Monday, May 15, 2006

Abaya Couture

Next, icecubes to Eskimoes?

RIYADH, May 15, 2006 (AFP) - France's famed international fashion school ESMOD is teaming up with an institute in Riyadh in its first foray in the conservative Gulf region, a legal adviser to the venture said Monday.

Undaunted by the fact that Saudi women have to cover from head to toe in public, ESMOD executives will on Tuesday sign a contract for an "associated school" with the French Institute of Fashion Design in Riyadh, a first step toward a franchise in the Saudi capital, Jochen Hundt told AFP.

While Saudi women must wear black abayas over their clothes in public in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, Hundt said: "Riyadh, which was very conservative, is opening up and has a large segment of rich people ready to spend on fashion."

The Middle East accounts for 40 percent of the clientele of haute couture, with Saudi Arabia the number one market, according to the organizer of a series of fashion shows held in the neighboring United Arab Emirates last week.

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