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Latest UpdatesEntertainmentSaudi Arabia Hosts ‘Historic’ First Swimwear Fashion Show

Saudi Arabia Hosts ‘Historic’ First Swimwear Fashion Show

In a groundbreaking move that underscores the sweeping social changes underway in Saudi Arabia, the nation hosted its first-ever swimwear fashion show. This landmark event featured designs by Moroccan designer Yasmina Qanzal and took place at the St Regis Red Sea Resort, as part of the inaugural Red Sea Fashion Week. This marks a significant cultural shift in a country where women were required to wear body-covering abayas less than a decade ago.

The show highlighted Qanzal’s collection, predominantly one-piece swimsuits in hues of red, beige, and blue. The designs, while modest compared to Western standards, were revolutionary for Saudi Arabia. Models showcased exposed shoulders and partially visible midriffs, a stark contrast to the traditional dress code.

Qanzal expressed the importance of the event, stating, “It’s true that this country is very conservative but we tried to show elegant swimsuits which represent the Arab world. When we came here, we understood that a swimsuit fashion show in Saudi Arabia is a historic moment because it is the first time to have such an event. It was an honor to be involved.”

The fashion show is part of the broader Vision 2030 initiative spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Since becoming the heir apparent in 2017, Prince Mohammed has implemented a series of social reforms aimed at modernizing Saudi Arabia and softening its austere global image, historically shaped by Wahhabism, a strict form of Islam.

These reforms have included curbing the powers of the religious police, reintroducing cinemas, and organizing mixed-gender events, including music festivals. While these changes have opened up Saudi society, they have also been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, including from conservative clerics who might oppose such liberalizing measures.

Attendees of the fashion show, including Syrian fashion influencer Shouq Mohammed and French influencer Raphael Simacourbe, highlighted the significance of the event. Mohammed noted, “It’s the first time to have a swimsuit fashion show in Saudi Arabia, but why not? Seriously, why not? It’s possible and we have it here.” Simacourbe added, “That’s very brave of them to do that today, so I am very happy to be part of it.”

The event is not only a cultural milestone but also reflects Saudi Arabia’s growing fashion and tourism sectors. According to a report by the Saudi Fashion Commission, the fashion industry contributed $12.5 billion, or 1.4 percent of the national GDP, in 2022, employing 230,000 people.

As Saudi Arabia continues to open up, events like the Red Sea Fashion Week demonstrate the country’s commitment to balancing its rich cultural heritage with modern global trends. This swimwear fashion show is a testament to the transformative vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, marking a new chapter in Saudi Arabia’s evolving identity.

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