Hia Hub opens 2nd annual fashion hub, placing spotlight on Saudi fashion scene

RIYADH: A fashionably dressed crowd donning elegant abayas and upscale streetwear paired with high-end accessories made its way once again into the sleekly decorated Hia Hub, a platform for fashion, beauty, art and culture spearheaded by Hia magazine in the JAX creative district of Riyadh’s historic Diriyah area.
The three-day program, which also marks the magazine’s 30-year anniversary, kicked off Thursday night and runs until Dec. 10. It features a program of workshops, talks, master classes by luxury brands such as Piaget, exhibitions and the display and sale of regional and international fashion, jewelry and accessory brands.
“When Hia was launched 30 years ago, we made a promise to share the stories of Arab women and become their ultimate reference point, serving all of their interests, and today will celebrate the fulfillment of that promise,” Mai Badr, editor-in-chief of Hia, said during her opening keynote speech on the first day.
This year’s hub, larger in scale and content than its first edition, reflected Saudi Arabia’s growing fashion industry and Riyadh’s position as a burgeoning hub for the regional and global fashion scene — a fact demonstrated by the increased number of international brands, designers and fashion personalities slated to attend over the event’s three-day duration. These include US fashion designer Zac Posen, fashion model Amber Valletta and Iraqi US beauty entrepreneur Mona Kattan.
“Arabic luxury fashion is a means of self-expression, creating a dialogue that engages people from all parts of the world,” said Posen during his keynote speech. “In many ways, it is a global reflection of the culture around us. Today, fashion plays an ever-increasing role in forming and representing women in their multifaceted and elegant lives.”
The fashion industry, like other sectors in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is rising rapidly. According to Statista, the fashion sector in the Kingdom is projected to grow by 18.97 percent from 2022 to 2027, resulting in a market volume of $8.56 billion in 2027.
“Saudi Arabia is our second biggest market,” Stephanie Legg, senior vice president at Threads Styling, a 12-year-old UK-based personal styling platform acquired this year by Chalhoub, the Dubai-based largest retailer operator in the Middle East. “We’ve got a really loyal, incredible client base here. Threads’ first business was in the Middle East, so the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, is a really important market to us,” Legg said. It was Threads’ second time participating. “Last year was much smaller,” added Legg.
Among the local brands exhibited was Saudi designer Mohammed Khoja’s brand Hindamme, offering a fusion of Eastern and Western contemporary styles. Khoja is one Saudi designer gaining increased visibility internationally. His designs are now on display at the V&A Museum in London.
Taking up the entirety of a large glass vitrine was the mesmerizing “Sherihan” dress by Adnan Akbar, dubbed the Kingdom’s first couture designer. The dress was made in 1987 and shown that same year in the Trocadero Gardens in Paris.
A variety of master classes on offer aim to teach attendees vital creative and entrepreneurial skills pertinent to work in the luxury market.
Workshops include jewelry styling with Swarovski, fashion styling with Law Roach in partnership with Harvey Nichols, and master classes with Piaget on diamonds, watch and jewelry making. There is also a design master class with Zac Posen.
Another highlight to discover is watch brand Richard Mille’s exhibition of Saudi painter Faisal Alkheriji, titled “Art in the Gulf.” The show marks the first motion sensory exhibition to combine AI and leap motion technology, providing an interactive experience of Alkheriji’s portrayals of Saudi culture through his abstract and vibrant paintings. The exhibition complements the launch of the brand’s inaugural “Art in the Gulf” book, launched in early November this year, where they first discovered Alkheriji’s work.
The week kicked off with a panel chaired by veteran Arab fashion journalist Jamila Halfichi with Burak Cakmak, fashion designer and CEO of the Saudi Ministry of Culture’s Fashion Commission, as well as Elie Saab Junior. The panel tackled fashion’s role in climate change, as well as our fast-paced, technological world and its role in preserving the cultural narratives of the Middle East and forging cross-cultural dialogue.
“When you’re in a place like Saudi, you can actually tap into your own local community, not just to create, but also to sell, create new solutions and test your products,” said Cakmak. “The growing demand for fashion in the Kingdom allows Saudis to start in their home country first and then expand abroad, and that is exciting.”

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