RIYADH: Local and international visitors attended renowned fashion designer Zac Posen’s live masterclass on gown draping techniques, intricacies of the fashion industry, and the process of starting a luxury brand at Diriyah’s Jax District in Riyadh.
The two hour masterclass also addressed the practical side of design. As he began dressing a mannequin in vibrant red fabric, using only scissors and pins, beginning his technique from the neck, Posen took questions from the audience.
“It’s all about purpose … Even if (a gown) is about exaggeration or glamor, for me, as big as it is, it has to be able to be worn,” he said.
“You can always keep going into a piece. Sometimes time runs out, and that’s the answer … There’s that moment when you kind of impromptu know that it’s ready. You’ll feel it.”
I think my journey and purpose is really to show everybody else that they can express through their creativity.
Posen, known for creating iconic red carpet looks for A-list celebrities, is the son of American painter Stephen Posen, so artistry runs in the family.
His journey began when Posen found his calling for fashion backstage during numerous hours at the costume shop in high school.
“I think my journey and purpose is really to show everybody else that they can express through their creativity,” he said during the masterclass.
Surrounded by British models in the New York fashion scene in 1996, with the likes of Karen Elson, Erin O’Connor, and Jade Parfitt, Posen described it as a formative period.
“There was a new breath of air into fashion. I think the craft of fashion, especially in France and in Europe, was at a very high point and creativity, expression, and a new Romantic Movement had come into fashion,” the designer said.
Interning at the Costume Institute aged 16, the “life-changing” experience was the first time he had really understood the intricacies of clothing design on a deeper level and its historical significance.
“I grew up in a house where art is not about decoration. Art is about experience. Art is not about monetary value, it is about expression, experience, emotion, and storytelling. But I kind of started to understand that and take that on,” he said.
After spending the summer at Parsons New School for Design and within the bustling vibrancy of New York’s Garment District, he began developing his own design style, experimenting by making evening wear for his female friends.
In full immersion into the expressive underground drag queen culture of the city in the late 1990s, he shipped off to London to attend Central Saint Martins art school, which was a challenging but impressionable time for the designer.
“With high competition, you could not leave your clothing or anything you’re working on (at) a table. It would disappear, be chopped up, in the trash. You had to lock it up or take it home,” he said.
It was during his early days in London when Posen met Italian actress and style icon Anita Pallenberg, who took him under her wing and provided an opportunity to model in a campaign with John Malkovich for designer Bella Freud.
Two years into fashion school, the Posen buzz started around his designs and established a clientele base in London.
One of his designs had caught the eye of prominent model Naomi Campbell, who was determined to meet the designer, after she saw a dress worn by Posen’s friend on the Eurostar.
“She was incredibly kind and nurturing and wanted me to make her clothing, gave me money to buy fabric. We took her measurements … I started making her clothing and the buzz was building and then (a) New York Times writer called and said ‘I want to write an article about seeing this dress, and you, and the journey of this dress.’
“I knew that it could go either way, and I thought that opportunity is not a lengthy visitor, let’s try this,” he said.
The interview paid off, prompting notable attention from Barney’s, Fashion TV, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, which now showcases a multitude of his designs as part of its permanent collection.
He was then lured back to New York where he started his atelier in his parents’ living room, investing his $10,000 savings into the brand.
He then went on to produce a capsule collection for GenArt as part of their “Fresh Faces in Fashion New York 2001” show.
He is known for feminine designs that highlight the architecture of the body in a way that reflects the fluidity and softness of movement.
One of his biggest moments, Posen said, was when actress Natalie Portman wore one of his designs at the premier of “Star Wars: Episode I” following his first fashion show.
When the tragic events of 9/11 engulfed the residents of New York City, he felt that his hometown needed him through the tough times.
“Creativity, expression is what will bring back the city. It needs it. I felt it really strongly (that) I wasn’t going back to London, that wasn’t going to happen, this resilient force that I needed to be there,” he said.
Other highlight of his designing career incudes dressing up prominent figures and actresses such as Princess Eugenie of York, Uma Thurman, and Claire Danes.
“It’s not going to be necessarily the easiest road, being a creator, but it can be a very fulfilling role. You can make people feel very beautiful, and empowered, and happy, and really bring joy. And sometimes, those moments can add to a cultural narrative,” he said.
