Saudi Women’s Football League launched

24/02/20

Community sports for female athletes in the Kingdom took another giant step forward after the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) inaugurated on Monday the Women’s Football League (WFL) at a launch event in Riyadh. (AN Photo/Bashir Saleh)
Community sports for female athletes in the Kingdom took another giant step forward after the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) inaugurated on Monday the Women’s Football League (WFL) at a launch event in Riyadh. (AN Photo/Bashir Saleh)
  • The first season of the WFL, a nationwide initiative, will be held in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam
  • League inaugurated by president of Saudi Sports for All Federation

RIYADH/DUBAI: Community sports for female athletes in the Kingdom took another giant step forward after the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) inaugurated on Monday the Women’s Football League (WFL) at a launch event in Riyadh.

It is the latest initiative led by SFA President Prince Khaled bin Al-Waleed bin Talal to promote grassroots sports activities for budding female and male athletes across Saudi Arabia.

“The development of the WFL came about because we understood there was a need for community-level football for women,” Prince Khaled told Arab News.

“This community league is the first activation of many different community-level sports for women, and it will serve as a great model in terms of league infrastructure and inclusion metrics, contributing to Saudi Vision 2030 and the Quality of Life program.”

Fully funded by the SFA, the WFL is a nationwide community-level league for women aged 17 and above.

Sports for All | الرياضة للجميع@Saudi_SFA

Saudi Sports for All Federation inaugurates the official Women’s Football League at the community level in the Kingdom https://bit.ly/2VkvUeW  @WFLeagueKSA

Saudi Sports for All Federation inaugurates the official Women’s Football League at the community…

Saudi Sports for All Federation inaugurates the official Women’s Football League in the Kingdom

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In its first season, it will take place in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, with more cities potentially joining in due course.

With a prize of SR500,000 ($133,285) at stake, the WFL will consist of preliminary rounds taking place across the three cities to establish regional champions.

The winners progress to a knockout competition, the WFL Champions Cup, to determine the national champion, with the date of the final to be announced later in the season.

Prince Khaled thanked King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority, for their “boundless support.”

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: Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Sports for All Federation to Arab News: “The development of the WFL came about because we understood there was a need for community level football for women” https://arab.news/g8a2b 

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: Prince Khaled Al-Waleed bin Talal speaking to Arab News about the upcoming Women’s Football League in http://arab.news/g8a2b 

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The WFL “is one more major leap forward for the future of our country, our health, our youth, and our ambitions to see every athlete be recognized and nurtured to their fullest capability,” said Prince Khaled.

Women’s football is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup raised its profile to unprecedented levels, inspiring greater participation across the globe.

Inspiration for female footballers at the grassroots level has come from closer to home, Prince Khaled said.

“I think a big inspiration for young Saudi women to get involved in community-level football is the Saudi Greens Team,” he said, referring to the all-female team established by the SFA.

“The Saudi Greens placed second in the Global Goals World Cup last year, and this was a huge moment for young female athletes in the Kingdom.”

Prince Khaled sees the WFL as a pivotal initiative of the SFA and a major driver behind the realization of the Vision 2030 reform plan, which strives for a healthier and more active society.

SFA Managing Director Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini believes that the WFL will significantly improve the visibility of women in sports and prioritize their fitness, health and wellness.

Some of the women at the launch event. (AN Photo/Bashir Saleh)

“Empowering women comes through positive and proactive programs like the WFL that have been conceptualized to continue to have a lasting impact on health, fitness and wellbeing,” she said.

“The SFA, committed to putting women at the forefront of our mission to grow Saudi Arabia’s healthy and active community, continues to engage public and private sector stakeholders to realize this aim together.”

She said this is a qualitative shift in women’s sports in the Kingdom. Spearheaded by Sara Al-Jawini, the SFA’s director of sports development, the federation “studied all aspects of the new league, conducting continuous workshops to ensure the wider WFL infrastructure and lasting impact metrics,” Al-Husseini added.

The SFA has ensured that the football pitches are ready for the start of the WFL in March, with all-female organizational and technical teams in place to manage the various committees working toward delivering the league.

The WFL infrastructure teams will address and complete administrative requirements, refereeing, and technical and medical issues.

Coaching and refereeing courses are planned to further develop the country’s infrastructure for women in sports.

The SFA’s investment in the WFL includes both women’s coaching and women’s refereeing training to fully flesh out the program’s potential and maintenance.

At a later stage, the SFA and WFL will be communicating details on additional leagues and football events, as well as festivals targeting girls aged 16 and below.

