By: Fatmé Fahda – Spring 2015
Fashion royalty isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Middle Eastern women. There are a lot of misconceptions in Western cultures about them and their lifestyles, as seen in the movie The Sex and The City 2:
The Arab women are not repressed, unhappy, or overruled by men. Because when it comes to fashion, these women are fashion royalty.
These ladies aren’t often the ones that occupy the front rows of fashion shows, but rather the ones that have designers flown in to their homes to select a gown for an event. Haute Couture’s biggest buyers in the Middle East come from rich industrial or royal families. The Middle Eastern lifestyle is very socially demanding and couture represents social status and power.
Very few Arab women are in the fashion public eye, such as Sheikha Mozah, as most value their privacy and are under black ‘abayas’ in public.
The spending that comes from the Middle East in the fashion industry on personal luxury amounts to USD$8 billion in 2013 (source: Bain & Company). The Arab women in the Gulf region attend as many as 15 weddings a year, in addition to multiple private events each month. This creates an exceedingly large demand for couture, as wearing the same dress twice is social suicide.
Provocative low-cleavage lame couture gowns are the norm at these events to impress the women in their social circle. The Middle Eastern woman prefers gowns embellished by crystals or heavily embroidered.
From Christian Dior to Elie Saab, and everything in between, Middle Eastern women are willing to spend 50,000 euros on one gown to make sure they are stylish and that they will not encounter another woman wearing the same dress. They prefer unique and extravagant pieces that cost obscene amounts of money, compared to the 5,000 euro Marc Jacobs dress that somebody else will be seen wearing in the same night.
Royal weddings can have up to 4,000 women and you can bet that everyone that room will be wearing haute couture. Thus, as stated by Chanel, Valentino, and Stephane Rolland, to name a few, these luxury labels need to keep track of who buys which dress to avoid any mix-up of having the same two dresses at the same event.
The Middle East along with China continues to be the biggest drivers of the fashion industry regardless of any economical crises that are occurring. If you happen to visit the Gulf region, I can promise you that under those black ‘abayas’ you will find nothing short of glamorous.