RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia, which is opening to new opportunities and looking to build traction around tourism, culture and tradition, has caught the eye of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Parsons School of Design, which have both pledged to invest in the country’s emerging fashion and business talent.
On Monday, the first day of the inaugural Fashion Futures conference, which is backed by the Ministry of Culture, LVMH pledged a $500 million fund aimed at investing in, and supporting, young designers and creatives in the GCC, which comprises Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.
During a keynote speech, Ravi Thakran, group president, LVMH South Asia and South-East Asia, Australia and Middle East, touted the runaway growth across the entire region, calling it “the factory of the world” and arguing that it will evolve into a “creator of brands” over the next decade.
He said the $500 million fund will allow LVMH “to work hand in hand with the Ministry of Culture to develop and promote talent” in Saudi, the largest GCC country, and to enable “regional entrepreneurs to develop businesses” and disrupt the market.
Earlier in the day, Hamed M. Fayez, vice minister, Ministry of Culture, announced a five-year scholarship program for young Saudi designers at The New School’s Parsons School of Design in New York.
“Nurturing young talent is absolutely vital to our goal of developing a thriving cultural sector in Saudi Arabia. Parsons is the number-one fashion school in America, and Saudi designers will now be able to listen and learn from the best, as well as contribute their own ideas and work, to the ever-changing world of design and fashion,” he said.
The scholarship program is one pillar of the ministry’s plan to address the needs of the local fashion community. Fayez said the country would also set up an incubator for entrepreneurial businesses, a residency program to develop talents and strategic partnerships with key players in the industry.
“We want to create a vibrant and forward-looking eco-system (around fashion), which is a beacon of innovation and creativity,” he said.
At the close of a gala dinner on Monday, students from four schools in Saudi Arabia — Dar Al-Hekma, Princess Nourah University, Um Al-Qura University and Arts and Skills Institute — worked backstage on a fashion show, which included looks from Saudi designers and brands such as Stella McCartney, Simone Rocha and Off-White.
Fashion is one of the 16 sectors the Ministry of Culture is seeking to develop as part of its cultural vision launched earlier this year. The two-day Fashion Futures conference, which will also address sustainability challenges, wraps on Tuesday.