From October 20 to 23, Saudi Arabia hosted the first-ever Riyadh Fashion Week, a paramount addition to the thriving design space in the Kingdom’s capital. Organized by the Ministry of Culture’s Fashion Commission, the four-day affair honored Saudi Arabia’s cultural and creative expression while paying an ode to its past and present. For the occasion, the King Abdullah Financial District welcomed a dazzling guest list including names such as Lojain Omran, Karen Wazen, Halima Aden, Dana Hourani, Yara Alnamlah, the Hadban twins, Nour Arida, Hala Abdallah, Leonie Hanne, and more.
Below, discover all the highlights from the inaugural Riyadh Fashion Week.
For the first-ever show in his hometown, the renowned Saudi couturier behind Ashi Studios presented evening wear inspired by the haunting beauty of the desert at night. Drawing upon the illuminated charm of moonlight on sand dunes, the designer created an elegant vision marked by his penchant for romance and geometry. A dramatic rock installation remained at the center as models formed a square around it. The collection on display featured long robes, elaborately sculpted details, ball gowns with embellished trails, crystal embroideries, 3D organza flowers, and innate feminine grace.
Any conversation on Saudi fashion is incomplete without Adnan Akbar, a designer often credited with creating the first couture house in the Kingdom. It is only fitting that the second day of the first-ever Riyadh Fashion Week opened with his enchanting collection. Evident at once was the attention to detail that has long been a hallmark of his atelier as garments uplifted by floral applique, glistening beading, and expert fabric manipulation came down the runway. From sculptural wedding gowns to off-the-shoulder numbers, every piece was a testimony to the opulence Adnan Akbar is known for.
Jeddah-born designer Tima Abid brought to the runway a collection specially made for the inaugural Riyadh Fashion Week, a vision inspired by the opposite concepts of light and dark. This paradox seemed to merge contemporary design sensibilities and the couture expertise of Europe with Saudi Arabian heritage. Taking inspiration from the topography of the Kingdom, Abid presented a collection of intricately embellished gowns adorned with feathers, sequins, and delicate beadwork. A standout moment was the incorporation of traditional head and facial coverings such as the batoola.
Yousef Akbar brought his signature playfulness and bold color palette to Riyadh Fashion Week as he showcased his Spring/Summer 2024 collection. Titled “SHIFT//REBIRTH” the collection painted a glittering vision punctuated by pops of neon in an ode to all the women in his life. The signature draped gown with attached gloves was reimagined for this new season while billowing voluminous gowns accompanied more sleek silhouettes. “We celebrate the uniqueness and power of women today, as they claim their rightful place in the world, redefine the boundaries, and ignite a revolution of strength, grace, and unyielding spirit,” read a statement from the brand.
Staying in line with the overarching theme of Riyadh Fashion Week, Atelier Hekayat presented a nostalgia-laden runway evoking images of childhood memories and home while looking toward the future of Saudi fashion. A delicate, sweet fragrance permeated throughout the venue as guests were offered bundles of lavender – a symbol of Saudi Arabia and its continued prosperity. The collection, titled ‘I’m coming home’, was seeped in pastel wonder dominated by tulle and ruffles while the occasional black or red ensemble made a riveting statement. “We dedicate our success to our great father, may his soul rest in peace,” shared the design duo behind the brand.
In a memorable moment, former Vogue Arabia cover star and Somali model Halima Aden opened the show as she returned to the runway after a four-year hiatus. Adorned in an electric blue gown and wide embellished headband, Aden set the tone for the rest of Honayda’s space-inspired show. With bewitching references to the cosmos and female astronauts, the collection is certainly timely as Saudi Arabia continues to expand its efforts for space exploration.
Kaf by Kaf
“The collection is inspired by the fruits and vegetable market, as they resemble the beginning of summer in Saudi Arabia. We have used materials, like palmette, that represent a heritage I want to bring back to life,” shares Kawthar Alhoraish, the mind behind the Saudi label Kaf by Kaf. Known for its bold and often unconventional design, Kaf by Kaf remained true to its reputation as every look on the runway paid homage to the Kingdom while using somewhat unconventional techniques and materials such as raffia and crochet.
Arwa Al Banawi
Arwa Al Banawi designs mostly for the modern woman, often with eclectic details added into the mix. For Riyadh Fashion Week, the designer who counts renowned names amongst her clients including Jaden Smith, presented a collection full of sleek silhouettes and a minimal palette. Red, white, and black dominated the runway of monochrome ensembles punctuated by glittering prints.