These competitions, under the banner “Beyond Football,” will focus on building a strong base for future participation at the community level, beginning with girls aged 5.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi women ‘are in no need of being rescued’

23/02/20

  • Few outside Kingdom understand the scale of female empowerment, top US diplomat tells Arab News

RIYADH: Few people outside Saudi Arabia grasp the scale of the Kingdom’s reform drive, especially in empowering women, a leading US diplomat has told Arab News.

“I was reminded of this … by a prominent Saudi woman, who is happy and proud of the reforms,” said US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.

“She made the excellent point that Saudi women have been strong, capable and educated for a long time.”

The woman told Ortagus that Saudi women wanted their peers in the US to understand them, not feel pity for them. “Saudi women are not in need of being rescued,” Ortagus said,

READ FULL INTERVIEW: Saudi-US bond will last another 75 years, says US State Department spokesperson

Ortagus lived in Saudi Arabia for almost two years after she was appointed deputy US Treasury attache in 2010, and has been revisiting for the first time since then.

“It doesn’t even seem like the same country,” she said. “I didn’t recognize it. I couldn’t believe that it was the same diplomatic quarter that I used to live in 10 years ago — it is totally transformed.”

Washington would always welcome Saudi input on Middle East issues, she said. “We’d love the Kingdom’s help on things like the peace plan and vision that Jared Kushner has laid out. It may not be a perfect plan, but if we’re ever going to have peace in this region, it’s going to come from Saudi Arabia getting in and being involved.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Women front and center in Saudi Arabia’s transformation

23/02/20

A recent international report praised Saudi Arabia for the measures it has taken in the past two years toward empowering women. (AFP)

A recent international report praised Saudi Arabia for the measures it has taken in the past two years toward empowering women.

“Saudi Arabia has made the biggest improvement in the index since 2017, increasing by 38.8 points,” stated the World Bank in its latest report, “Women, Business and the Law 2020,” on laws and regulations affecting women’s economic opportunity in 190 countries. The study analyzed the progress women have achieved under eight indicators: Mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets, and pension. The indicators are used to build evidence of the relationship between legal gender equality and women’s entrepreneurship and employment. The study tracked how the law affects women at various stages of their lives, from the basics of transportation to the challenges of starting a job and getting a pension.

The fact that this year’s report highlighted Saudi Arabia’s improvements in its laws affecting women is a huge testament to the efforts of the Kingdom in empowering women and ensuring they have equal opportunities.

The report confirmed Saudi Arabia’s positive reforms in six out of the eight indicators. Under the mobility indicator, it pointed to the changes affecting women’s freedom of movement by being able to drive and no longer needing permission from a male guardian to travel abroad or to obtain a passport.

Under the marriage indicator, the report mentioned Saudi Arabia’s amendment of the Civil Status Law to allow women to choose where to live in the same way as men can, by removing a provision that made the husband’s home a married couple’s default residence and allowing women to be head of the household. In addition, a husband can no longer sue his wife for leaving the marital home because the law that required a woman to obey her husband was repealed.

Regarding the workplace indicator, the Kingdom criminalized sexual harassment in public and private sector employment, allowed women greater economic opportunities, and legal amendments now protect women from discrimination in employment, including job advertisements and hiring.

Under parenthood, Saudi Arabia prohibited dismissing a woman during her entire pregnancy and maternity leave.

The country also equaled the retirement age for women and men at 60 years, extending women’s working lives, earnings and contributions, which is related to the pension indicator. Finally, Saudi Arabia also encouraged women’s entrepreneurship by prohibiting gender-based discrimination in accessing financial services.

The report acknowledges that these reforms build on other historic changes in Saudi Arabia, which in 2015 allowed women to vote and run as candidates in municipal elections for the first time and in 2018 gave them the right to drive.

The report gives credit to the Saudi leadership for understanding that women play an important role in moving the country closer toward achieving its Vision 2030

Maha Akeel

The World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law index also provided a list of the remaining legal constraints on women’s participation in the economy. Where Saudi Arabia still needs to make improvements, according to the report, is under pay (laws on equal pay, working night shifts, in dangerous jobs and the same industries for men and women) and assets (equal ownership, inheritance, administrative authority over assets, and valuation of nonmonetary contributions). Some of these indicators might pose a problem for cultural and religious reasons, due to the misunderstanding by non-Muslims of Islamic inheritance laws that are applied in Saudi Arabia.

