big Four (Paris, London, Milan and New York).

 

It has to be said that Saudi fashion has a wealth of revived ancestral know-how to share.

 

As stylist Breck Graham, who has worked for brands from Estée Lauder to Karl Lagerfeld, explains to Forbes, “Saudi fashion is about combining traditional culture with a vision of modern elegance. The Saudi aesthetic is structured by a wealth of intricate details such as embroidery“.

 

This work of “spreading the word” is precisely the mission of the Saudi Fashion Commission. This organization, founded two years ago, is part of a national effort to intensify artistic and cultural production in Saudi Arabia.

 

Multi-disciplinary, it includes departments dedicated to fine art, design, film, music and theater.

 

All this fits in perfectly with Saudi Vision 2030, an ambitious project designed to prepare for the post-oil era and energize an economy with an extremely young population.

 

According to data shared by Reuters last May, 63% of the population – 32.3 million people – are under 30.

 

While the Saudi Vision plan should help reduce the country’s unemployment rate (from 11.6% to 7%), fashion is particularly well positioned. The sector currently accounts for 1.8% of the local workforce, or 230,000 people, 52% of whom are women.

 

A dynamic fashion ecosystem

 

Earlier this year, Mohammed Ashi, the founder of Ashi Studio, confided to AFP that until now he had not made a habit of communicating about his Saudi identity, out of shyness but also because of the taboo surrounding Western fashion in his country during his childhood.

 

 

 

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

 

Une publication partagée par Ashi Studio (@ashistudio)


Today, under the impetus of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salmane, the Kingdom has introduced a number of social reforms aimed at restoring the image of a country corseted by religious rigorism.

 

Eighty-five years after the discovery of black gold, the Kingdom hopes to increase the share of its gross domestic product derived from non-oil sources from 16% to 50%. At the same time, the country wants to increase the private sector’s contribution to its gross domestic product from 40% to 65%.

 

This wind of change also affects the fashion ecosystem, a market that has hitherto been underestimated and under-supplied.

 

The Chalhoub Group tells Business of Fashion that two-thirds of their fashion and luxury purchases are made by Saudis outside the country. This specialist in the distribution of leading luxury brands in the Gulf region intends to double or even triple this figure in the coming years.

 

Until now, the development of the local fashion scene has been hampered by the absence of tangible data on the size of the ecosystem, one of the most fragmented in the world.

 

According to the Commission, Saudi Arabia’s fashion industry boasts the highest growth rates among the most successful markets, citing a report entitled “State of Fashion in the Kingdom 2023“.

 

Between 2021 and 2025, fashion retail sales in Saudi Arabia are expected to increase by 48% to $32 billion (€29.26 billion), representing an annual growth rate of 13%.

 

According to a recent Euromonitor study, alongside the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia is the driving force behind luxury goods sales in the MENA region, accounting for almost 50% of purchases in Arabic-speaking countries.

 

The Kingdom’s pharaonic investments in hotel and urban infrastructure (The Line, NEOM, The Red Sea gigantic resort project, Six Senses Amaala…), the restoration of archaeological sites (Al-‘Ula…) and cutting-edge technologies (e-sport, artificial intelligence and web3) should contribute to increasing the number of tourists to the country, as should the renewal of the fashion offer by the young guard of local designers.

 

The latter no longer hesitate to revisit the abaya, the long, loose dress traditionally worn by women in the country.

 

Such is the case of Mona Ashibil, designer of the eponymous brand of minimalist contemporary fashion, which is listed in the Saudi 100 Brands ranking. Mohammed Ashi is now welcomed home as a first-rate mentor in this coaching program.

 

Other local brands include Hindamme, Charmaleena, Chador, Atelier Hekayat, Amarah and Abadia.

 

And he’s not the only one contributing to the development of fashion, in a country where most talents have had to learn the rudiments of the trade on their own.

 

Aware of this new craze and the need to reinforce designers’ knowledge of marketing and management, the Commission has signed a partnership with the French Fashion Institute (IFM).

 

From the end of June, some thirty young Saudi designers will be able to take distance learning courses in marketing, business strategy, visual merchandising, retail and financial management. At the same time, they will be able to prepare for the Fashion Executive certificate and the fashion design program offered by the Paris-based school.

 

The costs are fully covered by the Commission.

 

On the occasion of the inauguration of his flagship store in Riyadh last February, Mohammed Ashi told Arab News: “I can’t wait to bring the glamour and fantasy of couture to my home country.

 

At the time, he added, “The fashion scene in Saudi Arabia is flourishing, and the Fashion Commission is doing an excellent job of supporting new Saudi talent.

