Saudi Arabia has traditionally not been a country identified with fashion, but that is changing as young designers launch exciting new brands with the support of the Saudi Fashion Commission. Burak Çakmak, CEO of the Commission, spoke to Sujata Assomull, Journalist & Author about why the growth of the fashion is critical not only for creating jobs and opportunities in the local market but also for showcasing the country’s unique cultural assets internationally.
Around 230,000 people work in the Saudi fashion sector, including retail. 90,000 are core fashion roles and 52% of the workforce in fashion is female and 66% are Saudi. All of this translates into a sector that contributes 1.4% of GDP in the country and around 1.8% of employment.
Within this context, the development of home-grown brands and home-grown talent cannot be underestimated. Engagement around fashion is cultural first. Saudi has a unique sense of design and culture, which translates into a unique product for international retailers. But international players need to recognize that the formulas they are familiar with don’t apply in Saudi immediately. There has to be a local element and a sense of attachment to what young Saudis care about. Conversations around creativity and how to support come before the product itself.
Building up local brands starts with education and creativity, not only in the skills needed by designers but also in making sure that they have access to the right resources for design and sampling and that everyone in the value chain knows how to develop and create a quality product. Finally, attention needs to be paid to manufacturing and supply chain, not only with regard to local production but also international sourcing.
Saudi brands showcase not only the diversity of the entire country but also how Saudis think about fashion and design. The conversation in the sector today is around what fashion means, how it represents the national identity and how we connect to the culture.
And it is a conversation that is resonating internationally. Saudi 100 brands have been on exhibition in New York and Milan, demonstrating that Saudi creativity exists and that it’s diverse. The response was positive, so much so that another round is being planned with another 100 brands. The appetite exists and the local talent exists.
This is not a retail moment at all. This is the moment to celebrate Saudi culture through fashion, building Saudi brands and bring the Saudi culture and voice to the rest of the world.
This is one of those unique moments in the world where you see something new being created. It’s a country where the fashion sector is being created from the beginning to the end of the value chain. And it’s the most exciting time to be part of that change..
This is one of those unique moments in the world where you see something new being created. It’s a country where the fashion sector is being created from the beginning to the end of the value chain. And it’s the most exciting time to be part of that change.