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History: Saudi Arabia hosts its first swimwear fashion show, a sign of a softening of its austere image

History: Saudi Arabia hosts its first swimwear fashion show, a sign of a softening of its austere image


Saudi Arabia held its first fashion show Friday featuring models in swimsuits, marking a significant change in a country where less than a decade ago women had to wear body-covering abaya dresses.

As reported AFP, the poolside event showcased Moroccan designer Yasmina Qanzal's collection, which primarily featured one-piece swimsuits in shades of red, beige and blue. Many models had exposed shoulders and some flaunted partially visible midriffs.

It’s true that this country is very conservative but we tried to show stylish swimwear that represents the Arab world,” Qanzal said. AFP.

When we came here, we understood that a swimsuit show in Saudi Arabia is a historic moment, because it is the first time that such an event has taken place,” she said, adding that It was an honor to participate.

A model presents a creation from Moroccan designer Yasmina Q's summer beachwear collection during Red Sea Fashion Week on the Red Sea resort island of Ummahat in Saudi Arabia on May 17. 2024. (Photo by Fagé Nureldine / AFP)

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A model presents a creation from Moroccan designer Yasmina Q's summer beachwear collection during Red Sea Fashion Week on the Red Sea resort island of Ummahat in Saudi Arabia on May 17. 2024. (Photo by Fagé Nureldine / AFP) (AFP)

The show took place on the second day of the inaugural Red Sea Fashion Week at the St. Regis Red Sea Resort, located off the west coast of Saudi Arabia.

The resort is part of Red Sea Global, one of the megaprojects key to Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 social and economic reform program, overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Since becoming first in line to the throne in 2017, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has launched a series of social reforms aimed at softening Saudi Arabia's austere image, historically influenced by a strict form of Islam known as the name of Wahhabism.

These reforms included removing the baton-wielding religious police who once enforced prayer times in shopping malls, reintroducing movie theaters and organizing mixed-gender music festivals. However, these changes have been accompanied by an increased crackdown on dissent, including repressive measures against conservative clerics who might oppose such measures.

AFP reported that Shouq Mohammed, a Syrian fashion influencer who attended Friday's show, remarked that it was not surprising given Saudi Arabia's efforts to open up to the world and develop its fashion and tourism sectors.

In 2022, the fashion industry contributed $12.5 billion, or 1.4%, to national GDP and employed 230,000 people, according to a report released last year by the Saudi Official Commission of fashion.

(With the participation of AFP)

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Published: May 18, 2024, 1:59 p.m. IST




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