Posted on May 03 2016
Jeddah Vogue Fashion Experience by Tamu McPherson
Hey There Pretty Birds,
My adventure with this glorious thing called fashion continues. This time Franca Sozzani and Vogue Italia, Saudi retail leader Rubaiyat and Princess Adelah bint Abdullah bin Abdulaziz open up a world of style that, up until this point, I’ve only enjoyed the slightest glimpse of. In this leg of the journey, I visit Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and discover the collections of a group of ten emerging female designers. The first edition of the Vogue Fashion Experience Jeddah talent scouting was created to celebrate these designers and to offer an international platform to showcase their work. The ten designers who competed in the scouting include:
Arwa Al Banawi, eponymous ready-to-wear brand founded in 2015.
Atulier, a Jeddah based contemporary womenswear brand founded by Samar. Nasraldin in November 2014.
Badawiah, a Saudi-Argentinian jewelry designer.
Charmaleena, a contemporary fine jewellery brand founded by sisters Leena and Hala M. El Khereiji in April 2012.
Daneh, founded in 2010 by Daneh Buahmad, is a chic and easily wearable brand conceived for a modern woman.
Fyunka, a handbag brand founded by Alaa Balkhy whose creations are characterized by the use of canvas and PVC.
Haal Inc, an experimental and creative brand of abayas launched in 2010 by designers Mariam Bin Mahfouz and Nouf Hakeem.
Haifa Fahad, a ready-to-wear women’s and men’s brand with a focus on the creation of embellished abayas.
Mashael, designed by Mashael Al Rajhi, is a ready-to-wear women’s and men’s brand characterized by a mix of minimalism and sophistication that debuted at London Fashion Week in 2016.
Chador Saudi Arabia, launched in 2013 by Nora Aldamer.
Talk about saving the best for last — The top prize went to Chador by Nora Aldamer, who will have the opportunity to show her collection in Milan this September during fashion week. Haal Inc by Mariam Bin Mahfouz and Nouf Hakeem also took home a special prize from the jury and will also present its collection in Milan during fashion week. A third honor went to Alaa Balkhy of Fyunka who was awarded a collaboration with the Italian accessories brand Carpisa. Jury members included Franca Sozzani, Editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, Silvia Venturini Fendi, Delfina Delettrez Fendi, Alberta Ferretti, Stella Jean, the Senior Editor of Vogue Italia and Vogue Talents Sara Maino, Aram Kabbani, Sara Murad, Noura Binzagr, Fatma Abid and Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud.
Alberta Ferretti, Silvia Venturini Fendi, Delfina Delettrez Fendi, Stella Jean discuss their experience as successful designers working in the fashion industry with moderator Ritu Upadhyay.
Franca Sozzani and Princess Adelah bint Abdullah bin Abdulaziz host a gala to celebrate the designers and the events of the week.
This trip was unique. I have never experienced anything like it. The atmosphere was extremely fascinating. From the moment that my plane landed, I was greeted with a fleet of new encounters. First, I was unsure of what I was supposed to do, how I was supposed to behave once inside the VIP immigration office. My first observation was of a group of men and women that had traveled to Jeddah for the pilgrimage to Mecca. The men in the group were dressed in white towels pinned together strategically. On inquiry, I learned that pilgrims are required to travel to mecca wearing the garments they will worship in. After clearing immigration, I was lead to the women’s lounge where as the only woman not wearing an abaya and jilbab (I wore a striped top, light blue jeans, blue bomber, red bandanna and ballerinas – alla americana via Italia), I tried to connect by making eye contact and smiling. Young woman or old, my attempts to connect [with them] in such a basic way were met with kind eyes and sweet smiles and not cold stares declaring how out-of-place I looked. A circumstance that underscores the notion that womanhood can truly transcend cultural differences. The rest of our trip was filled with countless learning experiences about the dynamism of Saudi women and the complex nuances of Saudi culture. Some of the characteristics that impressed me the most were the importance of family and relationships, the importance of values like kindness, generosity of time and self and the desire to preserve important cultural traditions. These attributes came through in the stories that our hosts and the finalists shared and through the simple gestures they bestowed upon us. And many of you will ask me how I felt wearing the Abaya or the jilbab. I’ll tell you that for me putting on the Saudi traditional dress meant creating a tiny bond with the woman I met, a respect for their culture, and creating a space where I could learn more about their realities – ones that I had only been able to imagine from a far until this trip. Having only pierced the surface, I hope that my journey takes me back to Saudi Arabia sometime soon.