Ultra-competitive Saudi Fashion Program Unveils Finalists for Year-long Mentorship Program with Industry Legends

Riyadh, Saudi fashion designers and brands are set to commence a year-long mentorship program with support from some of the world’s leading fashion experts after the Fashion Commission announced the finalists of its inaugural Saudi 100 Brands program.W...

Riyadh, Saudi fashion designers and brands are set to commence a year-long mentorship program with support from some of the world’s leading fashion experts after the Fashion Commission announced the finalists of its inaugural Saudi 100 Brands program.

With more than 1,300 brands and designers competing for a coveted place on the scheme, applications were condensed to a shortlist of some 400 candidates. Those living in the Kingdom were invited over a period of 2 weeks to attend in-person interviews at hubs located in Riyadh and Jeddah, with virtual interviews conducted for those living abroad.

The application process revealed an astonishingly diverse range of creative fashion design talent as well as the increasingly large number of established Saudi fashion designers already running successful businesses in both the Kingdom and in international fashion hubs around the world.

Alongside a plethora of younger start-up brands, shortlisted candidates include a bridalwear designer from Khobar whose fashion career spans four decades, and a third-generation family jewelry business based in Riyadh, as well as Saudis operating out of London and Dubai. More established Saudi fashion brands also made the cut, reflecting a positive response to this opportunity for ongoing, tailor-made, international-subject-matter-expert advice.

Intensive sessions with the Saudi 100 Brands Curation Committee saw shortlisted candidates interviewed about their approach to business and design and their collections scrutinized by fashion experts. Finalists were then placed into different categories including Bridal, Demi-Couture, Ready-to-Wear, Premium, Abaya, Menswear, Bags, Jewelry, and Concept, which will shape the program’s process for each of them moving forward.

Fashion Commission Sector Development Director, Princess Noura bint Faisal Al Saud, said “The enthusiasm and excitement from shortlisted candidates during interviews was palpable, with designers keen to share their business-journey stories, including setbacks and successes, with the Fashion Commission team.

“There was huge passion from our Saudi designers, in expressing their struggles of founding a brand, manufacturing, how to reach a wider audience. What is apparent from all of them is how much they value – indeed love – their clients!

“Many articulated the challenges they face, and a fear of not being able to realize their dreams. As the Fashion Commission, we completely understand this, and speaking to our talented community first-hand is driving us to plan even more initiatives to nurture an environment that inspires and enables all to reach their goals.”

The Saudi 100 Brands program will commence immediately with regular weekly masterclasses and mentoring sessions. Finalists will take part in at least two one-on-one mentoring sessions each month, where progress will be mapped from the perspectives of business development as well as more technical design. Using a bespoke approach, the Saudi 100 Brands team will ask the finalists to set the journey-compass by sharing their visions and aspirations for their participation in the program. The Saudi 100 Brands experts will then tailor the program to the brands’ individual needs.

Fashion Commission CEO Burak Cakmak explained: “The Saudi 100 Brands finalists will be guided by experts to achieve their vision and aspiration for their brands, and we will support them in getting there. This program recognizes that they are all at different stages in their careers, in their respective categories. Accordingly, it is designed to be tailored to their specific needs. The kick-off period involves a massive download of information from them to us, but then it doesn’t go anywhere a designer isn’t comfortable. The program takes the designers where they ask to go and responds to the areas where they feel they would benefit most from support. The point of the program is business development, brand building, technical skill enhancement and exposure to opportunities at an international level, all the while remaining sensitive to the needs of the privacy of business models.”

As the Fashion Commission’s latest initiative, Saudi 100 Brands, covers branding and conceptualization, innovation and technology, sales performance and marketing strategy, and key leadership skills. The Finalists will now embark on a rigorous mentorship program led by an international team of fashion experts, whose experience includes time at LVMH, Kering, Chanel, Valentino and Bulgari.

Fabien Hirose, Lead Mentor of Saudi 100 Brands commented: “It’s been a great honor so far to be part of the Fashion Commission initiative Saudi 100 Brands, one that has allowed me to get to know more than 1,300 talented Saudis and gain an insight into an incredible panorama of the effervescent creativity and leadership that this country contains.

“Listening to the stories of more than 400 entrepreneurs, and understanding their business fashion journeys, has given me the clarity to effectively support the best Saudi brands to navigate the commercial challenges faced by the fashion industry today.”

“I was particularly excited by Saudi Arabia’s pluricultural heritage being naturally embedded in the designers’ product offerings, and look forward to these stories of Saudi’s unique identity reaching a wider audience through fashion.”

“As the Saudi 100 Brands program kicks off this month, my team and I are highly inspired to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the brands whose ambitions are aligned with those of the Saudi Vision 2030.”

The program also includes international partnerships with Vogue Arabia and regional retailers. Manuel Arnaut, Editor-in-Chief, Vogue Arabia said: “I’m extremely impressed with the range of the participant designers, proving that fashion in Saudi Arabia is diverse, and ready to answer any demand. It will also be exciting work with such a vast range of creatives, that will definitely enrich Saudi 100 Brands with their background and previous experience, but also with their take on contemporary fashion.”

Source: Saudi Press Agency