The December 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia celebrates the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with five covers dedicated to the country and its people.
The Unesco heritage site of Diriyah, the original home of the Saudi royal family and where the Kingdom was first formed, offers, for the first time ever to a magazine, a regal backdrop to celebrate the heritage of traditional garments and craftsmanship.
For the first cover, the special project was lensed by Hayat Osamah and curated by historian Dr Layla AlBassam. It stars five young Saudi women from across the country dressed in their respective regional dress. The calligraphy reads, “In the heart of Saudi.”
In brilliant contrast, the smart city of NEOM, which powers this year’s Vogue Fashion Prize, draws the eye to the next star Saudi models, shot by photographer Txema Yeste with surrealist effect. International Saudi couturier Ashi, who has dressed Beyoncé, Cardi B, and Billy Porter, is also featured on a cover alongside model and Ashi muse Cindy Bruna. The cover, shot by Tom Munro, marks her first for Vogue.
“Our annual Saudi issue represents the three main pillars: Keeping Saudi traditions alive, offering a platform to the Kingdom’s youth, and celebrating the best of fashion,” says Manuel Arnaut, Vogue Arabia editor-in-chief.
Also inside the Saudi issue, an exclusive feature by Saudi ambassador to the US, HRH Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Photographed for Vogue Arabia by her daughter, Princess Sarah bint Faisal Al Saud, she pens a letter to Saudi women, stating, “Whatever the future holds for the Kingdom, young Saudi women will be at the front of the line, integral to the process of shaping it. And that means, very soon, we will no longer refer to the ‘first’ Saudi women this or the ‘first’ Saudi woman that – because the presence and contribution of Saudi women in every job, occupation, career, and sector will simply be commonplace and unremarkable.” Princess Reema adds, “The time has come to be judged by our capabilities and accomplishments and not by our gender.”
In fashion, Saudi women’s evolving relationship with the abaya is explored, while in beauty, the Kingdom’s centuries-deep connection with perfume is also underscored. Fragrance in Arabia, a symbol of luxury and indulgence, has inspired lasting trends and brands the world over. Pioneering fragrance house creators, like the first Saudi female perfumer, Nouf Al Qahtani, offer their insight. Meanwhile, burgeoning ready-to-wear labels by young designers from the Kingdom are featured including Realself, Mazrood, Galag Collection, Lama Albluwi, and Aspect Doré, They show a penchant for unisex clothing and streetwear, along with sustainability and circular production. Of note, Vogue Arabia diversity-at-large editor Halima Aden interviews Tommy Hilfiger. The legendary designer discusses his program Make It Possible, the continuation of a 35-year journey to make a positive impact in the world.
Exceptionally, the December 2020 issue pays tribute to the mother of Saudi fine art with an interview with 80-year-old Saudi artist Safeya Binzagr by Saudi gallerist Mashael Al Rushaid. Binzagr, who has contributed 450 artworks, over 35 exhibitions, and a standalone museum to Saudi culture, tells Vogue Arabia, “I hope that as an artist, I did what was expected of me for my society.” Other stories explore behind the scenes of the flourishing world of Saudi cinema with women in particular informing of the roles being offered in front of and behind the camera.