Saudi Arabia's ministry of culture launches incubation programme to nurture fashion designers

The three-phase programme is the latest initiative to find and promote fashion talent in the kingdom

Saudi entrepreneur Fareeda Nazer features in 'Under the Abaya: Street Style from Saudi Arabia'. The kingdom is making strides to promote its fashion industry. Aourtesy Alaa Saigh
Saudi entrepreneur Fareeda Nazer features in 'Under the Abaya: Street Style from Saudi Arabia'. The kingdom is making strides to promote its fashion industry. Aourtesy Alaa Saigh

Registrations are now open for the first leg of the three-phase Fashion Incubation Program launched by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture on December 3.

The programme aims to boost fashion talent in the kingdom by providing a platform that not only helps creatives build their brands, but also provides all-important exposure to regional and international buyers, government and regulatory agencies and potential investors.

Hackathon: challenge yourself

Phase one, the Hackathon, takes the form of an online challenge, and will accept registrations until Thursday, December 10. Participants can expect to be tasked with a problem that tests their creative thinking and team-building skills, in order to come up with an innovative concept or model.

The Hackathon will give preference to designers and design students who have a “skill or point of view that distinguishes [them] from others”, by way of their portfolios, social media accounts and / or business models. The two-day challenge will take place online between Thursday and Saturday, January 14 and 16, 2021.

Saudi creatives are young and enthusiastic, but need guidance

Marriam Mossalli, founder, Saudi Style Council

Boot Camp: build your business

The second phase of the Fashion Incubation Program is the intriguingly titled Boot Camp, albeit one in which you need to flex your fashion muscles. Another digital event, this takes place over five days in February, with registrations opening from Saturday, January 9.

According to the Ministry of Culture website, the boot camp “provides an intense learning experience where participants will turn their concepts into mature businesses, as well as develop the entrepreneurial skills necessary to build a sustainable and influential” practice.

Participants will also be taught the importance of networking and strengthening professional relationships, and be expected to take a deep dive into topics concerning the fashion industry. As such, preference will be given to applicants with a minimum work experience of two years.

A creation by Saudi label Lurline, one of ten fianlists in this year's Fashion Prize. Courtesy Lurline
A creation by Saudi label Lurline, one of 10 finalists in this year's Fashion Prize.

Babysitter: find a mentor

The programme comes to fruition with Babysitter, a five-month initiative that will take place from April to August next year. In this final phase, the ministry will look for sponsors to individually mentor emerging companies and creatives.

The “babysitter” in question will provide guidance, both financial and entrepreneurial, to help participants establish a strong foundation, strengthen their offerings, and generally help Saudi Arabia’s fashion industry soar to international standards.

Full-time practitioners and entrepreneurs with two years or more experience can apply for this part of the programme. The Fashion Incubation Program is open to Saudi citizens and residents over the age of 18, and requires fashion creatives to only submit work or ideas that they can prove are original.

Fashion in the kingdom

A look by Saudi Arabian designer Arwa Al Banawi, at the first Arab Fashion Week to be staged in Riyad in 2018. Photo Kristy Sparow
A look by Saudi Arabian designer Arwa Al Banawi, at the first Arab Fashion Week staged in Riyadh in 2018. Photo Kristy Sparow

The Fashion Incubation Program is the latest in a long line of initiatives in Saudi Arabia that aim to promote the kingdom’s fashion industry.

The Saudi Style Council launched in September, helmed by Marriam Mossalli, fashion consultant and author of Under the Abaya: Street Style from Saudi Arabia. The non-profit trade association is designed to “connect and protect” Saudi Arabia’s fashion industry, and celebrate and boost the kingdom’s growing creative sector.

"Saudi creatives are young and enthusiastic, but need guidance. So it’s the responsibility of the older generation of Saudis, like myself, who have worked abroad and who have the experience, to guide them,” Mossalli says. “The other day we did a shoot with Saudi creatives for a magazine and the editor decided not to credit the make-up artist. The artist told us, we called the editor immediately and they eventually changed their decision. The new talents need that voice, they need that support, and that is what the Saudi Style Council is all about.”

Last November saw the launch of a Fashion Commission and scholarship programme at the kingdom's first Fashion Futures. The three-day sartorial event in Riyadh brought together a ream of experts to take part in a series of talks and panel discussions, including hijab-wearing model Halima Aden and Dutch couturier Iris van Herpen.

The country held its first Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh in 2018.

Meanwhile, a number of Saudi designers have made their mark on the international fashion circuit; cases in point this year include Tima Abid at Paris Haute Couture Week in January, shoe designer Lulu Al Hassan at London Fashion Week in February; and Yousef Akbar, who was meant to make his Fashion Forward Dubai debut in April. The event was cancelled owing to the coronavirus pandemic, but Akbar – who launched his eponymous brand at Australia Fashion Week in 2017 – is definitely one of many Saudi Arabian designers to watch.

For more details or to register for the Hackathon phase of the Fashion Incubation Programme, visit engage.moc.gov.sa

Updated: December 6, 2020 01:33 PM

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