Women in fashion design demand recognition

Saudi authorities still do not recognize fashion design as a valid career path in the Kingdom

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Saudi authorities still do not recognize fashion design as a valid career path in the Kingdom despite the fact that many Saudi designers have earned relevant degrees from national and international universities, said an industry expert.

Rania Khogeer, member of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s female fashion designers committee, said there are no specific licenses for such businesses and the Saudization drive has harmed the industry in the Kingdom because it is squeezing out expatriate tailors who were previously easily obtainable.

Speaking during the committee-organized First Forum of Fashion Designers on Saturday, she said: “There aren’t many experienced Saudi fashion designers in the country and not many Saudi women want to work as tailors (whom designers need to bring their creations to life).

“In return, many fashion designers seek to open their own businesses outside of the Kingdom where they can secure their intellectual properties and find experienced tailors and co-designers.”

It was disclosed at the forum that the fashion industry in the Kingdom is worth around SR13 billion.

The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s deputy secretary-general Muhyiddin Al-Hakami said the female fashion designers committee is the only one of its kind in Jeddah that links professional women designers with the chamber and tackles the obstacles they face.

The committee aims to unify professionals in the industry to create unique Saudi products that can rival their international counterparts. It also aims to produce designs with the combination of modernity and Hijazi heritage.

Committee head Umaimah Mahmoud Azzouz said: “The committee made sure to invite all of the talented and interested girls and women from schools, institutes and universities.

“The fashion design market can provide 70,000 job opportunities for Saudi females within the next five years. This will decrease the rate of female unemployment in the Kingdom by 18 percent.

“Statistics show the number of tailor shops in the Kingdom reached 70,000 last year. This is a clear indication that more funding and support should be granted to women, especially in the field of fashion and design. The committee aims to establish a national factory that utilizes local talent to produce internationally acknowledged designs.”

Designers are trying to advertise their designs locally and internationally by cooperating with companies through their corporate social responsibility programs.

The committee also aims to establish a fashion design academy to train over 500 Saudi women on an annual basis and employ over 5,000 of them. This can be done by founding more small and medium enterprises in the industry, said Azzouz.

The forum was packed with university students, designers and fashion design enthusiasts.

More than 300 Saudi female fashion designers gathered to discuss the obstacles faced by female designers, businesswomen and female fashion enthusiasts in the Kingdom. The recommendations of the forum will be forwarded to the concerned authorities.

This article was first publisehd in the Saudi Gazette on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014.

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