Saudi fashion designers make their red carpet debut at the Red Sea Film Festival – Deadline

Emerging fashion design brands from Saudi Arabia made their world premiere on the red carpet in recent days at the Red Sea International Film Festival, which runs from December 1-10 in the port city of Jeddah.

A guest group of regional and international celebrities walked the gala red carpets in local designs, alongside other stars in outfits from long-established luxury brands, in an initiative led by the the country’s youngest Fashion Commission.

The campaign comes just three years after the country relaxed ultra-strict dress codes stipulating that women must wear an abaya and cover their hair in public, as part of reforms aimed at opening up society and diversifying the economy. away from dependence on oil revenues.

The drive to promote Saudi Arabia’s emerging fashion brands on the Red Sea red carpet is the brainchild of Burak Cakmak, CEO of the country’s new fashion commission, which was among 11 bodies set up by the ministry of Culture in 2021 to revive the cultural sector.

Cakmak, whose resume includes stints at luxury groups Kering and Swarovski, arrived in the role of the Parsons School Of Design in New York, where he was dean of fashion between 2015 and 2020, with a mandate to build a fashion industry in the country from scratch.

At the lavish Red Sea Opening Ceremony, guest of honor Jacqui Ainsley, wife of Guy Richie, wore a fitted cream dress designed by Dazluq.

The Miami-based brand was established by Saudi designer Salma Zahran in 2016 and is currently breaking into the emerging fashion market in Saudi Arabia.

Brazilian model Alessandra Ambrosini made an appearance wearing a figure-hugging electric blue outfit by Jeddah-born designer Yousef Akbar, who studied fashion in Australia and then started his own label in 2017.

Rising Saudi actress Mila Al Zahrani, best known for her role in Haifaa Al Mansour The perfect candidatealso supported local brands, wearing a sleek black and white ensemble by Riyadh-based designer Mashael Al Faris.

Elsewhere at the festival, model and businesswoman Elle Macpherson attended Vanity Fair’s Chopard-sponsored Women in Cinema party in a pink jumpsuit by Amarah, a womenswear brand launched in 2019 by Arwa AlKAd.

She accessorized with a bag from Dania Shinkar, a London College of Fashion alumnus, operating between Saudi Arabia and Ireland.

A dozen other celebrities also sported local creations on the red carpet during the first days of the festival.

“We try to develop Saudi brands, so that they get the same visibility as international brands operating in the country,” Cakmak explains. “The idea is to put their pieces on the red carpet alongside all the other international brands so that they become part of the mix, and are recognized on the same level.”

He and his team have been busy hastily pairing local designers with celebrities as the Red Sea VIP list has assembled in the weeks leading up to the festival.

“This type of engagement is usually finalized at the last minute and what is important for us and the Saudi brands is to understand the process to be able to deliver parts that are always ready,” he said.

“We have created a dedicated suite at the Ritz (the main center of the festival this year) and we are in contact with all the stylists and sometimes the celebrities themselves, depending on the links that exist between our team as well as the festival and the creators. . .”

“It’s basically managing that matchmaking process and allowing celebrities to view the pieces virtually and then sending them to their hotels or inviting them to the suite itself,” he continued. “The good thing about designers in the region is that they are very used to making bespoke, bespoke pieces, so they often have their own in-house teams and are able to react quickly.”

The red carpet push in Jeddah is part of a series of initiatives put in place by the commission over the past 12 months, led by the Saudi 100 Brands exhibition, showcasing the work of 80 mostly female designers, which has made debuted in Riyadh in December 2021, and then traveled to New York in July, followed by Milan Fashion Week in September.

“After a year of engagement, we decided it was time to start taking our red carpet seats as well, but it really takes a focused effort to be able to grab that attention in a very crowded space,” Cakmak said.

“Obviously, fashion and cinema are very much linked. In film, costume matters, but beyond that, we’ve seen with the Met Gala and festival red carpets how fashion plays a very important role.

Red carpets at Middle Eastern film festivals have a reputation for being over the top and bling-bling, but Cakmak suggests that Saudi Arabia prefers a more understated elegance and therefore its designers can offer sophistication on par with established fashion brands in Europe and the United States.

He notes, however, that the aim is not only to target international markets and celebrities, but also to engage with the Saudi population and the country’s emerging film industry.

“Saudi is getting into film. And that’s another of the reasons why we were motivated to do it. For me, what matters as much as international celebrities is having people from the Saudi film industry, creators, directors and producers on the red carpet, representing local creators.

When asked if he now has any red carpet sights at prestigious festivals like Cannes and Venice, Cakmak replies, “It’s our absolute ambition to be able to do that.”

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