JEDDAH: Al-Balad, Jeddah’s historic district, was alight with youthful energy as Vogue Arabia magazine’s first block party, Hai Vogue, came to town.
On Feb. 8 and Feb. 9, the space was filled until the small hours with mini activations and expertly curated spaces showcasing talks, performances and, of course, the big reveal of the February cover of the magazine, which was shot just steps away in Al-Balad.
“Tonight is the culmination of years of effort and work from Vogue Arabia here in the Kingdom. Nearly six years ago, we started this special journey that actually began with Jeddah. And so, coming back to Jeddah for our first-ever Vogue brand event is a very special moment for us, and we’re very, very excited to be here,” Shashi Menon, CEO and founder of Nervora, the publisher of Vogue Arabia, told the crowd.
Saudi spoken-word artist Amal Al-Harbi began the festivities with her distinct booming voice and sharp wit, presenting a delicate poem on stage inspired by the beauty of Jeddah. Hejazi dancers entertained the crowd with traditional folk dance and singing throughout.
With Instagram-worthy spots aplenty, ticket-holders were invited to join a friendly game of mini-golf, basketball or to play at Jimmy Choo’s ping pong table. Other brands to create installations were Michael Kors, Birkenstock’s, Steve Madden, Aigner, Dyson House of Creed, Kiko Milano, Asteri Beauty, among others.
One of the most photogenic spaces was the wall presented by Jazeera Paints, decorated in original graffiti by artist Noura bin Saidan.
There was also a fun installation that mimicked a bathroom scene from Netflix’s “AlRawabi School for Girls” — perfect for mirror selfies. The young actresses from the show flew into Jeddah from Jordan for Hai Vogue to speak about their upcoming season on a special panel.
The actresses are the stars of the first February 2024 cover, which was revealed on the Vogue Arabia Instagram account shortly before the event began.
The second February 2024 cover, which was revealed for the first time on stage during Hai Vogue, featured 11 Saudi millennials.
Shot in the picturesque streets of Al-Balad, the cover lit up the stage in honor of the surroundings where it was captured. The cover stars are designer sisters Alia and Abeer Oraif of Atelier Hekayat; designer Arwa Al-Banawi; CEO of fashion consultancy Basamat Arabia, Aisha Almamy; Olympian rower Husein Alireza; entrepreneur and filmmaker Lina Malaika; designer Mohammed “Moe” Khoja; entrepreneur and popular personality, Nojoud Al-Rumaihi; actress Sarah Taibah; model Fay Foud; and the only Gen-Z on the list, boxer, Ziyad “Zizo” Almaayouf.
In addition, Saudi designers Yousef Akbar, Mohammed Khoja of Hindamme and Alia and Abeer Oraif of Atelier Hekayat were in conversation with Saudi media personality Lama Al-Akeel to discuss their personal journeys in the industry and their thoughts on fashion in the region and beyond.
There was plenty of music on both days. On the first day, Saudi pop star Mishaal Tamer serenaded the crowd while rapper Dafencii got the audience jumping. Saudi DJs Hifi, Cosmicat and Malkin filled the space on each of their sets with pulsing beats that had the crowd swaying in their seats. There were also food trucks offering an array of choices.
On day two, DJ Lujain Albishi, who is known professionally as Biirdperson, as well as DJ brothers, Abbas and Hassan Ghazzawi of Dish Dash, played songs on their independent sets. Saudi singer TamTam offered her empowering lyrics to the listeners, who sang along. Saudi’s own Hatoon Idrees filled Al-Balad with the distinct sound of her electric oud guitar and the Saudi-American rapper known as $kinny performed his debut show in Jeddah.
After his set, $kinny took time to interact with fans for a special meet-and-greet session that lasted until 2 a.m. Many of the performers and artists — as well as the cover stars — were there to mingle with the community.
Editor-in-chief of Vogue Arabia, Manuel Arnaut, told Arab News: “I love this combination of doing something historic in a place that is historical, and then doing something for the youth. So, I felt that (Al-Balad) was really the perfect venue that would allow us to speak about the past, but also to project the future … it could not be more magical than this.”
Arnaut said that the logo of Hai Vogue includes a silhouette of a cat because of the number of felines that roam around Al-Balad. They are, in a sense, the unofficial mascot of the city.
“I had this commitment and this passion to really to speak about the creativity that was happening here in Saudi Arabia. Since then, we’ve been thinking of what would be the perfect event to do to showcase it. And one day, with this friend of mine from Jeddah, we were walking in Al-Balad and I was like, ‘Wait!’”
The block party was created on the same space that Arnaut pointed out to his friend.
Vogue Arabia, which launched in 2017, was created as a response to the Arab world’s appetite for fashion, and has frequently featured Saudis within its pages. It is published in both Arabic and English and has become a leader in amplifying Saudi voices — and faces — for most of the past decade.
The publication had hosted formal events in Dubai for the past several years and it felt like the youthful energy of Saudi could do with a more casual vibe. It also, for the first time, invited the public to join in by purchasing tickets to attend one or both days, with a VIP pass for those interested in access to the rooftop after-party.
Hayat Oustki, who has lived in Jeddah for the past five years and works in the spray tan and beauty industry, came to Hai Vogue with her French friend, Tata Fatia, who is known in Paris as the “queen of spray tan.”
“I came to Saudi Arabia for the very first time just for this Hai Vogue event. My friend, Hayat, whom I trained in Paris in the spray-tan technique, brought me. I do Fashion Week and Cannes Festival and have spray-tanned many American stars,” Tata Fatia told Arab News.
“I came to see the Saudi market because I am thinking to launch my business here. Saudi women are so beautiful and fashionable — I was so happy to see. I want to meet Saudi influencers like Lama Al-Akeel, she is incredibly beautiful — as are all women here,” she said.
As the number of visitors started to trickle down, the editor-in-chief of Vogue Arabia said that it was not the end.
“We want to do it definitely next year. The idea is, it’s ‘Hai Vogue,’ so it’s the neighborhood. We want to also explore other neighborhoods; we would also love to do one in Riyadh. This would also let us explore different areas to show our readers about different places in Saudi Arabia — kind of like a postcard,” Arnaut said.