Covered from head to toe in long traditional Gulf dresses, women’s models perched on high heels follow one another around a pool, on the occasion of a rare, very conservative parade in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Princess and former model Safia Hussein Guerras presented last weekend in Riyadh, the capital of the Wahhabi kingdom, a new collection of ayayas, loose dresses that hide the silhouette, in front of some but, for once, mixed.
Under the abbeys adorned with prints and rhinestones with more or less tight cuts, a dozen models, mostly Saudi Arabs, have tried to reveal the glamor of this controversial piece, a guarantor of public modesty for some, a symbol of oppression. of women for others.
“I wanted to change the stigma around the abaya and the veil around the world,” says the princess, who designed the “Be chic” collection in collaboration with Belgian designer Christophe Beaufays. “If I take it to a level of chic and acceptance, maybe our generation will fully embrace the abaya,” he adds.
Wearing this garment is still mandatory for Saudi women in the kingdom. The country, which seeks to soften its image internationally, lifted that obligation in 2019 for foreigners. But young Saudi women are increasingly leaving traditional black and loose clothing in the closet to cover themselves rather with brightly colored abayas and tighter cuts, which they sometimes leave open. Some took the rebellion even further: they stopped carrying the abbey.
Change the image
The collection presented in Riyadh will attract women from different cultures and religions who share the same views on “modesty and elegance,” believes Christophe Beaufays, who works for a Saudi brand specializing in men’s clothing, called “thobe.”
The parade, organized at the Belgian embassy in Saudi Arabia, is part of the controversial desire of Crown Prince Mohammad ben Salman to change the image of a conservative and closed country, by organizing cultural and sporting events, popular music concerts at the Dakar Rally.
But these efforts were largely undermined by increased repression in the kingdom, which regularly appears on the front page of the international press, including the assassination of a critical journalist or the imprisonment of rights activists. of women.
Last weekend’s parade marked a step up from previous attempts. In April 2018, French designers Jean-Paul Gaultier and Italian designer Roberto Cavalli spearheaded Saudi Arabia’s first fashion week, but the event was held behind closed doors, banned not only for men , but also for cameras.
In June 2018, a video of dresses floating in the air, suspended from drones, during a fashion show in Jeddah, a Red Sea city, went viral on social media and ridiculed it as a ” ghost parade “.
Anuj CHOPRA / AFP
Covered from head to toe in long traditional Gulf dresses, the female models perched on high heels follow one another around a swimming pool, on the occasion of an infrequent parade in the very conservative Saudi Arabia. The presentation of the Saudi model Safia Hussein Wars last weekend in Riyadh, the capital of the kingdom …