Fashion From Saudi Arabia in the Spotlight

Seriously opulent, luxurious and meticulously crafted fashion, jewelry and accessories by 100 designers from Saudi Arabia are being spotlighted starting Tuesday at the Iron23 event space in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood.

The Saudi designers, many considered emerging brands and selected from a field of 1,500, were challenged to create pieces expressly for the exhibit and that reflect Saudi heritage and culture. The exhibit, called “Saudi 100 Brands Fashion Exhibition,” has been organized by Saudi Arabia’s Fashion Commission. None of the 100 brands has been seen outside Saudi Arabia until now.

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The exhibition, which debuted in Riyadh late last year, is split into eight different categories: ready-to-wear, modest, concept, premiere, demi-couture, bridal, handbags and jewelry. While ornate in terms of the heavy use of fabric, embroidery, laser-cuts, color and references from Saudi architecture and landscape, they are modest to the degree they cover the body. On display are long robes or “thobes,” long coats or “abaya” and large scarves for head coverings called “tarha.” But there is a diversity of style, with some streetwear — a hoodie and some shorts are shown — and more fitted and avant garde designs presented.

“This exhibit doesn’t have a commercial angle. It’s meant to give visibility to creativity from a region of the world that has never been exposed to the rest of the world,” Saudi Arabia’s Fashion Commission chief executive officer Burak Cakmak told WWD in an interview at the exhibit. “It’s open to anybody. It’s a free event. You just have to register.”

The exhibit represents “the starting point to show the level of creativity,” said Cakmak, a former dean of the Parsons School of Design. “Each of the brands are working on a wholesale collection. The idea is this fall, we will have wholesale collections available for retail.

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