Designers from around the world flocked to Riyadh last week for Saudi Arabia’a first-ever Fashion Week, which took place before a women-only audience and without any social media presence.
According to The New York Times, the event ran into several hiccups before coming to fruition. The event was initially going to be held in March, but was postponed after journalists, buyers and models were unable to obtain visas. Then, on the evening that the rescheduled show was supposed to start, it was postponed for another 24 hours due to bad weather.
When the event finally did kick off, it saw the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier and Roberto Cavalli display their wares to wealthy Saudi buyers. But Saudi Arabia’s first Fashion Week was distinct from its counterparts in Milan, New York and Paris in several key ways. For one thing, male designers were not allowed backstage before their shows. The audience was composed entirely of females, and social media was banned — with just a few female photographers allowed to attend.
Under the leadership of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has been making efforts to soften its image as a hardline Muslim country, in part to entice foreign investors and international travelers. Saudi Arabia has recently relaxed some of its stricter laws regulating women’s behavior; last year, for instance, women were finally granted the right to drive and enter the country’s national sports arena. But female citizens continue to be subject to strict guardianship laws, which give male relatives the authority to make decisions about many fundamental aspects of women’s daily life.
Arwa Al-Banawi, a Saudi designer based in Dubai who presented her collection at Saudi Arabia’s Fashion Week, told the Times that the event marks a significant step forward for women in the country
“It is so important for us that we have our own fashion week — historically I have always shown in Dubai or Paris but as a Saudi woman I really wanted to be a part of this moment,” she said. “Yes it has been the most challenging event I have ever been a part of, but the only way to look is forwards not backward. Next time will be better.”
Read the full story at The New York Times.