Overall, the report gives credit to the Saudi leadership for understanding that women play an important role in moving the country closer toward achieving its Vision 2030, which aims to modernize the Saudi economy by diversifying it beyond oil and gas, promote private sector growth, and support entrepreneurship. In order to achieve these goals, Saudi Vision 2030 identified among its goals increasing women’s labor force participation from 22 percent to 30 percent.

Reforming the legal rights of women is also good from an economic perspective. Research clearly shows that reforms and policies that empower women boost economic growth because, when women are able to move more freely, work outside the home and manage assets independently, they are more likely to join the workforce and strengthen the economy. It is important to point out that the reforms do not contradict Islamic laws.

For so long, Saudi Arabia was at the tail end of reports and lists of countries promoting women’s rights, citing such issues as women being prohibited from driving, traveling, working and conducting their affairs without a male guardian’s permission. The Kingdom was constantly criticized and admonished for treating women as second-class citizens.

Not anymore. Today, Saudi women stand front and center in the transformation of the Kingdom under the guidance of its leadership. This was clearly demonstrated when Saudi Arabia took the helm of the G20.

In the G20 events and conferences, Saudi women have been given leadership positions and responsibilities. Most engagement groups and task forces are chaired or co-chaired by women and a woman has been appointed Sherpa. Women’s participation as experts and professionals is high in various fields, including the environment, cybersecurity and finance, not just in the usual and expected fields of business, education and management, where Saudi women have long been an unrecognized driving force.

Under this year’s G20 theme of “Realizing opportunities of the 21st century for all,” Saudi Arabia is focusing on empowering people, especially women and the youth, safeguarding the planet and shaping new frontiers. Under these headlines, Saudi Arabia is giving women the opportunity to shine.

• Maha Akeel is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. Twitter: @MahaAkeel1

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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Gem of history, Diriyah is ‘gateway’ to future of Saudi Arabia

22/02/20

Behind the scenes: The ladies taking a commemorative photo in Diriyah. Diriyah Gate Development Authority’s employees feel a sense of pride, nurturing their county and showcasing its history. (AN photo)

  • Danielle Atkins: ‘If you want to see Vision 2030 in 2020 just come to my office. DGDA really does embody Vision 2030 in 2020’

One of Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects and most beloved sites is the home of the founding fathers, Diriyah.

In one year, it has played host to Russian President Vladimir Putin, numerous delegates and was the prime location for Formula E, but behind all the glitz and glamour, a team of Saudis are working hard to make it a major tourist destination.

Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA), is going local with its employees — 278 out of 355 are Saudi, with 45 from Diriyah. The employees feel a sense of pride, nurturing their county and showcasing its history.

Established in July 2017, the DGDA aims to preserve the culture of Diriyah, celebrate its community, and make it a landmark that celebrates Saudi Arabia.

Considered one of the Kingdom’s most important historical sites and the capital of the first Saudi state, Diriyah is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of At-Turaif, a mud-brick city that stands as the birthplace of the first Saudi state.

“Diriyah has a special place in my heart because it’s the home of my forefathers. It’s an honor for me to add to their legacy and to improve upon this cartel of history that is so full of meaning,” said Princess Al-Johara Al-Saud, the DGDA’s branded content and collaboration officer, to Arab News. “I am privileged to be part of a team that’s sole focus is to give Diriyah its proper place as the jewel of the Kingdom.”

FASTFACTS

  • Diriyah Gate Development Authority was established in July 2017 to preserve Diriyah’s culture, celebrate its community and make Diriyah known globally as a landmark that celebrates Saudi culture and history.
  • Diriyah highlights the architectural, diplomatic and artistic legacy of Saudi Arabia.
  • Diriyah is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of At-Turaif, a mud-brick city that stands as the birthplace of the first Saudi state.

Merging past, present, and future, “Diriyah is the gateway of the future of Saudi Arabia,” said Danielle Atkins, chief of marketing and communications officer at the DGDA. She said that the team were all young and Saudi, and “if you want to see vision 2030 in 2020 just come to my office. The DGDA really does embody Vision 2030 in 2020.”

Al-Johara was one of Atkins’ first hires. “I feel empowered and supported, working alongside so many prominent women in the marketing team,” she said. “We all feel so proud to be contributing to the preservation and promotion of Diriyah, under the umbrella of Vision 2030 and the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His mission to enable women in Saudi Arabia has driven us to push forward and to play an instrumental role in making the vision a reality in 2020.”

