Donning stylish neck-to-toe abayas, fashions
saunter in excessive heels round a swimming pool in a glitter-filled style
staged within the unlikeliest of locations: Saudi Arabia.
High fashion shows are uncommon within the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom
and have normally been restricted to ladies or averted feminine fashions
— one even displayed clothes dangling from drones.
However a personal occasion in Riyadh final weekend — which showcased a brand new
assortment of abayas, a billowy, figure-concealing gown — opened as much as a
small however mixed-gender viewers at a time when social restrictions are
being eased within the nation.
Draped in shimmering elaborations, half a dozen fashions, most of them
Saudi or of Saudi origin, displayed the gathering that sought to redefine
abaya as a classy overcoat appropriate not only for Muslims however for girls
in all places.
“The stigma across the abaya and the hijab all over the world — I wished
change that,” mentioned Saudi Princess Safia Hussein Guerras, a former mannequin who
designed the gathering in collaboration with Belgian designer Christophe
“If I carry it to a degree of chicness and acceptance… possibly our
technology will (totally) embrace the abaya.”
Whereas many see the abaya, which has been compulsory public put on for Saudi
ladies for many years, as a logo of chastity and piety, feminists typically
it as a logo of oppression.
The costume code was as soon as fanatically enforced within the kingdom by the
now-defanged spiritual police.
In 2018, de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — who has
spearheaded a sweeping modernisation drive — mentioned throughout an interview with
broadcaster CBS that the gown was not necessary in Islam, hinting the costume
code could also be relaxed.
However whereas it was introduced the next 12 months that it was optional
for foreigners, Saudi ladies are nonetheless required to put on the garment in
In a brewing cultural rise up, nevertheless, the as soon as all-black garment is
repurposed in shiny colors and many ladies go away their cloaks open on the
Regardless of the danger of riling arch-conservatives, a handful of daring Saudi
ladies have taken the rise up a step additional — they’ve stopped carrying
However Princess Safia, 50, mentioned she hoped to make the garment
crossover between custom and modernity that blends Arab motifs and
with up to date materials.
The designs would attraction to ladies from completely different cultures and religions
share views on “modesty and class”, mentioned Beaufays, who is predicated within the
kingdom and works for Jeddah-based Lomar which designs conventional “thobes”
The style present, unthinkable within the kingdom barely 4 years in the past,
organised on the residence of the Belgian ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
It comes amid Prince Mohammed’s contentious drive to shake off his
nation’s ultra-conservative picture by permitting cinemas, mixed-gender
and sporting extravaganzas.
However regardless of the liberalisation drive, organising the occasion gave the impression to be
mired in authorities pink tape.
Two sources near the organisers advised AFP that Saudi authorities
initially refused to grant the Belgian embassy permission to host the present.
There was no public remark from authorities or the Belgian embassy.
heated diplomatic wrangling, the present was ultimately allowed to proceed, the
The occasion toasted the trendy abayas, which Princess Safia says will go
sale within the kingdom.
There was nevertheless hardly an abaya in sight within the viewers, which was
restricted to roughly three dozen individuals amid the coronavirus pandemic,
together with Saudi royal relations, diplomats and social media
Regardless of the small crowd, the present marked progress in comparison with earlier
In April 2018, Jean Paul Gaultier and Roberto Cavalli headlined the
kingdom’s first ever Arab Style Week — a women-only occasion that barred not
solely males but in addition cameras.
And in June 2018, a video of clothes floating within the air, suspended from
drones, at a style present within the Crimson Sea metropolis of Jeddah went viral on social
It was ridiculed extensively as a “ghost present”, with feedback on-line peppered
with ghost emojis.(AFP)