Women’s fashion another aspect of change in Saudi Arabia
DUBAI - Fashion and female empowerment are two concepts Renad Hefni was adamant to combine in her daily life.
After studying fashion design at Dar Al-Hekma University in Jeddah, Hefni propelled herself into the world of entrepreneurship with a clear idea in mind.
“When I was young, clothes always fascinated me,” she said. “I liked the idea that people always judged each other according to their outfit. When you want to look feminine, for instance, it’s a way to express yourself without speaking. So, I loved the idea of creating powerful clothes to make women feel powerful without them knowing it but looking it.”
She started her brand, Royaled, in her last year at university, following her dream.
“I knew before I had the opportunity to go into college when I was in high school, that this is what I wanted to do,” Hefni, 26, said. “The name Royaled comes from ‘royaling’ — someone or crowning someone — and is therefore about making women feel like they are queens.”
The pret-a-couture brand offers bespoke, powerful and stylish pieces, developed through careful tailoring and high-quality fabrics. Hefni described the brand as catering to women with no labels and no rules, crowning each other and lifting each other up, as fearless and unstoppable creators.
“The message is important because women should feel appreciated,” Hefni said. “I go around in the world looking at women and some of them don’t feel confident or powerful and they deserve gratitude.
“Women are daughters, mothers, teachers. They create generations so they should feel the power and if they don’t get it from people, they should feel it within themselves.”
Becoming an entrepreneur was not easy for Hefni, who faced a lot of difficulties starting out in the field.
“Creating a licence for the brand was one issue, as well as doing a fashion show,” she said. “Being in Saudi Arabia and creating something out of the box wasn’t easy but I’m still working on it. Being an entrepreneur and a woman in the kingdom has been a challenge but it’s going well so far.”
Her clients are diverse, ranging from Saudi women to foreigners, from the early 20s to the late 40s. Her target is Saudi women as the country shift towards modernism.
“Saudi Arabia is changing with progressive acts of openness,” she said. “Having women drive was a great step and my brand is about making women gain their power back.”
She spoke of the Saudi fashion scene as evolving as well, explaining that people were not necessarily “edgy” and “did not understand” her specific fashion when she started. “They liked it but they never wore it,” Hefni said. “In the first year, I didn’t make a lot of sales. People enjoyed looking at it, mainly, but after the progressive act of Saudi Arabia, the market changed.”
Along with that, she said, came more travel among young Saudi women, calling for a need for more stylish clothes.
“They wanted to look unique, so they decided to go to local designers because sales were less than international brands,” Hefni said. “As the kingdom changed, so did the habits of women in shopping. Women used to be inside the lines. They thought they had guidelines in how they dressed and appeared and they didn’t want to look too bold and out there so they were too safe.”
Dubai, she explained, offers a lot to foreigners who wish to pursue their passion but Saudi women, in her opinion, have a lot to offer as well.
“They have the potential to show more and I believe that, in the next five years, people will hear a lot about Saudi women. They will thrive and everyone is going to hear about it. It won’t take away from Dubai but the Saudi woman is capable of a lot,” Hefni said.
The Jeddah-born designer said she has ambitious plans, including fashion shows in New York, Paris or London. “I want to take it to the next level, somewhere international,” Hefni said. “I need my brand to go to another level other than just a Saudi-based company and my aim is to do that in the next few years.”
Her advice for entrepreneurs is to drop their fear and take the risk, after studying the market thoroughly. “If you have a passion for anything, you should go for it,” she added. “Life is too short to just wish you are an entrepreneur.”
Hefni said she has high hopes for the evolution of women’s position in general.
“Women are taking action in being what they want to be,” she said. “We have people who used to sing behind closed doors and now they are signing at events so talents are emerging and people are showing that they are not afraid anymore. They can go out. They changed and they are not afraid to show who they are anymore.”