The Kingdom of Kindah, the city of Thaj, Tantora, and the Hejazi "Rawashin"… all these Saudi Arabian historic treasures are now woven on garments, and widely used in the fashion industry to recall stories from the past, and express the pride of Saudi women in their precious heritage.
“It’s not as easy as it seems,” says Saudi fashion designer Hanan Al-Turki, who uses her drawing talent to weave those landmarks and antiquities on female garments, mostly Abayas. Having a father with a wide interest and knowledge in archeology, Al-Turki obtains the information and historic facts she needs from his archive, which enhances her inspiration based on ancient civilizations in Saudi Arabia.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, the designer explains that many request her Abayas inspired by Saudi history, noting that her debut in the fashion industry goes back to 2006, when she coincidentally embroidered one of her drawings on an Abaya. The piece was displayed at the time and many loved the idea of it, which encouraged her to move forward in this industry.
"In light of our country’s significant interest in antiquities, I have increasingly focused on drawings inspired by our old heritage and historic landmarks," she said.
The Tantora Abaya, featuring "Qasr al-Farid" or "The Lonely Castle" from the Nabatean Tombs in AlUla region (western Saudi Arabia), is one of Al-Turki's best known designs. The history of Al Diriyah is also featured on one of her Abayas. The designer notes that she had to read many books on this city, its old buildings and the materials used in their construction, engravings, wooden windows, and iron pillars to draw the most beautiful details reflecting its history.
The "Rawashin" and "Mashrabiyas," a prominent Hejazi architecture feature, are among the most requested drawings, says Al-Turki. The designer has managed to seamlessly integrate Mashrabiyas' historic beauty and significance in her designs.
The Abaya inspired by the Kingdom of Kindah highlights the uniqueness of construction, jewelry, and pottery of that era. "It was like a dream. To design this Abaya, I had to watch a video so I can reimagine the picture in my head and assemble the unique details," she noted.
Al-Turki's rich collection includes designs that explore the history of Ḥaʼil, engravings from Al Ahsa region, and the Rashrash necklace (large gold necklace widely known in Saudi Arabia). The designer explained that she used a 3D design technique to integrate special engravings inspired by Najd region, and the Eastern Province as well.
There is also the Saudi Ardah Abaya (Ardah is a Saudi folkloric dance), described by Al-Turki as "bold," because of its vivid colors, and the Asiri Qatt Abaya inspired by the popular murals in Asir region. "I like the idea of delivering an artistic and cultural message in each design. Every piece I make comes with a little note that explains the details of the abaya," the designer said.
These efforts come from a growing enthusiasm among Saudi women to renew the concept of Abayas, and an eagerness to reflect their identity and the authenticity of their country's history in their garments. This trend encouraged many fashion designers to explore new areas that combine modern appearance with heritage, and to use fashion in promoting the value of the Saudi Arabian heritage.