The marketing team at DGDA, headed by Atkins, is composed of 31 employees, 18 of whom are women. Atkins’ goal is to empower Saudi women and to have them as confident leaders taking the reins.

One of the DGDA’s initiatives is its graduate program. Launched in November 2019, 19 people enrolled, 79 percent of whom were females. The students are expected to complete the program by November 2020, with the possibility of joining the DGDA as full-time team members.

Haifa Al-Ruwaished is currently in the graduate program, and being from Diriyah, she says it was an honor to be able to work alongside passionate and enthusiastic members serving both her county and country.

Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the DGDA, said: “This is such an inspiring time for Saudi youth, especially women, and we are proud to play our part. We are passionate about giving back to the communities of Diriyah and knew that we needed to start with the talent of tomorrow. The graduates from Diriyah that have become part of the DGDA are already stars and I’m confident they will take important roles in shaping the future of the Kingdom. We are especially proud that a majority of the graduates who have joined are women.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia reaps $53bn dividend from emerging market status

21/02/20

Saudi Arabia and the broader GCC region are tapping into emerging markets in more ways than one. (Shutterstock)

The country finalized its entry into the JP Morgan suite of emerging market (EM) indices
In September 2019, Saudi Arabia reached an important milestone in its Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from its petrochemical revenue base.
The country finalized its entry into the JP Morgan suite of emerging market (EM) indices. It was the finale in a series of announcements by the major indexes, including MSCI, S&P and FTSE, confirming that Saudi Arabia met their inclusion criteria.
This is a testimony to the work of The Capital Markets Authority and Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange, Tadawul, which have driven the effort to modernize the Kingdom’s capital markets infrastructure and make it more investor friendly.
Saudi’s inclusion as an EM allows its entry to ETF’s, opening the country to billions of dollars-worth of outside investment, which would be otherwise closed to it.
An example, $1.9 trillion tracks the MSCI EM Index alone of which 80 percent is active and 20 percent passive. Given this, Saudi Arabia’s 2.8 percent country weighting represents an additional $53 billion in foreign capital flows to the country.
Looking into 2020, there are several considerations investors should bear in mind. Foremost among these are oil prices and a concurrent slowdown in growth, regional geopolitical tensions and — a potential boon for investors — the rise of fintech in the region.
Oil prices have swung between $55 and $75 a barrel this year against a backdrop of slowing global growth, trade tensions and geopolitical risks. Steep oil production cuts — undertaken in a bid to push up prices — have acted as a further drag on growth, in addition to weak external demand.
As a result, Saudi gross domestic product (GDP) growth is forecast to slow from 2.4% percent in 2018 to 0.2 percent this year. Across the GCC as a whole, GDP is expected to decelerate to 0.7 percent from 2 percent in 2018.
The region’s volatile geopolitics was highlighted in September when drone attacks targeted Saudi Arabia’s oil industry. Indeed, a recent “Future of Wealth” report by UBS, which canvassed investor opinion from around the world found that 83 percent of investors in the UAE), one of the GCC’s six members, think geopolitics is driving markets more than business fundamentals.
Despite the challenging geopolitical backdrop, globally, investors in the UAE are most optimistic about returns in the next decade: 85 percent versus 69 percent in the US, 65 percent in Asia and 72 percent in EMEA.
A potential bright spot for GCC investors heading into 2020 is the rise of the technology sector. Global groups, including Amazon, which chose Bahrain to launch its first data hub in the region, are flocking to service the region’s youthful, tech-savvy populations.
The development of a financial technology ecosystem is also a significant component of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 economic diversification strategy. It is seen as essential for broadening the country’s investment base and a transition toward a cashless digital economy. To this end, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority launched Fintech Saudi in April 2018 to catalyze the development of the industry.
The GCC is also at the forefront of innovation in the digital assets space. Earlier this year, the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange approved a digital currency trading platform, and the country’s sovereign wealth fund has invested in the venture.
Saudi Arabia and the broader GCC region are tapping into emerging markets in more ways than one. The Kingdom has a very ancient past — the prehistory of the country shows some of the earliest traces of human activity in the world — but its society and business infrastructure are undergoing rapid transformation. From welcoming in outside capital to being an eager adopter in the digital assets and fintech space, whatever lies beyond 2020 for the Kingdom and the region, it promises to be innovative, fast-moving and creative. However, it is vital for the long-term
health of the profession that the innovation and transformative energy in such obvious evidence are underpinned by sound professional standards.
We have a vital role to play in the development of the region’s capital markets via the provision of such standards, and crucially, education. The Kingdom is one of the fastest growing markets in MENA and we welcome its commitment to greater transparency and putting the interests of investors first. We also encourage more countries in the region to promote fairness, transparency and ethics in the investment profession.

