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Saudi Arabia and the world
Thursday, Dec 08, 2022

Saudi creatives take international center stage at Fashion Futures event in Riyadh

The burgeoning Saudi fashion sector has been taking center stage at a major international industry conference in Riyadh.
Hosted by the Saudi Fashion Commission, the Fashion Futures event provides a platform for Saudi designers and brands to showcase their products to the world.

And the conference, held at Riyadh’s City Hub, also offers an opportunity for experts and influencers to discuss key issues related to the fashion industry such as sustainability, diversity, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

Along with an influential line-up of regional and international speakers, the three-day gathering also includes panel discussions, masterclasses, workshops, retail activations, and pop-up events across the capital.

The opening night included a conversation with Saudi designer Mohammed Ashi, whose atelier dresses famous names such as singers Beyonce and Lady Gaga.

The Fashion Commission’s chief executive officer, Burak Cakmak, told Arab News: “There are very few places that are unseen. Saudi is one of those lost places where we are unveiling the design culture story through fashion.

“I’m quite excited to bring that perspective because even personally when I first came here, I experienced a very different way of thinking about fashion. It’s the elegance and the style that’s very different to what’s happening in the rest of the world.”

The four main themes of this year’s event are championing sustainability, entrepreneurship, innovation, and diversity and culture.

Addressing the conference, Italian designer Stella Jean said: “Visiting many of these Saudi designers and seeing how the new generation absorbed these concepts so well, you can see how proud they are of their roots, and now they’ve exhibited something that belongs to their tradition.

“This is exactly what will make the difference. If you are brave enough to keep your personal story and show it to the world, this is the way for all the emerging countries, to not only follow Western fashion.”

An advocate for cultural and ethnic diversity within the fashion world, Jean took a stand against Milan Fashion Week, vowing not showcase there until she was no longer the only black designer on the runway. In September, she returned to the catwalk alongside 15 black, indigenous, and people of color designers.

She said: “Saudi Arabia is creating opportunities, like this one: Mentorships, scholarships, shows, but it takes a village. Don’t be intimidated by giant fashion conglomerates; when you have a true story, that’s the strongest tool.”

Fashion Futures has been showcasing the works of emerging Saudi designers that have taken part in commission initiatives, including the Saudi 100 and Intermix residency designs.

Rana Alfheed, of Agmarat Boutique, told Arab News: “Our experience at the Saudi 100 brand showcase in New York and Milan was very fruitful, and we’re very proud of this step as designers.

“Saudi Arabia has much to add to the fashion industry. Our unique fabrics and way of dressing is very different, and we can convey that abroad in a modern and suitable way for all nationalities and cultures.”

Pushing the theme of sustainability and the essential conversations around it, the Fashion Commission is also hosting a pop-up shop at U Walk in Riyadh, and a Swap Shop in collaboration with YOOX Net-a-Porter, until Nov. 24, to encourage sustainable and mindful fashion consumption.

Running concurrently with the conference’s program, the Future Fabrics Expo has been displaying interactive textiles, cutting-edge materials and technologies, and commercially available sustainable fabrics.

The Expo is the world’s largest dedicated sustainable sourcing showcase, aimed at creating a positive impact on the wider industry.

It includes a range of workshops and talks looking at issues such as the future of fashion locally and globally, conscious consumption, the impacts of the textile industry, and digital transformation and the metaverse.

The event has partnered with the Chalhoub Group’s Greenhouse enterprise space, the Italian Academy of Costume and Fashion, and the Istituto Marangoni fashion design school to provide innovative masterclasses and expand creativity and collaboration.

Cakmak said: “Each year, we’re adding more and more. This year we’re blending that with a heavier agenda of masterclasses and workshops.

“What amazes me is in the first two days we opened, everything was full, and we have a waiting list of over 100 people for each of the workshops. So, it shows that we need to do even more of that where people want actual applicable skills that can be used beyond understanding the big picture.”

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