Feature. The Saudi female thobe HRH Princess Basma bint Majid bin Abdul-Aziz AlSaud is wearing is her own adaptation of a classic original, and she moves in it with the kind of effortless confidence reserved for a woman who feels at home in her own body and life. “The people who say that traditional dress inhibits a woman’s mobility don’t know the variety of choices we have in Saudi Arabia,” says the philanthropist, who is credited with launching a movement that bolsters fashionable traditional dress in the Kingdom, while also preserving the precious cultural patrimony of the country.
With its classic Islamic architecture contrasted with artwork by hot-ticket Arab names, the Four Seasons Resort in Dubai is the perfect backdrop for today’s photo shoot. There is a whole caravan of people involved and a handful of local onlookers. But the Princess is unfazed. Leaning against a gilded mosaic with her hands clasped, the princess wears a silk thobe dotted with embroidered pomegranates – an updated version of a dress that would typically be worn in the Kingdom’s central region by women from the Banu Tamim tribe. A vintage gold lariat encircles her neck, trailing down her torso like a summer vine. Her makeup is minimal and her face is elegantly ageless, but her expression is focused.
We are here to discuss the Princess’s innovative work with the Riyadh-based Art of Heritage organization. Under her leadership, and with the support of the board, including chairperson HRH Sara Al Faisal Abdul-Aziz, HRH Princess Haifa Al Faisal (who started the collection years ago), and HRH Princess Moudi bint Khalid bin Abdul-Aziz, it has been making waves by crafting contemporary luxury takes on traditional dress. All the garments are meaningfully produced by more than 100 female artisans who are employed full-time.