RIYADH (Agencies): In a significant cultural shift, Saudi Arabia held its first-ever fashion show featuring swimsuit models on Friday. This event marks a considerable change in a country where women were required to wear body-covering abaya robes less than a decade ago.

The poolside event showcased designs by Moroccan designer Yasmina Qanzal, predominantly featuring one-piece swimsuits in shades of red, beige, and blue. Models displayed styles with exposed shoulders and partially visible midriffs. Qanzal highlighted the cultural significance of the event, calling it an “honour” to be part of this historic moment.

The show was part of the inaugural Red Sea Fashion Week, held at the St Regis Red Sea Resort. This event is a component of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aiming to reform the country’s social and economic landscape.

Since 2017, Saudi Arabia has introduced a series of dramatic social reforms to soften its austere image, historically influenced by the strict Islamic form, Wahabism. Syrian influencer Shouq Mohammad noted that the event aligns with Saudi Arabia’s efforts to open up to the world and grow its fashion and tourism sectors.

French influencer Raphael Simacourbe, also in attendance, acknowledged that while the swimsuits may not be considered risque globally, they represent a major achievement in the Saudi context.

According to a 2022 report by the Saudi Fashion Commission, the fashion industry accounted for $12.5 billion, or 1.4% of the national GDP, and employed 230,000 people. This swimsuit fashion show is a testament to the ongoing transformation of the Saudi fashion industry and the country’s broader social reforms.

By Media

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