Saudi shoe designer Lulu Al Hassan debuts at London Fashion Week

As a licensed design teacher, Al Hassan hopes her brand Lu Vixen will inspire more of her countrywomen to follow in her footsteps

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Stepping into London for the first time was Saudi Arabian shoe designer Lulu Al Hassan, who presented her debut collection on Monday, February 17, at Hotel Cafe Royal.

Al Hassan is a well-known figure in the kingdom and hosts her own TV show about design. Saudi Arabia has produced a number of respected womenswear designers including Arwa Al Banawi, Daneh Buahmad and Nora Al Shaikh, but the country is somewhat lacking in shoe design. As a licensed design teacher, Al Hassan hopes her brand Lu Vixen will inspire more of her countrywomen to follow in her footsteps.

"I'm the first Saudi shoe designer," she tells The National before her presentation. "We're used to making abayas and clothes in Saudi, but shoe design is very new – it's a tough market."

Al Hassan’s autumn / winter 2020 collection encompasses five styles: stiletto mules, platform stiletto heels, mules, Oxford shoes and sandals. Created using suede, leather, velvet and silk chiffon trims, the shoes have been designed to look glamorous but feel comfortable. In a country with a conservative dress code, Al Hassan believes Lu Vixen will allow women to express themselves sartorially yet keep up with societal expectations.

“Lu Vixen was built on my alter ego. It works on the idea that every woman has a wild side that we do not show to the world,” Al Hassan says. “You don’t have to wear a short skirt to show your femininity. You can show it by the way you walk and what you wear on your feet by making sure they always look nice.”

Al Hassan says a perfect example of a Lu Vixen woman is Princess Diana, and the designer has even named one of her shoes after the late British royal. “I’m a big fan of Lady Diana. To me, she was a fashion icon.”

Al Hassan discovered her love of elegant footwear from a young age, thanks to her mother. “I used to wear my mum’s shoes. She used to buy a pair and then change the fabrics to match the gowns she was wearing to weddings and events.”

Despite having surgery on her feet after wearing the wrong size shoes, Al Hassan’s passion for footwear prevailed. She gave up a career working as a business analyst in the retail industry in Riyadh to become a shoe designer, honing her craft at the prestigious Arsutoria School for shoe and bag design in Milan. Presenting at London Fashion Week is a dream come true, says the designer, who hopes her presence will challenge stereotypes about women in Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi women are seen as not having many rights and so we’re always being underestimated. But we have a lot of opportunities to develop our skills. We’re very determined and we’re very creative,” she says. “I get a lot of comments from people saying that I don’t look Saudi. But there are many like me; I’m a version of Saudis that the world needs to see.”