This article was first published in Arab News

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The Face: Fatmah Al-Rashed, a Saudi architect

21/02/20

“Ithra was a wonderful opportunity and a joyful experience that added so much value to my life.”
Early on in life I learned that there is no one way to happiness, no one stereotype for accomplishment or self-satisfaction. This belief has been a drive for me to achieve more. I was born and raised in Alkhobar city; my father was a businessman and my mother was a housewife.

My life is rich with love provided by my family, my siblings, nieces and nephews and I’m enjoying motherhood and my family through nonconventional means.

My parents raised us as equals, they supported us, thought very highly of us and believed that we could excel in anything that we did. Our opinions were highly respected, but there were high expectations to be upheld.

My father once told me after finishing a novel on Marie Curie, “you know you’re no less than she is, you can be the Marie Curie in your own field. You have all it takes.”

I enrolled in the Imam Abdulrahman Al-Faisal University as I’ve always wanted to become a pediatrician. My parents raised my siblings and I with one motto in mind: “It’s not about you, it’s about how you can give back to your community.” My mother was not in favor of my chosen vocation. This is not to say that she went against me; in fact, I was given the freedom to decide my life path and my parents were supportive.

In those days, you had to apply to the university by physically providing all the necessary paperwork. As I stood in line to apply for medical school, I saw another queue. Inquisitive by nature, I went to ask what it was for. The administrators told me it was for the department of architecture and planning. Upon hearing that the course was just 5 years, I remembered my mother’s words, and within a minute, I decided to enroll in the department.

Two steps is all it took, stepping into the queue to the right and that decision changed my life’s path and helped make me who I am today. After graduating, I was hunting for jobs with no luck.

As I am not the type to lay back and do nothing, I volunteered to teach English at a local charity. One day, my father surprised me and said I had a job interview in Aramco.

I was shocked since I never applied and because it’s my father, he simply said that I applied for you because it’s time for you to give back. He told me: “The country invested in you, you are smart and you can take whatever job they give you. Who’s going to build the country but you and your generation?” Doors were opened.

I worked in my field for a while and that led me to the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture, also known as Ithra.

Twenty-five years later, I’m a still proud employee at Saudi Aramco and one of the first to bring the concept of Ithra to life. My role in Ithra began as an architect and was extended to be part of the creative team responsible for managing the creative program, its concept, and established the first Fablab at the King Fahad University for Petroleum and Minerals — the first in the Eastern Province. Building the concept of Ithra, or as I prefer to call it “the land of dreams,” was a group effort.

I joined with a dream and it was fate that we, the dreamers, were able to gather and meet at the right time and place, and most importantly we were given the opportunity to build something amazing.

This was a selfless act from our end because we wanted to see it come alive, to ensure that we played our part in giving back to a community that helped us grow to who we are today.

Ithra was a wonderful opportunity and a joyful experience that added so much value to my life. What comes next is going to also be part of my journey of growth, to explore our identity.

My life has been a whirlwind of opportunities. One lesson I learned was to never underestimate an opportunity no matter how small it was. You never know what you’ll get out of it.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Holocaust-based film ‘to screen at Red Sea Film Fest’

Time: 19 February, 2020

‘Resistance’ will be screened at the Red Sea Film Festival in March. (Supplied)
  • The Jonathan Jakubowicz-directed World War II film will mark the first time a film that explores the Holocaust will screen in the Kingdom
  • ‘Resistance’ tells the story of mime artist Marcel Marceau, who joins the French Resistance at the beginning of World War II in order to help save the lives of 10,000 Jewish orphans

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival unveiled its inaugural movie lineup this week, with a few surprises on the list, including Holocaust-based film, “Resistance.”

The Jonathan Jakubowicz-directed World War II film, starring Jesse Eisenberg as Marcel Marceau, who was a member of the French Resistance, will mark the first time a film that explores the Holocaust will screen in the Kingdom.

The significance was not lost on film aficionados, who took to social media to congratulate the Venezuelan director.

“Congratulations @JoJakubowicz I am very proud of all your achievements,” one user wrote. “A geopolitical achievement. Good job, Jonathan!” another user tweeted.

