Saudi Designers Take to the Runway in Paris

The Saudi Fashion Commission continues to chart its course toward putting its young generation of design talent on the global map. With its Saudi 100 Brands initiative, the commission on Wednesday staged a fashion show featuring 10 menswear designers at the Yoyo club under the Palais de Tokyo, with music from DJ duo Dishdash and an animation wall by visual artist RexChouk.

The aim was to show the diversity of Saudi Arabia’s emerging generation of young talent, with a selection of labels spanning from sportswear by 1886 to fun, vintage-inspired creations from Not Boring via light-handed designs inspired by nomadic robes from RBA New York.

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The kingdom’s young designers, a key aspect of its plan to promote fashion as part of its economic diversification strategy, are starting from scratch with no preconceptions, said Saudi Fashion Commission chief executive officer Burak Cakmak, and have a lot to offer the world.

“They are defining it the way they want to, they have no limitations on what is expected of them,” he explained. “They are introducing something new first and foremost for the Saudi customer base, something that’s fun, colorful and interesting, very focused on occasionwear,” he said, given the country’s dynamic social scene. “But there is an appeal to discover new shapes and cuts all over the world. The younger generation especially is not interested only in brands, but for unique looks.”

The Saudi 100 Brands initiative, which supports 100 young Saudi-based fashion entrpreneurs each year, is now in its third year of international activations, including a Paris showroom during ready-to-wear in March and showcases in Milan and New York. It was its first runway show during men’s, and is accompanied by a Paris showroom open through Saturday.

Uscita at Paris Fashion Week

The brands showing were 1886, Mazrood, Awaken, Noura Sulaiman, Not Boring, House of Cenmar, Uscita, Noble & Fresh, RBA New York and KML.

While only two of them, Noura Sulaiman and RBA New York, are female-led businesses, that is actually atypical of Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning fashion scene, Cakmak said. “More than 85 percent of brand ownership in the country is women-owned,” he commented. “People underestimate the voice of women entrepreneurs in the country. It’s nice to see women-owned brands building the industry.”

The Saudi Fashion Commission is one of 11 specific commissions under the Saudi Ministry of Culture, and its mission is to build a fashion industry from the ground up as part of the government’s Vision 2030 plan to modernize the economy.

“We’re ultimately responsible for building the whole ecosystem,” said Cakmak, the former dean of Parsons who took on the role in 2021. Recent initiatives include the first Red Sea Fashion Week in May, which according to Cakmak is the world’s only fashion week dedicated to resort collections, as well as the recent WWD Global Fashion Summit and Saudi Fashion Awards in Riyadh.

Training the new generation of talent coming out of Saudi Arabia is also key, he said. Currently, designers on the Saudi 100 Brands program receive mentoring as well as help accessing training abroad. Until now, there have been no major schools offering fashion education beyond vocational skills, he explained.

“We have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Institut Français de la Mode for a program, and we have a project with Istituto Marangoni, both starting in 2025,” Cakmak said.

Launch Gallery: Saudi Arabia’s Emerging Designers on the Runway at Paris Fashion Week Men's

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