In the age of media and digital evolution, the designer believes that fashion is now evolving quicker than ever, and can become a tool in crossing cultural boundaries.
RIYADH: From Algerian singer Cheb Mami’s feature on Sting’s “Desert Rose” in 1999 to Marshmello’s 2022 collaboration with Lebanese songstress Nancy Ajram, Arab nuances have been slowly weaving their way into the fabric of Western music.
However, Arab women remain on the sidelines of the industry, with only a handful of prominent acts making waves.
In Saudi Arabia, Spotify’s annual Wrapped campaign revealed that no female musicians from the Kingdom made it onto the country’s top 10 streaming artists’ list, and only three Khaleeji tracks, two of them by Syrian artist Assala Nasri, were most streamed.
But with the regional music scene predicted to become the fastest growing in the world, Arab women are aiming to buck the trend through authenticity.
At the recent XP Music Futures conference, industry experts and artists shared their thoughts on projecting women on a global stage.
Palestinian Chilean singer Elyanna has quickly made a name for herself globally, and has captivated audiences with her mane of dark blonde curls and piercing green eyes.
Supported and discovered by Lebanese Canadian musician Massari and The Weeknd’s manager Wassim “Sal” Slaiby, she now has more than 400,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.
Her sensual vocals and contemporary lyrics appeal to the masses as she bridges cultures in a way that is authentic yet mainstream and she is quickly becoming the voice of a multicultural generation.
As opposed to many other upcoming artists, Elyanna remains distinctly an Arabic lyricist, incorporating her Palestinian roots into creating a unique genre of her own.
She told Arab News: “When I work on my music, I don’t think of it like, ‘oh, let’s do something crazy.’ I think of it as me. I’m 20 years old, and I just do what feels right to me.
“So of course, the generation is going to get that, because they’re going to connect with how a 20-year-old girl feels.”
The beauty about songs is they don’t look at if you’re male or female. Songs are songs. It starts with great songs.
While she noted that she was too young to give advice on navigating the challenges that come with being a woman in the industry, she highlighted the word try within all her aspirations.
Elyanna said: “When you care, and you’re passionate, that’s all you need. I believe that Arab music is going to have an impact one day. It’s not going to be easy, obviously, nothing comes really easy. I do think our culture is so beautiful, there’s so much that the world did not see about our culture.
“Imagine we show them our dancers, the way they dance; so authentic, so beautiful. And look at the instruments we have, the melodies we have, the beats. You see a lot of Americans; they take them and make them hip hop beats. This says so much. This is such a start,” she added.
Mathew Knowles, the visionary manager behind the careers of Destiny’s Child, Beyonce, and Solange, the latter two to whom he is the father, spoke about how to be a successful female act in the global market. He said that while 75 percent of his clients over the years had been women, image was key in the music industry.
“The beauty about songs is they don’t look at if you’re male or female. Songs are songs. It starts with great songs.
“I wanted to also understand that with the culture, will the youth be able to look contemporary in their dress and can women be contemporary in their dress? Because if you’re going to compete against the world, that’s what you’re competing against, right?”
He added that language was also something to take into consideration; would an artist be singing solely in Arabic, English, or both?
Knowles said: “How are you going to approach the language barrier if you’re going to grow?”
Hailing from the region’s biggest rap scene, Egyptian musician Felukah has been flipping the concept of Arabic hip hop.
Inspired by global prose and poetry from the likes of poet Nayyirah Waheed and Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, her intriguing lyrics find a way to adapt to the nature of rap and hip hop music by mixing Arabic and English lyrics.
Felukah told Arab News: “What I’m really trying to do is represent myself in the most authentic way possible. And when people find that relatable, they like the music.”
She recently released Coca Cola’s 2022 FIFA World Cup anthem, an all-girl collaboration with Saudi musician Tamtam and Mexican singer Danna Paola, remaking Queen’s 1986 hit “A Kind of Magic,” and gave a captivating performance at XP Music Futures in November.
On her experience being a woman in the industry, Felukah said: “I get hate from men, and I get hate from women. A lot of the time I hear, ‘I don’t like women rapping, I like male voices.’
“That’s not a critique. You need to expand your range. You need to listen; there’s so many women rappers, there’s so many women singers, and the fact that a person is not familiar enough with women’s voices and hasn’t found at least one that they like is wild. So, I don’t accept that,” she added.
