Saudi Arabia hosts its first-ever fashion week

Saudi Arabia hosts its first-ever fashion week
PHOTO: Reuters

RIYADH - The backstage nerves at any fashion show can be high but this is Saudi Arabia, and these women will be the first to walk the catwalk at the country's first-ever fashion week.

"I never thought that I would come to Saudi Arabia but here I am - it's pretty cool, I am really excited," said American fashion model, Sierra Gilley.

"We are so excited because it's the first Fashion Week in Saudi Arabia, so we are making history and hope it's going to be okay," said Western fashion model, Anita Dmycroska.

Strict social restrictions are easing dramatically under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. For the fashion crowd, his moves to rein in the religious police - who used to roam the streets and malls enforcing strict dress codes - is transforming how people dress here.

"A big international catwalk show, especially here in the capital Riyadh, known for its very conservative values, would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Change is happening here very quickly, but this still Saudi Arabia, and we've been told our cameras aren't welcome inside the main tent where the shows are taking place. There are concerns that pictures of women wearing what's considered as revealing Western fashion is still a bit too much for the kingdom to take," said Reuters.

The catwalk shows are also for women only. Men and cameras were only allowed at this opening event.

Women in public places here, the birthplace of Islam, wear abayas - these full-length robes a symbol of piety.

In a break from tradition, the Crown Prince said in a recent interview that women should be able to choose what they wear and that the abaya was 'not necessary'.

For Saudi designer Arwa al-Banawi, she says that is what it is all about - giving women a choice.

"I think it's beautiful because it's part of our culture and now what's happening is women who still want to wear it's still, it's just now they have a choice. If you don't want to wear the abaya you can still wear something that's still conservative but not the abaya. So it's the matter of that we have the freedom of choice now," said Saudi fashion designer, Arwa Al-Banawi.

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