First, they came for golf, then for football, and now they are moving into haute couture. We are talking about the Saudi Arabia’s first steps in a Paris couture season, whose four days of action kicks off on Monday, July 3.
The season will feature the first ever official show by a Saudi couturier when Ashi presents his on Thursday. Clearly a creator of real talent, Ashi has been officially listed on the official calendar of the Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, French fashion’s governing body.
Though already on Monday, the Saudi Fashion Commission will host a cocktail inside the Ritz to celebrate Saudi designers. The commission will introduce five couturiers from the Gulf – MonaAlshebil , Hindamme, Charmaleena, Chador, Atelier Hekayatand Abadia, inside the Hotel Marcel Dassault on the Champs Elysees.
All this action comes one week after the same commission staged a major salon inside a major four-day showroom entitled Saudi 100 Brands, inside the central Paris museum, La Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine.
And The Saudi Fashion Commission has announced plans to debut its first Fashion Week in Riyadh, the nation’s capital, to be staged from October 20 to 23.
All this activity comes on the heels of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit gaining a huge stage in international golf via a merger with the PGA Tour. And, embarking on an enormous buying splurge of famous football players – a multi-billion project that has seen them hire soccer legends like Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema
Though the Saudi approach to fashion is clearly more nuanced; and focused on building indigenous brands and designers and not buying established global marques.
From 2021 to 2025, retail fashion sales in Saudi are expected to surge 48% to $32 billion, representing an annual growth rate of 13%. And the country’s de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman clearly wants local brands to carve their share.
Elsewhere; there is a major American moment with a couture show by Thom Browne. It’s a major coup for the Federation, especially as Browne also happens to be the President of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which controls the New York runway season. Thom will show inside the French capital’s baroque opera house, Palais Garnier, which risks being pandemonium the following day, when French filmmaker Claude Lelouch will film the live runway display of Stephane Rolland. The season opens Monday morning with Schiaparelli, designed by another acclaimed American, Daniel Roseberry. A busy day that will also witness the return to Paris of Tamara Ralph, the Australian couturier known for dressing the international One Percent and London’s leisure class in her stylish silhouettes.
Though the most eagerly anticipated event of the whole week will surely be Valentino, when the great Roman house unveils its latest collection inside the Chateau de Chantilly. Elsewhere, attention will focus on the giant couture houses, and today’s Big Three – Chanel, Dior and Giorgio Armani.
Next year, France plans to stage the opening of the 2024 Olympics along the Seine. This season, Chanel will beat them to it – with two catwalk displays on the banks of the river on Tuesday.
Couture remains such a magnet, a trio of noted Paris-based houses – Patou, Celine and Alaïa – will stage runway shows on Sunday, July 2, the night before the season begins. And scores of jewelry houses are planning presentations around couture, with the Place Vendôme, the center of the action.
While visitors to the city can also catch a whole series of fashion exhibitions. Over at Galerie Dior; there is a new exhibition that puts into perspective the birth of Miss Dior, a ready-to-wear line created in 1967 at the instigation of Marc Bohan. There are also silhouettes dreamed up by Kim Jones and on display for the first time. The house’s couturier, Maria Grazia Chiuri is also represented by 2022 pleated tulle and lace dress for the series Marie-Antoinette, as part of a homage to the Enlightenment.
And around the corner, the the must-see new exhibition is ‘Yves Saint Laurent – Shapes and Forms, focusing on the geometric elements in the style of Yves, the single most influential couturier of the past half century.
Hence, a decade after Saint Laurent’s partner Pierre Bergé predicted couture would die with Yves, the métier has rarely seemed more alive. So much so, a total of 32 houses will stage shows next week in what is looking very much like a bumper season.
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