She noted that authentic Arabic music will not rise to the top in one song, but contemporary artists today, including herself, were working toward representation in a brighter future.
RIYADH: The third Ana Arabia, or “I am an Arab Woman,” show launched on Saturday here highlighting the work of some of the region’s leading creatives.
Several Arab women designers showcased an array of products including jewelry, accessories, shoes, bags and perfumes. The show will run until Dec. 16 at Riyadh Front.
Over 200 creatives from across the Arab world are participating, with pavilions featuring Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Oman, Yemen and Iraq.
The Kingdom’s pavilion features Saudi brands Charmaleena Jewelry and Cle, with its collection of rare pieces and watches from around the world.
Several Saudi designers displayed their winter fashion designs including abayas and farwas, which is a long fur coat.
Designer Zaina Elyas told Arab News she came from Jeddah to share her work. “My abayas are inspired by the elegant and independent Saudi women, and what I offer is styles that highlight that side.”
I remember the scent that my grandmother used to wear and I developed one of my perfumes in a way that we can still have the same feeling when we smell the perfume.
Designers from Qatar showcased their skill and experience in perfume-making, including Mashael Al-Kuwari, the owner of Mirwad, who says she alludes to the power of memory and being young through her creations.
“I remember the scent that my grandmother used to wear and I developed one of my perfumes in a way that we can still have the same feeling when we smell the perfume. However, it’s a new scent, it’s something niche and different.”
She said her journey started when she enrolled at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery in France. “My favorite perfume I would say is Beach Rose because it was inspired from the traditional Qatari bride.”
Al-Kuwari explained that in Qatari culture when a woman gets married, she is given this specific scent for her dazzah, which is the gifts she receives as part of her wedding preparation. “It’s a very unique and sharp smell. It’s something that tells people I am here, I am in this place.”
International fashion designer from Bahrain Kubra Al-Qaseer who has been in the industry for 30 years, shared her latest winter abaya collection made of velvet. “This is my third year participating in Ana Arabia. It is the largest exhibition for fashion in the Gulf, not just Saudi Arabia.”
She added that she has been participating in major fashion exhibitions and events for 20 years, and enjoys traveling to Riyadh to tap into the fashion sense and taste of Saudi women.
Jewelry designer Nujud Al-Saadawi, who has become relatively well-known in the industry after only two years, said she has her creations produced at factories abroad.
It takes about two months to produce a piece, which often includes precious stones, gold-plated silver and copper.
Al-Saadawi said that Riyadh Season has given her considerable prominence, and remains an important event for empowering Arab women from around the world.
Guests at the event include international fine-dining restaurants such as Meraki restaurant offering Greek cuisine, and London’s A.O.K. serving Mediterranean dishes. Specialist coffee for visitors is offered by Eclat, Elba, EL&N, and Oak Leaves.
LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Defense Prince Khalid bin Salman was received by his British counterpart Ben Wallace in London on Tuesday.
The ministers reflected on the strength of the historic defence partnership between the UK and the Kingdom that is based on a shared commitment to peace, stability, and the strengthening of mutual and regional security.
The secretary of state for defense and Prince Khalid welcomed the signing of a plan for defence cooperation which will enhance bilateral defence and security cooperation to address shared security challenges, including through regular dialogue and consultation, education and training, and capability-building.
The British Ministry of Defense said the agreement reaffirms the UK’s enduring commitment to working with Saudi Arabia on promoting regional security and stability.
“It is a pleasure to sign this plan for defence cooperation, bringing us even closer to one of our most important partners. It is a key milestone between our two nations, as we look to enhance our defense partnership further in support of mutual and regional security,” Wallace said.
MAKKAH: The Saudi and Chinese education ministries recently signed an agreement to provide Saudis with Chinese language learning material along with Chinese instructors to teach the language and literature in public educational institutions.
The memorandum of understanding included the training of Saudi teachers in the Chinese language and teaching methods, as well as introducing them to Chinese culture in all educational institutions.
“Everyone is well aware of the international trend for learning the Chinese language, even in developed countries where politicians are proud of their sons and daughters speaking Chinese,” said Mohammed Asiri, assistant professor of international commercial law at King Abdulaziz University.
