Photo: HRH Princess Noura AlFaisal
Come February 25, all eyes will be on the Kingdom, where the 2022 edition of the Saudi Cup will kick off. Held over two days, the cup will, as always, see some thrilling races—the winner of which will take home £26 million in prize money. But what’s likely to keep every fashion enthusiast on their toes during the event is the impeccable fashion that’s likely to be on display during the event.
Just like its previous edition, the 2022 Saudi Cup comes with a strong, and extremely special, dress code. Put together by the Fashion Commission of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture, the cup’s style guide puts a heavy focus on traditional crafts and age-old techniques from the Kingdom. The aim? To celebrate the rich heritage of Saudi Arabia and its beautiful attire. All set to watch the best of the races and put the best of Saudi Arabian fashion on the global map is HRH Princess Noura AlFaisal, whose efforts towards spotlighting Saudi heritage have gained her immense appreciation across the region. “This year is about owning your culture more than just showing it,” she tells Vogue Arabia in a special interview. “I work on the Saudi Cup for The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia (JCSA). Essentially, I work between the Club Ministry of Culture on all the cultural activations in the event. Last year, I was proud to be part of the project, as it was the first ever that involved all of the commissions within the ministry. I did work very closely with the Fashion Commission to co-create the dress code last year, and as it was the first year, it was important to represent diversity and authenticity. I was honored and privileged to play my part in what is now, I believe, a significant event in Saudi culture.”
The dress code, for those who may not know, comes with a detailed style guide, spotlighting staples like the bisht, sayah and daglah for men, and thobes and headdresses in rich colors, patterns and embroideries for women. “I hope that this year, we see not only our heritage represented and displayed in its multifaceted and varied way, but that we also see a generation of young designers taking that heritage, owning it and evolving it, so that it expresses them and the culture that they are creating,” Her Highness explains. “We are birthing a new nation, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what they create.”
Below, the passionate royal shares her favorite fashion memories, her opinion on how clothing empowers women, and the one piece of style advice she’d like to share with the world.
Photo: HRH Princess Noura AlFaisal
Fashion seems to have always been a point of interest for you. Can you tell us how this love story began? What is your earliest memory related to fashion?
I grew up in a family of strong women. My mother and her sisters were all independent, and had a strong sense of self that they expressed through their style. My earliest memories are of these beautiful women, and I remember wanting to be just like them.
Are there any looks from the past Saudi Cups that remain your favorites?
I think we all remember Honayda Alserafy, and the beautiful clothes she designed for the Saudi Cup, and HRH Prince Bandar bin Khalid looked wonderful in Art of Heritage. On a personal note, I loved the outfit that Shahd AlShehail (founder of clothing label Abadia) made for me last year. But there are many images that pop up in my head. It was such a beautiful couple of days.
Just like 2022, 2021’s Saudi Cup dress code focused heavily on spotlighting the traditional clothing of the Kingdom. Would you say that this year’s dress code is in any way different from last year’s? Now that the world is opening up post Covid, do you think that this year’s looks will be even more extravagant or celebratory?
Last year felt like a celebration to me. At the time, we were seeing a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of lockdown, the Saudi Cup winner was a Saudi horse, and it was the first time we had seen HRH Prince Mohammad Bin Salman in public in a very long time. I think it is best to just wait and see what this year brings—but it is very exciting!
Photo: Lina Mo. Designer: ArAm by Arwa Alammari. Stylist: Zeina Kilani. Makeup: Hessa AlAjaji. Hair: Amani Al-Shamrani. Creative direction: Latifa bint Saad. Creative lead: Saif Hidayah. Curation: Hatem Alakeel. Production manager: Ahmed AlSenan.
‘Fashion’ is a concept that is much larger than just stylish clothes. It helps us express ourselves and stand out as individuals. How would you say that fashion empowers women—and Arab women—in particular?
Fashion does indeed express an individual’s personality, but I don’t think it’s limited to women and not especially Arab women. In my experience, Arab women have always had a strong sense of self identity, and they have many ways in which they express that. Like all women, fashion is one of the many tools they use to do so.
Every country, every region has its own national costume. However, what is it that you think makes the traditional pieces of our region such a joy to wear?
The variety, colors and patterns all combine to make our costumes unique. The fact that every pattern comes from a different region and the way it is worn expresses so much about the person wearing it. It is very nuanced and extremely beautiful.
As someone who has dedicated so many years to Saudi fashion, do you see our traditional crafts slowly fading away, or have you been able to witness a resurgence of our age-old techniques? Does the future of Saudi fashion look promising to you?
I have dedicated my life’s work to supporting the design ecosystem in Saudi Arabia, with all its various streams. And yes, across the board, there was a sense of losing many of the traditional crafts. But all the hard work of the MOC, and many other entities as well, has helped build a resurgence in our connection to our heritage. I truly believe that the younger generation has the ability to protect, preserve and revive theses crafts. The future of Saudi fashion is abundant and full of potential.
If there was one piece of style advice you could share with the younger generations in the Kingdom, what would it be?
Be authentic, be yourself.
Lastly, can you tell us a little bit about what we might see you dressed in during the Saudi Cup?
Now, that I will keep to myself for now!
Below, a look at some of the best traditional ensembles spotted at the Saudi Cup 2021.
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