The conservative Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia held its first ever fashion week last week. Photos from the event are hardly seen on social media because photographers were not allowed to cover the event.
In spite of the absence of men and photographers, it was a noteworthy event, with designers Roberto Cavalli and Jena Paul Gaultier featuring alongside local designers. The event ran from Apirl 10-14 and kicked off with an opening ceremony on Tuesday and held at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh. This is all after it was postponed twice due to organizers citing delays in issuing visa and problems with the venue. Models finally took to the runway on Thursday in Saudi Arabia’s first-ever Arab Fashion Week.
At the opening ceremony, men were allowed but the rest of the event was a female-only affair as models were not dressed in traditional abayas. The styles that graced the runway were the type Saudi women might wear in private. In public they usually don a black, loose-fitting, floor-length cloak called an abaya.
No cleavage, nothing above the knee and nothing too transparent were the restrictions given at the Riyadh show . Organizers were the only ones allowed to take pictures inside the tent and photos have to be cleared by government censors before publication.
The event is one of the new entertainment opportunities opening up recently in the ultra-conservative kingdom. It is one of a number of progressive moves made by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the kingdom’s de-facto leader, who is hoping to improve the country’s global image and attract foreign investors.
Layla Issa Abuzaid, country director for Saudi Arabia at the Arab Fashion Council, said when the project was announced:
“The first Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh will be more than a world-class event. It is a catalyst through which we believe the fashion sector will lead other economic sectors such as tourism, hospitality, travel and trade.”