“Chinese will become a language of great impact in the future. In fact, the decision taken by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2019 about including the Chinese language in the educational curricula emphasizes the importance of the language,” he said.
Asiri, who holds a Ph.D. from the China University of Political Science and Law, told Arab News that learning the language will strengthen relations, as well as economic and trade cooperation, between both countries.
“The Kingdom is China’s largest trading partner in West Asia and Africa, while China is the largest importer of Saudi oil. The Kingdom has lately witnessed a large influx of Chinese investment companies, which consider the Kingdom a promising environment according to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. Therefore, learning Chinese opens wider doors to cooperate with these companies, and enhances both countries’ knowledge and cultural communication,” he said.
“The Kingdom has invested in its people, sending them to China to learn Chinese and specialize in various fields. It is now time to benefit from these cadres, and transfer their expertise and experiences, as well as to build a national strategy aiming to teach Chinese according to the latest world technologies and in compliance with the Saudi identity and culture to facilitate the educational process and achieve the best results.”
Bowen Li, a Chinese instructor at King Abdulaziz University, told Arab News that Chinese is one of the six official working languages of the UN and is spoken by about 20 percent of the world’s population.
“More and more students are learning Chinese. As President Xi Jinping says, language is the best key to understanding a country. By learning Chinese and participating in the “Chinese Bridge” program, students can learn about the rich, colorful and comprehensive China,” he said.
Bowen said that Chinese is the best key to understanding China.
“Once you can speak Chinese well, you can understand the history and culture of China. Once students master Chinese, they can have the chance to learn specific Chinese. For example, they can learn either Chinese and tourism or Chinese and technology. In such a way, students can become a compound talent, then apply the acquired knowledge to their work.”
Abeer Al-Ghamdi, a Chinese language student at King Abdulaziz University, said that she is interested in learning many languages, but chose to study Chinese since it is the most widespread language worldwide.
“I believe it will become the main language of the world in the future,” she said.
She said that China has the second-largest economy in the world and significantly influences the development of the global economy. Learning the Chinese language and cooperating with the Chinese economy will create infinite job opportunities in translation, education and tourism, Al-Ghamdi said.
“Learning Chinese will increase your chances not only of getting a job, but also completing your undergraduate degree at any university in China. This is a dream come true for me. Furthermore, we can get to know China, and learn about its historic culture and civilization while sharing ours with them.
“I believe that learning Chinese is a bridge to communicate and exchange knowledge, as it has a major role in enhancing friendships and increasing trade and culture cooperation between China and the Kingdom.”
RIYADH: The Royal Commission for AlUla aims to turn Saudi Arabia’s ancient northwestern desert landmarks into a regional and global hub for international visitors, investors and businesses.
That goal is not unrealistic given the Saudi government’s ambitious plan to diversify the economy away from its dependence on oil, including through multi-billion-dollar investments in the travel and tourism sector.
But in order make the most of AlUla’s unique heritage attractions, the RCU has to meet the economic needs of the local community, as well as identify and address areas for sustained capacity growth as well as development.
To overcome the challenge, the RCU has signed a strategic partnership with the World Bank to develop AlUla. Over the course of a renewable one-year partnership, the two entities will transform the local economy by identifying and developing tourism-focused small- and medium-sized enterprises, promoting investment, creating jobs and uplifting the community.
“A more dynamic, inclusive, and resilient landscape for both companies and employees is a key milestone on the … road map toward achieving economic sustainability across AlUla County,” the RCU said in a statement late last month.
The deal falls under the World Bank’s partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Finance and adds to the RCU’s expanding network of international partners, which includes UNESCO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Under the new partnership, the World Bank will help the RCU create the necessary frameworks to manage and support its objectives to develop the local community as well as protect AlUla’s landscape.
“The partnership builds on previous collaboration to provide technical advisory based on the World Bank’s global knowledge and experience, including in sustainable tourism development and cultural heritage,” Issam Abousleiman, the World Bank’s GCC representative, told Arab News.
Abousleiman praised the RCU’s work to date “to leverage the World Bank’s wide-ranging expertise to provide advisory services, knowledge management and capacity building focusing on social, environmental and economic sustainability in the development of AlUla.”
AlUla was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. Its dramatic rock formations, lush oases and archaeological sites, including the ancient ruins of Dadan and Lihyan, have lured tens of thousands of visitors since opening to tourists in October 2020.
