AHEAD of the Paris couture shows, top designers have joined a tricky exercise to glam up one of the world’s most traditional pieces, the abaya - the long black overgarment worn by millions of Arab women.
Unveiled the same week that French President Nicolas Sarkozy unleashed a storm across the Arab world for criticising the head-to-toe burka for women, the score of just-completed jazzed-up designer abayas are to be offered to the Saudi royal family by Saks Fifth Avenue of Riyadh and Jeddah. The presentation of the madeover abayas, held this week at the luxury George V hotel owned by a Saudi prince, seemed just another catwalk show in the world’s fashion capital, but within minutes morphed as a scene out of the Arabian Nights.
To music and amid a cloud of smoke, a mighty grey Arabian horse pranced into the ornate underground reception hall mounted by a Russian red-head riding side-saddle and clad in a rhinestone and sequinned shawl designed by John Galliano for the Saks collection. Following the horse came a score of models parading the abayas, each of them black but each very different. Other couturiers taking part in the scheme include French houses Nina Ricci and Jean Claude Jitrois, Italy’s Blumarine and Alberta Feretti, Australian Martin Grant and US designer Caroline Herrera. For more read here.