In its first report, “The State of Fashion in Saudi Arabia,” the Saudi Fashion Commission laid out a vision to develop the entire fashion ecosystem over the next 10 years, with more domestic product development and manufacturing as a key pillar. The growth of the sector. Is it possible to sell “Made in Saudi Arabia”? The commission is betting big.
Saudi Arabia imports more than $7 billion worth of fashion products every year, according to the Fashion Commission. Burak Cacmak, the commission’s chief executive, said producing “even a fraction of this amount” would open up important opportunities for the local value chain.
Formerly dean of fashion at New York’s Parsons School of Design, Kakmaq heads the Saudi Fashion Commission, which is tasked with facilitating the industry’s growth.
“As the retail front-end grows, we need to develop the technical back-end of the industry. That includes everything from the materials we produce here and how circular and sustainable we design, develop and manufacture here,” Kacmak said.
The Kingdom’s tender represents an opportunity for manufacturers, logistics providers and specialist machinery suppliers to rapidly increase capacity over the next decade. Bringing back even 20 percent of imported fashion goods would generate $1.3 billion in additional domestic manufacturing sales, the report found. To support this growing consumer demand, the Commission is engaging foreign direct investors. Fashion, an integral part of Saudi Arabia’s cultural economy, is part of controversial Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud’s Vision 2030 plan to wean the economy away from petroleum.
“We started from scratch creating this,” Cacmac told WWD. “While that has its challenges, it is also an opportunity. The real advantage of the Saudi fashion sector is that it is so new that we have the opportunity to do things differently and be more sustainable.
The absence of any large legacy manufacturing operations, combined with the young, tech-savvy designers, is an ideal environment for greater technology adoption. “We are investing in innovation in a big way in the Kingdom. Key areas of focus for us are sustainable material solutions, from recycled materials to alternative products,” he said.
The fashion commission is tapping into advanced materials science to create synthetic fibers and related yarns and textile production, as well as dyeing and printing operations, using the Kingdom’s expertise in the international petrochemical sector. They are supporting the establishment of a sustainable materials research center at the King Abdulaziz University Science and Technology Center. According to Cacmak, the long-term goal is to make more sustainable materials not only for the benefit of Saudi Arabia, but also for the rest of the world.
Regionally produced fashion could account for up to 30 percent of the ready-to-wear fashion market by 2025, according to the report. Modest wear continues to be a key driver in the regional fashion industry. “The vision is to create, create and develop a whole range of fashion products in Saudi Arabia,” Kakmak said.
Already, a first-of-its-kind product development studio will open in Riyadh by the end of 2023. The space, funded by the commission, features the latest technology, including 3D knitting and laser cutting machines. The production site allows designers to prepare prototypes and samples to accelerate market entry.
“Designers did not have access to the entire fashion value chain – that is, there was little opportunity to convert creativity into actual fashion products,” said Cacmac. “Rapid response manufacturing serves the growing design scene in the area, which struggles with long production times and small purchase orders for factories in Europe and China.”
Manufacturing provides local consumers with the right mix of quality, affordability and price, making them less dependent on international brands and more inclined to buy locally made garments. The commission is also setting up a content development studio to be launched next month, which will include photo studios and content editors to develop brand stories.
“We hope to draw international attention to what is happening in Saudi Arabia. “International partnerships and investments will be critical to our success,” said Cacmak.