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First Saudi’s female artist brings heritage to French fashion brand

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JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first contemporary female artist Manal Al-Dowayan brings her heritage in the handbag collection of the famous French brand ‘Dior’ in fashion history.

In an interview with Arab media, Al-Dowayan said, “Dior was cool enough to allow me to make a bag. You as an artist are supposed to take on the bag and change it and add to it. But I told them, I just thought I’d add something that is completely different, and they agreed to it. Now, we have made it together. It’s supposed to be a bag slash sculpture.”

Al-Dowayan bags collection made up of material and technique using leather stitching, 3D printing, calfskin leather, embroidered black feathers as well as black and white photographs with the Dior team.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Al-Dowayan said that the first bag, “The Boys,” was inspired by an artwork collection she made in 2016. “I had developed this one through reusing Kodak film slides that my father had taken in 1962 in Saudi Arabia, more specifically in Qassim,” she said.

The second bag collection “Landscapes of the Mind,” was inspired by her own collection made in 2009.

She further said, “When I had developed landscapes of the mind, I was looking at the concept of does this landscape belong to me? Or do I belong to it? So, it was really a question of belonging, and whether I was invited to stay on this landscape or, you know, women in public space were my question. So, we have to exist in private spaces. I think, with this bag, I am actually introducing this idea, but in a very different way. I think that the explosion of women in the public space, their open invitation to participate, and building and cooperating alongside their fellow men is a wonderful moment in our history. And I wanted it to be documented in the spec.”

Commenting on her third piece of collection Manal said, “Desert Rose,” Al-Dowayan said: “It is a form I’ve been exploring throughout my artistic practice in the past four years as a recent addition to my work and I’m very much interested in its ephemeral existence.”

“I’m not talking about modern art, but contemporary art. There are just very few people doing contemporary art and now the scene is full; it’s a great time to be an artist,” she said.

Manal Al-Dowayan will be participating in the “2139” exhibition in Jeddah that will be held on March 3.

Dior has started a fresh dialogue with Arab women by simply stating, “I see you,” she explained. “I’m not a fashionista, but I had a great time on this adventure.”

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