By Shahrazad Faisal
With the rapid pace in which development is being witnessed in the country, Saudi Arabia is a story worth marking on historical pages.
Historically known as the land of receiving pilgrims and the heart of Islamic tourism, today Saudi Arabia stands as the most prominent hub in the region to many fields including arts, culture, tourism and economic development. Having said that, the Saudi population has played an active role in the engine of development as this drive of progression came to life; particularly females of the country who have been making headlines in the last decade with their achievements and miraculous accomplishments.
The country celebrates its Founding Day on February 22, marking the memory of the creation of the Saudi state by Imam Muhammad bin Saud more than three centuries ago. In honor of this historical event, this editorial photoshoot celebrates the country’s rich heritage by artistically portraying the synchronization between culture and modernization while concentrating on the Saudi female’s journey. Across past decades, the women of Saudi enabled civilization through their incubating roles, and today they stand on international platforms narrating stories of cultural and economic achievements. This photoshoot was beautifully captured by the camera lens of Basma Alhalees.
The Theme behind the Photoshoot
This editorial photoshoot created by pioneering Saudi personalities, Shahrazad Faisal, Reem Faisal, and Noha Sindi, each striving in their own field, sheds light on the intricate areas of the Saudi female’s journey with development and progression. This shoot uses art and fashion to express the blend between the past and present, along with the merge between the historical Saudi culture and current modern development; as if the pictures are narrating a story of the determination and strength of past generations of Saudi females that has been inherited to the current generation and has played an active hand in placing Saudi women on the map of the world.
Shahrazad, Reem, and Noha are wearing precious and highly valuable pieces owned by the late Buthaina Hafez, a designer of traditional attire and development activist who was years ahead of her time. Buthaina started creating her pieces over 60 years ago and used fashion as a form of expression to portray the Saudi female’s influence on society while holding on to elements of traditional heritage. She was one of the first to add flamboyant colors to traditional fashion. Buthaina dreamt of the Saudi women’s future and dedicated years of her life to creating intricate pieces that carried the traditional style of different areas in the country while adding her touch of color and modernization.
The Hijazi traditional head pieces used in the shoot are around 50 years old, as they delicately include precious materials and are intricately handmade with extensive labor hours. Most of the pieces included took several months of execution. These pieces involved a technique called ’كنتيل’ which used water of gold to give the fabric its luster and shine. This technique is no longer used and these pieces of Buthaina’s are the last to represent this form or fabric making. These headpieces are paired with modern attire. This ensemble is in the attempt to catch the Saudi females’ rich poetic journey of development, as the head pieces age back to a time where women’s role was more socially intensive; similarly the pairing with modern attire represents growth to her current active economic and socio-economic role.
The women personalities represented in the photoshoot
Shahrazad Faisal is a TV host and media personality who has over 50 episodes aired in the area of self development and entrepreneurship. Her main profession is in the field of human capital development and vocational training. Through her TV shows and training programs, Shahrazad aims towards empowering individuals in the workforce with inspirational success stories, self development topics, and practical training. Shahrazad believes that if she wishes to see development, then she must have an active hand in achieving it. Additionally, Shahrazad stands proud of her nation and the women of the kingdom, coming a long way economically and pioneering on global platforms. To her, the Saudi female is a model of resilience, persistence, success, and glorious tradition.
After years of leading EVE Haute Couture, the Saudi designer and entrepreneur, Reem Faisal, remained passionate about cultivating the Saudi fashion sector through her edu-preneurial platform, The Fashion Mentor, which provides Workshops and training programs in fashion business management & financial literacy.
Reem did not just stop at that, but continued to create solution services to ease the pains of upcoming labels and designers by setting up a manufacturing unit specialized in multiple production lines. Additionally, Reem boasts of media participation with MBC Group, as The Mentor on the infamous fashion program, Project Runway Middle East.
Currently, Reem heads a group of her facilities and is a social activist who advocates a healthy approach for working mothers, and is a rising talent in the world of acting and cinema.
Noha is a dedicated mother. Her work revolves around celebrity styling and image consulting. Noha believes in the influence of appropriate image on self confidence and level of performance. Through her work and social media platforms, she concentrates on helping the youth understand the concept of self-confidence and the role of style in representing where you come from. Noha has styled and dressed many of the prominent TV personalities in the kingdom, directing her efforts towards best representing females of her nation through her work and giving styling a deeper meaning.
A miniature composition of this very idea of blending the old with the new to represent a journey is again re-emphasized in the creation of couture gloves. Delicately handmade by EVE Haute Couture with thin and fine tulle in a much global and fashion forward style to symbolize modernization and feminine strength, decorated with pure gold thread embroidery in Arabic calligraphy. The choice to include the art of calligraphy was essential as it was the revered art of Saudi Arabia dating back to over 1,400 years. It represents religion, knowledge, art, and culture. The marriage between both these elements represents the depth of Saudi history, while pointing out that achievements of the Saudi female now lay in her own hands.
The meaning behind each look
Conveying words through a picture goes beyond the reveal of a few messages. The use of fashion ornaments alone tells tales of many generations. When analyzing the history and culture of a location, jewelry and traditional accessories open windows to a world of knowledge.
- Reem Faisal’s outfit: Reem Faisal wears a crown matched with a golden armor-like chest piece. This was the dress of the wealthy and affluent brides of the Hijaz. The crown holds pieces of puregold beads, adding weight to the piece and subliminally requiring she who wears it to be of strength and power. The armor-like chest piece called “martabah” holds very precious pure gold brooches of different colors and stones with drapes of pearls.
Pieces of such are derived from triumph stories of victory and power, and were recreated to suit the styling of the powerful and wealthy female. This piece was later used for brides to display gold brooches that were received as wedding gifts. Reem has here paired it with a strong black power suit, mirroring what the modern version of these ornaments would look like. The contradiction between a historical crown and black suit pants is here to underline the wide range of strengths the Saudi female has from passion and tradition to practicality and strength.
- Shahrazad’s outfit: Shahrazad, on the other hand, wears a piece of Buthaina Hafiz’s that is stocked with white stones with a blend of bright silver and oxidized silver. The pearls in this piece were imported from overseas many years ago, and are a rare form of pearls that are almost extinct in today’s age. The overpowering presence of pearls in this piece symbolizes trade, economic prosperity, and exposure to cultures of the world. This piece particularly represents travel and trade and what that means for the Saudi female’s as a level of culture, tolerance, and knowledge. Shahrazad wears a comparatively bright shade of green to represent the inclusion of globalization and exposure to cultures of the world. This arrangement attempts to convey that the Saudi female walks on international grounds carrying the values of her ancestors.
- Noha Sindi’s outfit: Noha Sindi wears a royal blue headpiece mostly created from fabric with embellishments of white pearls. The prints and color shades of this head piece represent a form of forwardness with fashion. It also shows the influence of Hajj and Umrah on local fabric patterns, as worshippers would come to the kingdom and expose the local artisans with the different patterns from their homeland. Colors such as this shade of blue would be mostly used in celebrations such as Eid, where bright colors were seen as a symbol of happiness and hope. Noha wears a modern dress of the same color to emphasize the meaning color carries, as the Saudi female is a personality that can carry off many shades symbolizing her to be wearing many hats and perfecting many traits.
Finally, the choice of modern outfits have been carefully picked, each of a different genre of modernization. This is to express the presence of the Saudi female in various scenes in today’s world and in different modern fields and expertise. The Saudi female is present internationally and in numerous industries, proudly carrying her Saudi crown everywhere she goes and holding on to the values of her ancestors.