‘Saudi market opens up to contemporary men’s fashion’

During Paris Fashion Week June, the Saudi 100 Brands event, a fashion show at Paris’ Palais de Tokyo and a showroom at the Mona Bismark hotel, was held. The programme supports fashion companies, brands and designers in their pursuit of expansion, with those selected set to benefit from market-related initiatives that aim to help in brand positioning, wholesale and retail.

It was this reason that the event took to Paris, where 11 designers from Saudi Arabia showcased their spring/summer 2025 menswear collections. Among them were the likes of Awaken, Hindamme, KML, Mazrood and Noble & Fresh. On site, Burak Cukmak, CEO of the Saudi Fashion Commission, which oversees the initiative, exclusively spoke to FashionUnited on the current status of menswear in the home market and how the programme hopes to continue supporting participating names.

Does this edition of Saudi 100 Brands showcase a more ‘Westernised’ take on Saudi menswear?

This country is always full of surprises and this is what is happening with the emergence of Saudi menswear ready-to-wear. The number one clientele in Saudi Arabia remains women, but there is a big appetite for menswear and potential market openings. Historically, Saudis dressed in a traditional way, but local life has changed a lot and there are more and more occasions to dress fashionably: festivals, events, concerts, exhibitions, etc.

Half of [Saudi Arabia’s population] are under 25. They live in the country or study abroad. They need something new and interesting. This is what has driven a new generation of local designers, who are under 35, to launch contemporary and streetwear menswear brands, which have Saudi references, even if it is not noticeable to a foreigner. The country’s specialty is craftsmanship, including embroidery, which is not yet very visible in menswear.

Two women are designing menswear collections, is this a first?

Absolutely. For her eponymous collection, Noura Sulaiman is creating the first high-end collection for men. On the other hand, the KML brand is co-founded by the brother-sister duo Hassan.

Noura Sulaiman
Noura Sulaiman Credits: Saudi 100 Brands
Noura Sulaiman
Noura Sulaiman Credits: Saudi 100 Brands
Noura Sulaiman
Noura Sulaiman Credits: Saudi 100 Brands

How do you operate to highlight young Saudi brands in Paris?

Each year, we support one hundred brands that have applied to raise their awareness of the realities of the international market. We want to be sure to have the best selection. First, we introduce them through the collective showroom, Saudi 100 Brands. We take care of the rental of the space, press relations, the connection with buyers. The brands cover the travel expenses.

Those that have the potential can then present themselves individually and independently. Thus, Shahd Alshehail for the Abadia brand held her own showroom in the Marais during Paris Fashion Week in June 2024.

What market are you targeting by presenting at Paris Fashion Week?

Presenting in Paris always has an immediate effect once you get home. When we presented last season, instantly after the show, designers received calls from customers who bought the entire collection. In addition, two brands were selected by Galeries Lafayette. The first end buyers were a French and an American woman.

KML - Saudi 100 Brands
KML – Saudi 100 Brands Credits: F. Julienne
KML
KML Credits: Saudi 100 Brands
KML
KML Credits: Saudi 100 Brands
KML
KML Credits: Saudi 100 Brands

What about the sourcing and manufacturing of the collections?

We produce wool which is part of our craftsmanship, but most of the mass market materials do not exist locally so we have to source them in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, China, India. The Première Vision sourcing show is an ideal destination for the manufacture of luxury goods.

As far as women’s fashion is concerned, brands generally have their own workshops and boutiques. They can produce quickly for the local market and do not need expertise. But we have just opened the first production unit in Riyadh for streetwear or jersey work. We hope that for the next presentation, most of the pieces on display will be made in Riyadh. The clothes are positioned in a premium range, from 150 to 1500 euros (retail price).

Do you organise events in Saudi Arabia to mark the emergence of this new market?

We inaugurated the first Riyadh Fashion Week in October 2023. 30 local designers paraded there on different market segments (women’s ready-to-wear, men’s, streetwear, Couture, jewellery). This will be renewed for October 17 to 22, 2024.

For May 2025, we are creating a second event focused on resort collections, at the St Regis Red Sea Resort, on the shores of the Red Sea, on the west coast of Saudi Arabia. As part of the “Red Sea global” project, many hotels are opening and the place is becoming a new international tourist destination. Held over three days, we will include in this event international brands that wish to address the Saudi market. We want to optimise the presence of local brands, but we also want to increase the contribution of the fashion sector to the country’s GDP [Gross Domestic Product].

What conditions do you offer to international brands to come and show in Saudi Arabia?

It will be comparable to what brands that show at Paris Fashion Week and organise their own events have. We have set up a web platform to communicate about this project. The brands will cover the travel and accommodation expenses and we have a structure for models, make-up, hairdressing, production, etc.

How long is the Saudi 100 brands programme planned for?

We are in our third season and hope to do at least two more. Our strategy is for five years, at the end of which we will take stock of the progress made and what type of support is needed. Each year, we refresh the support programme that we put in place.

This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.FR. Translation via AI and edit by Rachel Douglass.

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