“I think it’s a promising move toward artistic freedom,” Makkah-based Saudi filmmaker Talal Wassmy told Arab News when asked what the implications of the screening would be.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Yahya, a Saudi film critic for movie-focused website filmphoria.com, added that “it is a great cultural shift toward a less prejudiced mindset. I am glad we are no longer beholden to one narrative when it comes to history.”

The biographical drama tells the story of a young French actor, Marcel Marceau, who joins the French Resistance at the beginning of World War II in order to help save the lives of 10,000 Jewish orphans from Nazi forces in France.

Marceau, who was also famous for being a mime artist that delighted audiences for decades as “Bip,” used his miming skills to keep the orphaned children comfortable and quiet during the risky smuggled escapes to Switzerland.

“The kids loved Marcel and felt safe with him,” the late actor’s cousin and commander of the French Resistance, Georges Loinger, told the Jewish Telegraph Agency in 2007, after Marceau’s death.

“The kids had to appear like they were simply going on vacation to a home near the Swiss border and Marcel really put them at ease.”

The full cast of the film includes Edgar Ramírez, Clémence Poésy, Bella Ramsey, Matthias Schweighöfer, Géza Röhrig, Karl Markovics, Félix Moati, Alicia von Rittberg and Vica Kerekes.

The film will be screened in Saudi Arabia before it is released in the US on March 27.

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Saudi shoe designer Lulu Al-Hassan shows off new collection at LFW

Time: 19 February, 2020

Saudi shoe designer Lulu Al-Hassan unveiled her latest collection at London Fashion Week. (Getty)

LONDON: OK ladies, take a deep breath and get ready for a new way of looking at shoes. Are they items to protect your feet? Fashion statements from towering heels to trending trainers? Comfy  friends or crippling assassins? Or as Lulu Al-Hassan, founder and creative director of the Lu Vixen luxury shoe brand would have it ‘lingerie for the feet?’

Yes, you heard that right. That was the message the Saudi national wanted to convey at her mind-boggling show at the Hotel Café Royal’s Oscar Wilde Lounge as part of “Stories from Arabia” at London Fashion Week.

It was as though someone in Hollywood had shouted: “I want a room full of international people of glamour – people of all races, all styles from outrageous to demure – and I want them to assemble in a big crush in the Oscar Wilde Lounge right now!”

Boom! I found myself transported into that opulent room and, to be honest, at first it was all a bit overwhelming. Pouting models with impossibly long legs reclined languidly on chaise lounges dotted around the room.

In the middle of all this glitter, glamour and mayhem stood Al-Hassan looking like Goldilocks. As she moved about the room in her floaty green gown, graciously posing for pictures with well-wishers, you had to admire her chutzpah.

In fact, one of Wilde’s quotes could have been written for her. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

She has bravely forged her own path to follow her passion for shoes. Her journey has not been an easy one, particularly as her family did not support her breaking away from her corporate career.

“My family really did not like my idea because I have a masters in IT from a good university in the US and I was holding a good position in Saudi Arabia,” she told Arab News. “All of sudden, I decided to quit all that and go to Italy and study shoe design which is my passion. It wasn’t easy because at that time Saudi wasn’t as open as it is today. So, I had to struggle and make my own way.”

She studied shoemaking and pattern cutting at Milan’s prestigious Arsutoria School, established in 1947. She also took pattern-cutting classes in London.

“I wanted this collection to be very chic and detailed,” she said about her latest collection. “We have used a lot of chiffon and delicate fabrics not usually associated with shoes. Lu Vixen is basically lingerie for the feet so the shoe has to be soft on your skin and comfortable.”

Alongside the stilettos with gold and silver metallic aspects paired with classic black were beautifully crafted lower-heeled shoes and sandals in suede and leather. Chiffon trims complement a palette of fuchsia, orange and lime green.

“I try to focus on a big range because whatever I like you might not like. It is important for women to understand their feet and to choose shoes not just by brand but by what works for them. What is comfortable for one woman might not be comfortable for another because everyone is different in terms of height and weight.”

Al-Hassan has made a success of a dream she nurtured from a very young age through using her initiative.

“Shoes are my passion. I have loved them since childhood and over the years I have done a lot to learn about the shoemaking craft. I used to be a collector and I taught myself. I studied the anatomy of the feet. I was so thirsty for knowledge. I used to travel and pay all my own costs to attend leather fairs and the like just to educate myself.”

The numbers of guests entering the Oscar Wilde Lounge for the show were restricted for safety reasons, meaning hundreds of people had to stand outside on Regent Street waiting for admission. That they did so on a cold February night is a big tribute to the designer, who is brimming with talent, vitality and fun.

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