As of June this year, the region had welcomed more than 250,000 visitors over the preceding 12 months, far outstripping initial expectations, John Northern, executive director of the RCU, told Arab News at the time.
Spread across 10 million square meters of rejuvenated green space, AlUla’s “Journey Through Time Masterplan,” unveiled in April 2021, entails the development of five distinct districts, anchored upon five heritage sites. To this, 15 new cultural assets will be added, ranging from museums to art galleries.
Upon completion in 2035, developers say they will have created 38,000 new jobs among a local population that is forecast to grow to 130,000, contributing $32 billion to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product.
According to the AlUla Framework for Inclusive Community Development Through Tourism, developed by the UN World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, and the G20 Tourism Working Group, “tourism is one of the fastest growing and most resilient socioeconomic sectors of our times,” having accounted for 7 percent of global trade in 2019.
What is more, tourism is “an effective means for contributing to and achieving inclusive community development and the Sustainable Development Goals in line with the G20 Presidency’s objectives of: Empowering people, particularly women and the youth; protecting the planet, and shaping new frontiers that adopt and shape new areas through innovation.”
The RCU has placed sustainability, economic regeneration and respect for local communities at the heart of its development strategy. The commission says that more than 3,000 jobs have already been created in the local tourism sector.
• RCU signed an agreement in November aimed at developing arts and culture, hospitality, community development and infrastructure in AlUla over three stages until 2035.
• RCU forecasts that the population of the area will triple to 130,000 by 2035, generating about 38,000 new jobs.
• RCU aims to create 38,000 new jobs by 2035, contributing $32bn to the Kingdom’s GDP.
“This new agreement supports RCU in a key area of our development model — the ongoing expansion of a diverse and dynamic tourism sector that is empowering local people and welcoming a diverse audience of international guests,” Moataz Kurdi, the RCU’s chief county operations officer, told Arab News.
“This partnership with the World Bank means AlUla’s ongoing regeneration will continue to be sustainable, inclusive and resilient with wide-ranging community benefits activated through new employment, new opportunities and long-term economic advancement — achieved through a comprehensive structure of leadership, project development and implementation.
“RCU understands that sustainability is not a business — it’s how you go about performing your business. It is an existential challenge that dictates our actions in every sector. As we have rapidly moved from ambition, through planning, to action, establishing a destination of culture, art, heritage and natural beauty for the whole world in AlUla, we have an imperative to deliver sustainability — through innovation, decisive actions and substantial results.”
Sustainable regeneration for AlUla is the ability to deliver real, generational change for people and create long-term economic growth through the transformation of communities, and the conservation of ancient landmarks, traditions and cultures, he said.
“We are empowering people and places, growing economic opportunities and preserving our shared past,” Kurdi added.
Sustainable regeneration also entails taking action to repair what has been damaged or destroyed, and in the case of AlUla and the partnership, this means the strategic repair and upkeep of historic sites in the vicinity.
The aims of the RCU-World Bank partnership are aligned with the environmental targets outlined by world leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, held at Egypt’s Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh in November.
“Our focus is on people and the planet,” said Kurdi. “The support and development of communities and the conservation, and protection of the natural world are fully integrated into this partnership. Our perception of its success will be built upon the achievement of our clear, long-term sustainability targets.”
Indeed, the World Bank is part of a global network assisting the RCU with its 2035 target of planting 10 million trees and 200 native species of flora, expanding its plant nursery to seed millions of native plants, welcoming 200,000 visitors to its nature reserves and increasing the population of native animal species at its breeding centers before their release into the wild.
The AlUla regeneration plan also includes the construction of infrastructure, designed and developed in a sustainable manner using environmentally friendly materials.
The RCU-World Bank partnership is now in the assessment stage. “Visibility on shared outcomes, on critical tools, policies and ideas will help the partnership build strong cultural, social and financial strategies at the operating level while also emboldening its chances of success,” said Kurdi.
The success of the plan will be measured against various benchmarks laid out according to defined phases and principles to shape implementation as well as technical expectations, including coordination between experts from the RCU and the World Bank.
Kurdi added: “We have high expectations for our partnership with the World Bank to achieve physical, social and fiscal sustainability within AlUla while delivering on our quality-of-life goals.”