Saudi Design Week

Written by: Arwa Alotaibi ( A Line By Arwa )

Photographed by: Ayah Bader

For the first time ever in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia we had Saudi Design Week (sponsored by Oasis magazine) and thankfully I was one of the luckiest people to get invited. The experience was great and unlike anything, the Saudi fashion scene had known before. I loved every minute of it! And even though it was incomparable to Fashion Week in Paris or New York, it was a great start for the Saudi fashion industry to get together, interact and display their latest creations. 

SDW played host to Arab designers and influencers from around the Middle East and the world. Some notable names were Khalid Shafar, Phillip Hoffman, and Layla Moussa in addition to many more.

The first day of SDW began at ‘Harvey Nichols Alfaisaliya’ where (Chanel had set up a vintage pop-up- store, as well as a screening of the film Versailles ’73 directed by Deborah Riley Darper and narrated by Cameron Silver. We also had the chance to meet the king of Vintage himself and the author of Decades, Cameron Silver, who was present (read more about his personal reflection on SDW in his article). The CHANEL pop up store was remarkably astonishing and breathtaking, every single piece brought forward a certain glamour and facet of its rich history, from the classic CHANEL bags down to the beautiful accessories. I absolutely loved every single piece!



Versailles ‘73

The screening of Versailles ’73 took place during the first day of SDW, outlining the development of the American fashion industry and persona in 1973. The movie discussed t the blooming of American fashion at Versailles and the in which it had introduced American fashion to the world, giving it a sort of validation and legitimacy. The struggle for American designers in Europe was defined by the established lines and rules that had to be challenged and adopted in order for Americans to make a place for themselves in the world of fashion. American fashion designers such as Anne Klein and Oscar De La Renta presented ready-to-wear clothes for the first time in history, causing a revolution in the fashion world. Americans designers were also among the first to use multiracial models, forever changing the manner in which people related to fashion and beauty as a concept. That trip to Versailles in the year 1973 turned the world of fashion upside down. I highly recommend watching the movie, as it is both inspiring and educational. 


Some treats for the movie screening by ( Rabat Manzil )


I had the chance to meet Cameron Sliver after Versailles ’73, an extremely interesting and enthusiastic fashion-icon. Here are a few questions and ideas we discussed: 

What inspired you to write the book (Decades)?  

“It was by accident, I met my friends’ publisher and it was like a bidding war. It took 5 year to write and publish the book.”

Why do they call you the King of Vintage?

” Because I’m old (maybe)”, he answered jokingly, “no but because the store Decades is 15 years old.” 

Later on that night at the forum I also had the chance to speak with the director of the movie Versailles ’73, Deborah Riley Draper:

What made you choose Versailles ’73 as a time period and event? (Why Versaille and why ’73 in particular?) 

“That particular part of history is really important because it was the establishment of the American ready to wear, before that everyone considered France to be the center of fashion and the Americans came to France with a different attitude with a different style. They created a movement; they actually changed the course of history by using ingenuity and by using creativity by using innovation, by bringing in inspiration from the street and not necessarily sticking to things that were just about French design. They were bold.”

I love how the American designers incorporated multiracial women on their trip to Versailles, and how different it was back in 1973! 

“Well there were women of color, it’s very different, so being able to place thirteen women of color on a runway in 1973 was a stroke of genius, in addition to that it was quite bold and it could’ve failed but in fact it was triumphant and it speaks to people’s ability to break and embrace difference and to be inclusive, and to also try different things, because if we all keep doing the same things over and over, we don’t have growth.”   

 At the forum HRH Princess Reema Bandar Alsaud, CEO of Alfa international, stressed on SDW as an important beginning of a wonderful chapter in the Saudi fashion industry, her talk was uplifting and inspirational.


The auditorium where the forum took place


A goodie bag by Oasis magazine


The decorations at the forum


On the second day SDW hosted Nuqat, NOBRAND artist and creative director, Badeeh Abla. Layla Moussa and Khalid Shafar were also present to talk about their journey to become interior designers, as well as what it took for them to realize the success they  dreamed of. In addition, I had the pleasure of talking to Talah Saleh, Head of Digital Communication in Nuqat, and I asked her some questions:

What is Nuqat? 

“We’re interested in creating an online publication; we have a blog now which is which we want to turn into a credible online publication with writers contributing from all over, different magazines, different blog sites, and professional bloggers in the Arab world and worldwide. So we’re looking to find people to help us manage that blog and the publication.” 

Are you interested in fashion design?    

“Yes, we’re interested in all types of creativity, whether its fashion design, interior, or architecture. Our audience is interested in these things, as a Nuqat team, we don’t tell you we’re only interested in these things, no! Our interests are those of our audience, so we cater to what they like because there’s a need and there’s a thirst, and we feed off of that.”  

Speakers on the third day included Cameron Silver and Deborah Riley, who talked about the making of the movie as well as the content and focus of Silver’s book, Decades. This was followed by Cameron Silver’s book signing session, where scores of fashionistas lined up to get their book signed, and I was one of them. (including yours truly.)



The fourth and final day of SDW was also marked by the presence of notable speakers such as Alaa Balkhy, Kholoud Attar and Luxury Agency. 

 A little surprise exercise was in store for the audience courtesy of Project Hawas and Onquod. Each member of the audience was handed a piece of paper with the outline of a man’s, and each person was asked to draw a body part and then pass the paper onto the next person. It was a sort of group design project with each person leaving with a unique and one-of-a-kind drawing. It was an interesting, unique and creative idea to get the audience talking about Project Hawas’ main focus, collaboration in art. You can check out some of the audience’s drawings on Instagram via the hashtag #CrazyHawasnian. 

I caught a member of Hawas’ Project for a quick chat, and discussed a few things with him: 

What is Project Hawas?

“It’s an art movement that emphasizes on the importance of collaborative work in a region where solo artistic effort is the norm. It consists of seventeen core members from diverse creative backgrounds, including filmmakers, photographers, architects, designers, painters and musicians.”

What was your latest project? And what is your next one?

“Our latest project was the segalah which was showcased in Bahrain in December. What we have planned next is a surprise!”

Would you ever consider including fashion in Hawas?

“One of our members is, in fact, a fashion designer!”

 Finally, would you ever consider going internationally?

“That’s what we have planned next; to display our work internationally. We’re planning on an international collaboration, with the goal of setting up many creative Hawas hubs across the globe.” 

Overall Saudi Design Week was an amusing experience, a place where I learned a lot and met many interesting and creative people. It was a pleasure to attend and represent Crystal Carnival and XXX, and we are looking forward to what the next Saudi Design Week has in store for us.

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(Note: This article was originally published in 2014. Due to a server crash in 2018, it was deleted and reposted.)