They have already been allowed to drive cars and to enjoy movies at theatres. Now, Saudi Princess Noura bint Faisal Al-Saud plans to bring another change for women in the West Asian nation.
In a rare first, conservative Saudi Arabia hosted a Fashion Week exclusively for women earlier in April. While foreign models walked on the ramp, Saudi women enjoyed their performance from the gallery. The local media reported that Princess Noura – the great-granddaughter of Saudi Arabia’s founder – organised the event.
The Middle Eastern country did not encourage experiments with women’s fashion in the past. However, the scenario changed in December when the Princess became Honorary President of the Arab Fashion Council. Princess Noura – who graduated from Tokyo’s Rikkyo University with a Masters Degree in International Business – said that the Japanese culture influenced her approach to fashion and business. She stressed: “That’s where the whole love of fashion started. So, I think I bring back a lot of Japan to Saudi … The respect of others, the respect of other people’s culture, of other people’s religion.”
So far, the police and the judiciary have controlled the women’s fashion rules in the conservative Saudi society. Usually, the Saudi women wear abaya – a simple, loose over-garment and a robe-like dress – and cover their heads and faces with scarf. Now, the Arab Fashion Council plans to change the style statement of Saudi women. Meanwhile, the Princess is not ready to consider this initiative as a ‘protest’ against conservatism. “Absolutely I understand people’s perspective,” Princess Noura said, stressing: “Saudi Arabia has strong ties with its culture. As a Saudi woman, I respect my culture, I respect my religion. Wearing the abaya or being if you would like to call it conservative in the way we dress is something that is part of who we are. It’s part of our culture … this is how our life is, even while travelling.”
Earlier, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that women would decide whether they would prefer abaya. In recent times, the Crown Prince has led several successful reforms, including regulations restricting the powers of the religious police and the removal of the ban on female drivers. However, only women were allowed to attend the Saudi Fashion Week organised by Princess Noura. Even, the concerned authorities didn’t allow the media to cover the event. As a result, a section of people strongly criticised the authorities, saying that the conservatism is still there in Saudi Arabia. In reply, the 30-year-old Princess said: “The limited access was part of the restrictions that we have to follow as part of the culture. It was a women-only event and some women are coming to the event – most of them, I would say – feeling safe. I’m coming to see fashion without having to worry about anyone taking my picture. I want to enjoy it.”
Princess Noura, the royal fashionista
The Princess revealed that she would introduce textile manufacturing to Saudi Arabia in near future, insisting that the proposed move would reduce the national economy’s dependence on oil. “Even if it’s just 10% of the production line or the manufacturing line, we can have the finishing…. the last stages of assembly in Saudi Arabia,” the Royal told the media.
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