 

Some Saudi brands – like Ashi Studio – are even beginning to break through internationally. This is the case for Labeso, a multi-awarded brand for its bridal and couture lines by American-Saudi designer Balqees Al Qadeeb, or designer Mona Al Furayan’s Jelbab brand, which has been distributed by American retailer Harvey Nichols since 2015. Mona told Arab News that she wants to make Jelbab an international brand by 2023.

 

And Çakmak concludes, “It’s clear that fashion is a driver of the Saudi economy, and we’re in a very strong position with a pool of talented young people who are eager to learn and apply their skills to the newly emerging Saudi fashion scene.

 

In addition to fashion, sport is another lever of attractiveness for a Kingdom eager to host the 2030 soccer World Cup, while it is already preparing to host the 2029 Winter Olympics in Neom.

 

To support its goal of welcoming 100 million tourists every year, Saudi Arabia is counting on the development of its new airline, Ryad Air, unveiled at the Paris Air Show, whose luxury will be no match for Emirates.

 

Read also >Luxury brands export to chic pop-up stores during the summer vacations

 

Featured photo : © Press[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row njt-role=”not-logged-in”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

In search of alternatives to oil revenues, the Kingdom is diversifying into the fashion sector. At the same time, it is encouraging tourism in the region through its Saudi Vision 2030 plan. A way of enhancing an image tarnished by religious rigorism, which was still predominant 5 years ago.

 

As a sign of this new international soft power, Saudi Arabia is organizing its very first fashion show season this October in Riyadh. The country is also enjoying unprecedented notoriety on the fashion scene with designer Mohammed Ashi (Ashi Studio), the first Saudi-born guest member of Haute Couture Week, which opens in Paris on July 3.

 

A wind of Emirates-inspired social liberalization is blowing through the Kingdom, which is eager to take Qatar’s place as the preferred trading partner of Western countries among the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Ndlr: includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar).

 

 

Paris showcases emerging Saudi fashion scene

 

 

On July 6, Saudi-born Mohammed Ashi, founder of Ashi Studio, will become the very first designer from a Gulf country to parade as a guest at Paris Haute Couture week.

 

It’s an auspicious invitation for a designer who had to study in the USA at the age of 15. There, he discovered a passion for fashion, a discipline still taboo in the kingdom in the 1980s, so much so that in the 1990s, he was the sole representative of savoir-faire couture.

 

He declares on Instagram: “This nomination is the highlight of my career. It gives me the opportunity to share with you who I am.

 

Mohammed Ashi first cut his teeth with Riccardo Tisci, then head of creation at Maison Givenchy, then as artistic director of the Lebanese Maison Elie Saab, before founding his own eponymous label in Beirut in 2006.

 

Since 2018, the architecturally-styled Saudi designer has moved his headquarters to Paris, and now seduces the biggest international show business stars on the red carpets of the Oscars at the Cannes Film Festival.

 

He is also behind the famous fuchsia pink dress worn by Beyoncé at the Global Citizen: Mandela 100 Festival in Johannesburg in 2018, and the black dress worn by singer Cardi B in her music video Money, released the same year. For the Cannes Film Festival, the designer created a bespoke gown for Bollywood film star Sonam Kapoor.

 

Fuchsia pink Ashi Studio dress worn in turn by Bollywood film actress Deepika Padukone and singer Beyoncé in 2018

 

He also made an immaculate white dress for Queen Rania of Jordan in 2020. An act that undoubtedly influenced him in the development of his bridal line, unveiled in July 2022 as part of Paris Haute Couture Week.

 

Whether for evening or formal wear, the designer offers flamboyant, bold collections with pure lines that he describes as animated by a “poetic romanticism“.

 

 

 

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

 

Une publication partagée par Ashi Studio (@ashistudio)


 

Embroidery and the combination of tulle and lace have become his signature style.

 

With this historic new arrival for the Kingdom, Ashi Studio joins previous guests from Arab countries on the July haute couture show calendar, such as Lebanese designers Zuhair Murad (2001) and Georges Hobeika (2017).

 

Riyadh fashion week for October

 

 

The capital of Saudi Arabia will host its very first fashion week from October 20 to 23.

 

This news echoes the organization of a fashion week in the country in October 2018, but which at the time was a private initiative.

 

According to Burak Çakmak, CEO of the Saudi Fashion Commission, the kingdom hopes to eventually become “the new international fashion destination” and thus, why not, count alongside the current Big Four (Paris, London, Milan and New York).

 

It has to be said that Saudi fashion has a wealth of revived ancestral know-how to share.

