As the abaya witnesses a global resurgence, the sixth edition of Arab Fashion Week opened Wednesday with fallen angels, Rococo corsets, cupcake headbands and nary a kaftan in sight.
Billed as an official fashion week alongside the famed Paris, Milan and London shows, the Arab edition of fashion week is the sole event dedicated entirely to ready-couture and pre-collections.
Hosted on the Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship, the show, which prides itself on its Arab name, opened with angel-inspired and baroque kitsch collections by designers from Russia, Portugal, the UAE, the Philippines, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and more.
Designer Furne One, loved in Dubai for his ethereal designs, opened the four-day affair with his "White Noise" resort collection, inspired by angels both cherubin and fallen.
With winged white liner, pearl teardrops beneath their eyes and nude fishnet stockings, his models walked the runway in hot-pants, tea-length dresses, mermaid gowns and sheer flowing capes, draped head-to-toe in lace, voile and crystals.
"The inspiration about this collection is angels. White angels, fallen angels all kinds of angels, who are here on earth — because we don't know," said One, whose popular collections are frequently inspired by mythical creatures.
"Angels are with us. They're with everybody."
Russia's Tatiana V Lyalina paid tribute to Marie Antoinette with a Rococo-inspired collection featuring pink heart-print pantsuits underneath bright blue fur stoles, teal velvet gowns with brooches, glitter knee boots, corsets and cupcake headbands.
The Arab Fashion Council has openly said it aims to spread ready-couture across the region — a form of fashion that is financially more accessible than haute couture, but pricier and slightly more exclusive than ready-to-wear.
The spread of ready-couture has not sat particularly well with traditional gatekeepers in the fashion world, but the growing influence of social media has seen its popularity continue to skyrocket.
The Arab Fashion Council is banking on that popularity to make its mark on the global scene.
"With the change of the market and the economy and the business of fashion, we have noticed that … even in Paris, in the last fashion week, there were many designers trying to shift from haute couture to ready-couture," said Jacob Abrian, head of the Arab Fashion Council.
Ahoy: QE2 unveiled as star setting for Arab Fashion Week
The looks from Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh - in pictures
"It is because of the economy, because of the financial status, because of social media, because of your social life. You tend to go to more events than before and you tend to spend less … but you will keep a certain level of luxury," Abrian told AFP.
"I believe this is a very important tool in our hands, that we can push Arab Fashion Week to become one of the first, most important fashion weeks in the next 10 years."
For five seasons exclusive to Dubai, Arab Fashion Week now has two editions: Dubai Arab Fashion Week, and Riyadh Arab Fashion Week, less than one month apart.
Saudi Arabia last month hosted its own version of the event, drawing press from around the world to a line-up that included trunk shows by Jean Paul Gaultier and Roberto Cavalli but did not include men or cameras.