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Saudi Arabia Hosts Historic Swimsuit Fashion Show, Signaling Major Cultural Shift

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Saudi Arabia made history by hosting its first-ever fashion show featuring swimsuit models, marking a significant departure from its conservative past where women were required to wear body-covering abaya robes.

The event, held at the St Regis Red Sea Resort during the inaugural Red Sea Fashion Week, showcased designs by Moroccan designer Yasmina Qanzal. The collection featured vibrant one-piece swimsuits in colors like red, beige, and blue, with models displaying exposed shoulders and partially visible midriffs, reflecting a bold shift from traditional norms.

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Qanzal recognized the cultural significance of the event, celebrating it as a historic moment for Saudi Arabia. This fashion show underscores the kingdom’s evolving stance on social and economic reforms under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 initiative. The initiative aims to diversify the economy, attract global investment, and reshape societal norms through projects like the Red Sea Global initiative.

Despite these progressive strides, Saudi Arabia’s transformation has not been without controversy. Reforms such as the re-introduction of cinemas and mixed-gender events have been accompanied by increased repression of dissent. However, attendees like Syrian fashion influencer Shouq Mohammed and French influencer Raphael Simacourbe expressed support for the swimsuit fashion show, viewing it as a testament to Saudi Arabia’s evolving cultural landscape and openness to the world.

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In the broader context, Saudi Arabia’s fashion industry is gaining momentum, significantly contributing to the national GDP and employment. Events like the swimsuit fashion show symbolize the kingdom’s evolving identity and global aspirations as it continues its path of modernization.

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