Home Middle East The Fashionista Saudi Princess Leading Fashion in the Kingdom

The Fashionista Saudi Princess Leading Fashion in the Kingdom

Saudi Princess

Saudi Princess

A young Saudi Arabian princess, influenced by Japanese fashion, is leading the fashion industry in an ultraconservative and orthodox kingdom.

Princess Noura Bint Faisal Al-Saud, the great-granddaughter of Saudi Arabia’s founder, was named the president of the Arab Fashion Council in last December.

The royal, who turns 30 this month on Sunday, has organized her country’s first Arab Fashion Week, headlined by Jean Paul Gaultier and Roberto Cavalli.

With a Shayla headscarf draped over her hair, the princess is warm, welcoming and eloquent; the exact image that fans have hailed as the future of Saudi Arabia, and the critics have dismissed as little more than window dressing in one of the most restrictive countries in the world.

“Absolutely I understand people’s perspective,” Princess Noura told AFP in an interview in Riyadh. “Saudi Arabia has strong ties with its culture. As a Saudi woman, I respect my culture, I respect my religion.

“Wearing the abaya or being, if you would like to call it, conservative in the way we dress is something that is part of who we are. It is part of our culture … this is how our life is, even while traveling,” she said.

The first Saudi Arabian edition of Arab Fashion Week opened on April 11, two weeks behind the schedule, under the eye of Princess Noura.

Organized by the Arab Fashion Council, the event drew international attention both as a watershed in Saudi Arabia and for its controversial configuration, which witnessed the shows restricted to women and banned to cameras.

The lineup included Saudi Arabia’s own Arwa Banawi, whose The Suitable Woman range is adored by fashionistas across the region, and Mashael Alrajhi, the eponymous gender-inclusive label of a rarely seen Saudi sheikha.

Princess Noura said the limited access was “part of the restrictions that we have to follow as part of the culture. It was a women-only event and some women are coming to the event — most of them, I would say — feeling safe.

“I’m coming to see fashion without having to worry about anyone taking my picture. I want to enjoy it. ” she added.

Pictures of the event were taken by the fashion council’s photographers and released after the approval of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority.

The princess graduated from Tokyo’s Rikkyo University with a Master’s degree in International Business with a Japanese Perspective.

She cites her time in Japan as a major influence on her approach to fashion, business and people at home.

“That’s where the whole love of fashion started,” she said. “So I think I bring back a lot of Japan to Saudi … The respect of others, the respect of other people’s culture, of other people’s religion.”

The cultural influence of Asia is visible in Riyadh, where the crossover between the kimono and abaya is growing in popularity among fashion-loving youth.

Ready-couture, the halfway point between haute-couture and ready-to-wear, has also skyrocketed in the region with the rise of social media and influencers, and Saudi Arabia has an eye on that market as a future manufacturing hub.

“Couture is no longer affordable to a lot of people,” said Princess Noura. “It was something that was part of fashion and still is … but these days, people are focusing even more on ready-to-wear which is something that everyone can indulge in, everyone can wear, everyone can be part of.”

The princess also has her eye on introducing textile manufacturing to Saudi Arabia, which seeks to reduce the economy’s dependence on oil.

“Even if it’s just 10 percent of the manufacturing line, we can have the finishing … the last stages of assembly in Saudi Arabia,” she said.