Shortly after its first anniversary, Vogue Arabia made history by becoming the first-ever Vogue edition dedicated to Saudi Arabia. The June 2018 issue starring HRH Hayfa bint Abdullah Al Saud had been the first of many annual editions to come that would celebrate and spotlight the immense talent of the Kingdom.
As the region gears up for the reveal of Vogue Arabia’s latest Saudi Issue, we look back on the previous editions and their landmark achievements.
June 2018, starring HRH Hayfa bint Abdullah Al Saud
One of the publication’s most groundbreaking covers, and the first-ever Vogue edition dedicated to Saudi Arabia, it pictured HRH Hayfa bint Abdullah Al Saud in the driving seat during the month when Saudi lifted the driving ban on women. The artist and princess was shot by photographer Boo George in the desert outside Jeddah, marking the debut magazine cover for the daughter of the late King Abdullah.
“People often ask me what made me want to be on the cover of Vogue,” said HRH reflecting on the cover a year later. “There were two significant reasons that compelled me to accept the invitation. Firstly, I am a Saudi female artist, and Vogue Arabia is a prominent, well-established media brand with a wide reach. I am excited about the work I’m doing, and I saw it as a great opportunity to celebrate and share my paintings with an audience that is already familiar with me as a public figure within my country. Secondly, the specific edition of the magazine was exclusively focused on Saudi Arabia. Given my strong sense of patriotism and allegiance to my homeland, I felt that the timing was right to be involved in an exciting publication celebrating the Kingdom.”
June 2019, starring Winnie Harlow and Shahad Salman
In yet another world exclusive, Vogue Arabia flew top international model Winnie Harlow to Saudi Arabia, where she modeled alongside rising star Shahad Salman for the June issue, themed “women standing for women.” Photographed by Dan Beleiu in Riyadh’s Sadus heritage village, cover stars Harlow, from Canada, and Salman, from the Kingdom, shared their touching stories of success, notably pointing out how vitiligo – a skin condition caused by the lack of melanin – hasn’t stopped them from achieving their dreams.
It didn’t take long for the distinctive cover shot in Saudi Arabia to grab global attention as it appeared on one of the biggest TV shows in the US. When Harlow appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, in September 2019, the television host took the opportunity to discuss her work with the magazine. “I thought this was a cool thing. You’re on the cover of Vogue Arabia,” said Fallon. Harlow proudly chimed in to discuss the shoot, saying, “That’s my first Vogue. This is the beautiful Shahad, she is gorgeous. I really wanted to do something powerful for my first cover with Vogue Arabia. I’m really close with the people behind the scenes there. We’d been having discussions for about a year about what would be really powerful and we found her on Instagram, and she’s a friend of mine.”
December 2020, starring five young Saudi women, next star Saudi models, and couturier Ashi with muse and model Cindy Bruna
The December 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia celebrated the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with a five-cover special edition dedicated to the country and its people. 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 second cover draws the eye to the next star Saudi models, shot by photographer Txema Yeste with surrealist effect against the smart city of NEOM. 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 issue also included 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 penned 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 added, “The time has come to be judged by our capabilities and accomplishments and not by our gender.”