Saudi Arabia’s first-ever Arab Fashion Week kicked off Tuesday, headlined by international designers Jean Paul Gaultier and Roberto Cavalli.
“We are so excited today to be announcing a history and new era for the kingdom, and for the entire Arab world, which is Arab Fashion Week,” Jacob Abrian, CEO of the Arab Fashion Council, told Gulf News.
Other designers and brands in attendance include cool-kid brand Opening Ceremony and local designer Arwa Banawi, whose youthful line, the Suitable Woman, has amassed 23K followers on Instagram in its three years in business.
Saudi Arabia has long prohibited women — with help from “religious police” — from wearing clothing and makeup that “show off [their] beauty.” But those norms are slowly being overturned by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was appointed in June 2017. According to Reuters, the royal is working to update stringent dress codes. Although abayas, or full-length robes, are still the standard look for women, more colorful and embellished options are popping up these days, and some women are wearing them open or with jeans underneath.
However, strict guidelines are still in place for the country’s four-day-long fashion week. Male designers, such as Lebanon’s Naja Saade, are showing their collections, but catwalk show attendance will be women-only, and outside photography of the shows is not allowed.
Even with those restrictions, Twitter users are lauding the “groundbreaking movement” online.
“I’m very proud to participate in this first edition of Arab Fashion Week in Saudi Arabia, because it’s a part of the revolution of the women in this country,” Saade tells Reuters. He believes the event will help boost international tourism and create more fashion opportunities for local designers.
A second Arab Fashion Week is already scheduled for October.