Beyond Couture: Riyadh Fashion Week Blossoms as a Global Oasis

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From fostering collaborations with international fashion houses to embracing cutting-edge technology, the RFW team is laying the groundwork for a vibrant future.

Saudi Fashion Commission’s CEO- Burak Çakmak (Source: Instagram)

Riyadh, the vibrant heart of Saudi Arabia, embraced a new rhythm this October– with the inaugural Riyadh Fashion Week (RFW). The four-day event, held from October 20th to 23rd, marked a significant milestone in the Kingdom’s burgeoning fashion scene, attracting international attention and showcasing the creative talent of Saudi designers. More than just a debut, this inaugural event was a declaration – an announcement of a nation’s fashion dreams taking flight.

RFW: Spotlights

RFW was organized by the Saudi Fashion Commission, a newly established government agency dedicated to supporting and promoting the country’s fashion industry. The event aimed to provide a platform for Saudi designers to showcase their collections, connect with buyers and media, and gain global recognition.

Nestled against an enchanting backdrop of man-made dunes, the meandering runway was situated in the recently constructed ‘King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh. This architectural marvel not only hosted hundreds of guests but also stood as a powerhouse within the city.

Photo of the enchanting Runway backdrop (Source: Facebook)

A Milestone for Saudi Design

Renowned Saudi designer Mohammed Ashi kicked off the event with a breathtaking show. His unique creations, favored by celebrities such as Beyoncé, Deepika Padukone, Zendaya, Queen Rania, and Cardi B, have earned him a place in fashion history. Ashi’s groundbreaking achievements include being the first Saudi designer to showcase at Paris Haute Couture Week and joining the prestigious Federation de la Haute Couture. 

“Mohammed Ashi has already made history as the first Saudi designer to join the ranks of haute couture. As a leader in Saudi fashion, we are incredibly honored to invite him back to Saudi during another historical moment in time – Riyadh Fashion Week,” Burak Çakmak, CEO of the Saudi Fashion Commission, quoted.

Nour Arida flaunting one of the designs by Mohammed Ashi (Source: Facebook)

The inaugural edition of the RFW was a resounding success, featuring 29 Saudi designers across 15 shows. The event showcased a diverse range of collections, from traditional abayas and kaftans to contemporary ready-to-wear designs. Some of the participating brands included established names like ‘Not Boring’, and ‘1886’, and rising stars like Tima Abid and Razan Alazzouni

Several celebrities received invitations to witness this historic event, playing a crucial role in promoting Saudi designers globally. Among the notable attendees were German fashion influencer Leonie Hanne, Saudi actress Khairiah Abulaban, Egyptian singer Ahmed Saad, and the Emirati twins, Mohammed and Humaid Hadban, who have made a significant impact in the fashion world.

Mohammed Hadban & Humaid Hadban (Source: Facebook)

A Showcase of Creativity

The RFW also provided a platform for young talent, with a dedicated “Emerging Designers” section featuring the work of promising newcomers. The event attracted a diverse audience, including local fashion enthusiasts, international buyers, and media representatives from around the world.

Bridal collection by (Source: RFW)

More Than Fashion Shows

Beyond the runway shows, RFW offered a variety of workshops, talks, and networking opportunities. This allowed designers to connect with industry professionals, learn about new trends, and gain valuable insights into the global fashion market. RFW wasn’t just about the walk or the designs; it was a vibrant ecosystem. From haute couture to streetwear, a diverse range of young Saudi talents found a common platform with international fashion titans, forging connections that promised to reshape the global fashion landscape.

Snippet from the event (Source: Facebook)

Pivotal Highlights

Here are some of the key details from the inaugural Riyadh Fashion Week:

  • International Recognition: The event attracted international media attention, with publications such as Vogue, Forbes, and The New York Times covering the shows. This global exposure has exposed Saudi Arabia to the global fashion market as a rising star.
  • Economic Opportunities: The RFW provided a platform for Saudi designers to connect with potential buyers and investors. This has led to increased business opportunities for the industry and is expected to contribute to its economic growth. 

In a groundbreaking initiative, Snapchat collaborated with RFW to introduce a pioneering augmented reality experience. This immersive encounter featured virtual pop-up rooms, enabling guests to try on designs and bring fashion brands to life through the innovative use of technology.

Augmented Reality (AR) – Snapchat (Source: LahaMagazine)

  • Cultural Exchange: The event facilitated a meaningful cultural exchange, bridging the Saudi fashion industry with the global fashion community. The exchange of ideas and perspectives was pivotal in dismantling cultural barriers, fostering mutual understanding, and creating a platform for collaborative creativity.
  • Empowering Women: RFW played a vital role in empowering Saudi women by showcasing their talent and creativity on a global stage. Renowned supermodel Halima Aden, who walked for Honayda Serafi, debuted the “Cosmos” collection honoring Rayyanah Barnawi, the first female Saudi astronaut to go into space.  

The occasion also celebrated Asteri Beauty, a local makeup brand owned by women, known as the world’s first desert-proof make-up. Guests were treated with goodie bags and makeovers as part of the festivities.

Supermodel Halima Aden walked the runway for the Honayda Cosmos Spring/Summer 2024 (Source: en.vogue.me)

Initial Ceremony (Source: Facebook)

By cultivating partnerships with global fashion brands and embracing state-of-the-art technology, the RFW team is establishing the foundation for an exciting future.The seeds of digital fashion, planted by virtual shows and augmented reality experiences, promise to blossom into innovative avenues for expression. 

Sustainability, too, finds its voice here, with designers exploring eco-friendly practices and ethical sourcing, ensuring the desert’s fashion oasis flourishes responsibly. 

The success of RFW has been widely lauded as a significant step forward for the Saudi fashion industry. The event has not only provided a much-needed platform for Saudi designers but has also helped to raise the profile of the Kingdom’s fashion scene on the global stage.

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