FRANCA OF ARABIA: Vogue Italia editor in chief Franca Sozzani will host a three-day fashion extravaganza called the Jeddah Vogue Fashion Experience in Saudi Arabia next month, WWD has learned. The event is being dubbed the first international fashion event of its scale in Saudi Arabia, a market that is gaining increased attention due to its expanding design industry and spending power.

“This initiative builds on Vogue Italia’s deep commitment to promote new fashion talents, knowing how important it is to offer them relevant and concrete international platforms to present and advance their creativity,” Sozzani told WWD.

Under the umbrella of the Vogue Talents platform, a team at Vogue Italia led by senior fashion editor Sara Maino will select 10 Saudi female designers to present at the event, cohosted by Saudi luxury retailer Rubaiyat. One winner will get the chance to present her collection in Milan. All the finalists will exhibit their work at the Rubaiyat department store in Jeddah and will have the opportunity to showcase and sell their collections at the Stars Avenue Mall.

“It is tremendously rewarding to see Saudi women being given such an opportunity on the world stage,” commented Wafaa Abbar, president of the Rubaiyat Group.

Sozzani has previously hosted an annual Vogue Fashion Experience event in Dubai where she has brought in the likes of Riccardo Tisci, Naomi Campbell, Silvia Fendi, Alberta Ferretti and Christian Louboutin. In keeping with conservative Saudi Arabia, the Jeddah Vogue Fashion Experience will be a women’s only forum that also includes a charity gala dinner benefiting the World Food Program.

Holding the event in Saudi Arabia is an unconventional move, given that women are quite limited in their movements and ability to drive and move about freely without a male chaperone. Jeddah is considered the center of the design and arts world in the country.