 

As stylist Breck Graham, who has worked for brands from Estée Lauder to Karl Lagerfeld, explains to Forbes, “Saudi fashion is about combining traditional culture with a vision of modern elegance. The Saudi aesthetic is structured by a wealth of intricate details such as embroidery“.

 

This work of “spreading the word” is precisely the mission of the Saudi Fashion Commission. This organization, founded two years ago, is part of a national effort to intensify artistic and cultural production in Saudi Arabia.

 

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In search of alternatives to oil revenues, the Kingdom is diversifying into the fashion sector. At the same time, it is encouraging tourism in the region through its Saudi Vision 2030 plan. A way of enhancing an image tarnished by religious rigorism, which was still predominant 5 years ago.

 

As a sign of this new international soft power, Saudi Arabia is organizing its very first fashion show season this October in Riyadh. The country is also enjoying unprecedented notoriety on the fashion scene with designer Mohammed Ashi (Ashi Studio), the first Saudi-born guest member of Haute Couture Week, which opens in Paris on July 3.

 

A wind of Emirates-inspired social liberalization is blowing through the Kingdom, which is eager to take Qatar’s place as the preferred trading partner of Western countries among the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Ndlr: includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar).

 

 

Paris showcases emerging Saudi fashion scene

 

 

On July 6, Saudi-born Mohammed Ashi, founder of Ashi Studio, will become the very first designer from a Gulf country to parade as a guest at Paris Haute Couture week.

 

It’s an auspicious invitation for a designer who had to study in the USA at the age of 15. There, he discovered a passion for fashion, a discipline still taboo in the kingdom in the 1980s, so much so that in the 1990s, he was the sole representative of savoir-faire couture.

 

He declares on Instagram: “This nomination is the highlight of my career. It gives me the opportunity to share with you who I am.

 

Mohammed Ashi first cut his teeth with Riccardo Tisci, then head of creation at Maison Givenchy, then as artistic director of the Lebanese Maison Elie Saab, before founding his own eponymous label in Beirut in 2006.

 

Since 2018, the architecturally-styled Saudi designer has moved his headquarters to Paris, and now seduces the biggest international show business stars on the red carpets of the Oscars at the Cannes Film Festival.

 

He is also behind the famous fuchsia pink dress worn by Beyoncé at the Global Citizen: Mandela 100 Festival in Johannesburg in 2018, and the black dress worn by singer Cardi B in her music video Money, released the same year. For the Cannes Film Festival, the designer created a bespoke gown for Bollywood film star Sonam Kapoor.

 

Fuchsia pink Ashi Studio dress worn in turn by Bollywood film actress Deepika Padukone and singer Beyoncé in 2018

 

He also made an immaculate white dress for Queen Rania of Jordan in 2020. An act that undoubtedly influenced him in the development of his bridal line, unveiled in July 2022 as part of Paris Haute Couture Week.

 

Whether for evening or formal wear, the designer offers flamboyant, bold collections with pure lines that he describes as animated by a “poetic romanticism“.

 

 

 

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

 

Une publication partagée par Ashi Studio (@ashistudio)


 

Embroidery and the combination of tulle and lace have become his signature style.

 

With this historic new arrival for the Kingdom, Ashi Studio joins previous guests from Arab countries on the July haute couture show calendar, such as Lebanese designers Zuhair Murad (2001) and Georges Hobeika (2017).

 

Riyadh fashion week for October

 

 

The capital of Saudi Arabia will host its very first fashion week from October 20 to 23.

 

This news echoes the organization of a fashion week in the country in October 2018, but which at the time was a private initiative.

 

According to Burak Çakmak, CEO of the Saudi Fashion Commission, the kingdom hopes to eventually become “the new international fashion destination” and thus, why not, count alongside the current Big Four (Paris, London, Milan and New York).

 

It has to be said that Saudi fashion has a wealth of revived ancestral know-how to share.

 

As stylist Breck Graham, who has worked for brands from Estée Lauder to Karl Lagerfeld, explains to Forbes, “Saudi fashion is about combining traditional culture with a vision of modern elegance. The Saudi aesthetic is structured by a wealth of intricate details such as embroidery“.

 

This work of “spreading the word” is precisely the mission of the Saudi Fashion Commission. This organization, founded two years ago, is part of a national effort to intensify artistic and cultural production in Saudi Arabia.

 

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Picture of Victor Gosselin
Victor Gosselin
Victor Gosselin is a journalist specializing in luxury, HR, tech, retail, and editorial consulting. A graduate of EIML Paris, he has been working in the luxury industry for 9 years. Fond of fashion, Asia, history, and long format, this ex-Welcome To The Jungle and Time To Disrupt likes to analyze the news from a sociological and cultural angle.

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