Saudi Arabia holds first-ever swimwear fashion show, Chinese netizens react

    The event showcased cruise and resort collections from Arab designers, including Saudi talents Tima Abid and Sara Altwaim.
    Models present creations from the summer beachwear collection by Moroccan designer Yasmina Q during the Red Sea Fashion Week. Image: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images
      Published   in Fashion

    Saudi Arabia hosted its first-ever swimwear fashion show at Red Sea Fashion Week over the weekend.

    The inaugural Red Sea Fashion Week took place at the St. Regis Red Sea Resort, situated on an island off the country’s western coast. The event featured Arab designers presenting their cruise and resort collections, highlighting Saudi talents such as Tima Abid and Sara Altwaim.

    Saudi designer Tima Abid presented sea-inspired evening wear during Red Sea Fashion Week. Image: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images
    Saudi designer Tima Abid presented sea-inspired evening wear during Red Sea Fashion Week. Image: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images

    Across Chinese social media, Red Sea Fashion Week was met with equal parts curiosity and interest, as users commented on the historic swimwear event.

    “Saudi Arabia is inherently open-minded,” wrote netizen @valore_serendipity on Xiaohongshu. “Not every Middle Eastern country is the same.”

    “The next journey towards development: Eliminating [women’s] oppression,” wrote @wuxiekejizhihuixin under the same post.

    Others commented on the variety of bright styles and patterns showcased during the weekend’s event. “Each outfit looks so good,” wrote @shanshanxiaoxingxing.

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    As the closing show, Tala Abukhaled’s Rebirth feted a new era of fashion for Saudi Arabia. “My collection was inspired by the beauty of Saudi palm trees,” Abukhaled told Jing Daily after the event about her sustainability-friendly, locally sourced and produced collection.

    “We use mostly linens for the base, along with silk, cotton, and flaxseed fabrics… You can see the [inspiration] in some of the pieces with the wooden beads, and through the shape of palm tree leaves some of the looks [emulate].”

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    The event’s organizer, Burak Cakmak, CEO of the Saudi Fashion Commission, told Jing Daily that although this event was the first of its kind, it had been years in the making.

    The idea “was always to build a full ecosystem in the country, and we started by supporting brands three years ago with a program called Saudi 100 brands, and that helped us envision what it would take to build, ultimately, an international brand outside for the rest of the world,” explained Cakmak.

    After the success of Saudi Arabia’s first Riyadh Fashion Week, which took place in October 2023, Cakmak said the Fashion Commission hoped to promote up-and-coming designers as well as the Red Sea region as a luxury tourism destination.

    “Red Sea Fashion Week is now for sure going to get the attention of the fashion industry, fashion players, but also even the individual consumers interested in fashion, to see Red Sea as a new destination,” he said. “The question is not just about the brands [showing here], but also ‘where are you and what is this beautiful place?’”

    The Red Sea Project is a major tourism initiative in Saudi Arabia. Helmed by the national government and local developers, the region is being developed as part of Saudi Vision 2030. The St. Regis Red Sea Resort is among 50 resorts, including The Four Seasons and Rosewood, that will be opening up to 8,000 hotel rooms by 2030.

    As part of Saudi Vision 2030, the Saudi government has set its sights on welcoming up to 5 million Chinese tourists by 2030. In order to accomplish this ambitious goal, Saudi Arabia has expanded daily flights between China and Saudi Arabia, permitted Chinese tourists to apply for visas upon arrival, introduced a Mandarin-language version of its travel website, and partnered with top travel agencies on marketing initiatives.

    As we have reported, Saudi Arabia welcomed 140,000 visitors from China in 2023.

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