'Historic': Saudi hosts first swimwear fashion show

The poolside show featuring the work of Moroccan designer Yasmina Qanzal took place as part of Red Sea Fashion Week

By AFP

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A model presents a creation from the summer beachwear collection by Moroccan designer Yasmina Q, during the Red Sea Fashion Week in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea resort of Ummahat Island. — Photo: AFP
A model presents a creation from the summer beachwear collection by Moroccan designer Yasmina Q, during the Red Sea Fashion Week in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea resort of Ummahat Island. — Photo: AFP

Published: Fri 17 May 2024, 10:39 PM

Saudi Arabia held its first fashion show featuring swimsuit models on Friday, an envelope-pushing step in a country where less than a decade ago women were required to wear body-covering robes.

The poolside show featuring the work of Moroccan designer Yasmina Qanzal included mostly one-piece suits in shades of red, beige and blue.


"We tried to show elegant swimsuits which represent the Arab world," Qanzal told AFP.

"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 event," she said, adding it was "an honour" to be involved.


The show took place on the second day of the inaugural Red Sea Fashion Week at the St Regis Red Sea Resort, situated off Saudi Arabia's western coast.

The resort is part of Red Sea Global, one of the so-called giga-projects at the heart of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 social and economic reform programme overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman has initiated a series of dramatic social reforms in a bid to soften Saudi Arabia's austere image.

Those changes have included sidelining stick-wielding religious police who used to chase men out of malls to pray, re-introducing cinemas and organising mixed-gender music festivals.

Models present creations from the summer beachwear collection by Moroccan designer Yasmina Q, during the Red Sea Fashion Week in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea resort of Ummahat Island. — Photo: AFP
Models present creations from the summer beachwear collection by Moroccan designer Yasmina Q, during the Red Sea Fashion Week in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea resort of Ummahat Island. — Photo: AFP

Shouq Mohammed, a Syrian fashion influencer who attended Friday's show, said it was not surprising given Saudi Arabia's attempt to open up to the world and grow its fashion and tourism sectors.

The fashion industry in 2022 accounted for $12.5 billion, or 1.4 per cent of national GDP, and employed 230,000 people, according to a report published last year by the official Saudi Fashion Commission.

"It's the first time to have a swimsuit fashion show in Saudi Arabia, but why not? Seriously why not?" Mohammed said.

"It's possible and we have it here."

Raphael Simacourbe, a French influencer who also attended the show, said there was nothing risque to his eyes but in the Saudi context it was a major achievement.

"That's very brave from them to do that today, so I am very happy to be part of it," he said.

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