The first-ever 3D fashion event in Saudi Arabia wrapped up recently with huge success. Due to the COVID-19, organizers brought the entire 2020 edition online, making it the Kingdom’s first fashion event at this scale to go fully digital with fashion industry leaders and customers taking interest with greater enthusiasm and frenzy. Two young Saudi women–Sara A. Obeid and Jumanah Shaheen–are at the forefront of changing the game.
They hosted the Kingdom’s first-ever 3D fashion event as physical fashion weeks are on hold, and many designers are unable to produce their next collections owing to the pandemic. “It all started during the holy month of Ramadan when we brought people together to set up a virtual fashion forum,” said Obeid, the organizer of the digital fashion event. Obeid, who holds an M.A in teaching English from an Hawaii Pacific University with a distinguished track record of leadership and community service, teamed up with Shaheen, a famous Saudi visual effects producer, to curate this fashion show.
Obeid said that the three-day digital-only event entitled “Zari” was widely attended and applauded. “The niche world of digital fashion has been catapulted to the mainstream,” said Obeid, while referring to the success of the virtual fashion forum. The move to hold such digital fashion events is significant keeping in view the growing revenue in the Saudi fashion segment that will amounts to $1872 million in 2020.
Revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2020-2024) of 6.6 percent, resulting in a market volume of $2,419 million by 2024. The market’s largest segment is apparel with a volume of $1,119 million in 2020. To this end, it is also important to note that Saudi Arabia’s online fashion retail market is quite dynamic and is in the early growth phase. The online fashion market has grown substantially with the phenomenal growth in the number of internet users during the last 5 years and smartphone users in the country have acted as drivers for the online fashion market.
“Convenience to purchase online, easy availability of branded products, and rising demand for E-commerce products in the Kingdom are other major factors that have augmented the growth of the online fashion market in Saudi Arabia,” said Obeid. She pointed out that the three-day digital event included a Zari bazaar, a virtual space for showcasing products, workshops, a collection of images of traditional Saudi clothes and a panel of fashion experts like Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council.
Spelling out the importance and relevance of the virtual fashion show, Jumanah said that this Kingdom’s first entirely virtual fashion event has prompted calls for “more visibility of fashion brands online during the pandemic”. Guests were invited to create Sims-like avatars to browse and purchase pieces of fine jewelry brands such as Salama Khalfan and Yataghan as well as ready-to-wear labels like Nabila Nazer and Al Areej from the comfort of their houses.
The grand success of this digital three-day event will also help to encourage local and regional players of the fashion industry to showcase their products and sell them online. “Such virtual events will eventually provide platforms for the designers and customers to connect, while they will also minimize the impact of the pandemic in the process,” said Jumanah, while referring the closure of almost all fashion stores and shops during this health crisis.
The group led by Obeid, who was also a panel member of the Face Forward International in Beverly Hills (California), are also contemplating to encourage fashion outlets to ensure their active presence online. Obeid and Jumanah are hopeful that the fashion industry will bounce back despite the pandemic with virtual fashion events, virtual clothing, and cyberspace catwalk shows in the foreseeable future.