Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the past year, you won’t have missed the new wave of change happening in Saudi Arabia. From opening up its doors to tourism to granting women the right to drive, the country has been stirring up global attention that simply cannot go unnoticed. At the forefront of the progressive energy emanating from the Kingdom is the country’s youth culture – the rising voices and talents from the streets of Saudi who are key drivers in this new era of change.
One Jeddah-born talent who has interlaced her passion for fashion with her cultural heritage and her message of empowerment is Arwa Al Banawi. Having built her brand from her studio in Dubai Design District, the Fashion Designer has long been inspired by “all things Saudi” and her latest Capsule Collection with Pepsi is a nod to the past, the present and all the possibilities that the future holds.
The Saudi Dream
So, what exactly happens when you fuse the mind of a young fashion designer with the minds behind a soft drink that has been favourited by Saudi nationals since… forever? We met up with Arwa to talk about #TheSaudiDream – the inspiration behind the collection and the synergies with Pepsi that run throughout the collection.
“All the changes happening in Saudi have inspired this collection so much”, says Al Banawi, adding that she has “always shared the message of female empowerment. Now, there is no need for this to be said – it is happening. Change is happening. Women are driving, travelling, working – in all sectors. They are creating ‘The Saudi Dream’ for themselves.
From the streets of Jeddah…
Born and raised in Jeddah, the self-made fashion designer wants to represent her Saudi truth and speak to others who are witnessing the change and the possibilities so that they, too, can be inspired to achieve.
“If I take ‘The Saudi Dream’ back to its humble roots, I remember creating pin boards of fashion inspiration in my bedroom as a young girl. There weren’t the same resources available to us as there are now”, says Al Banawi; “I was dreaming about the day I would become a designer – how I felt; that was my Saudi dream. I brought that dream to life, and there are so many others like me who are fulfilling – and will fulfil – their Saudi dreams.”
The thinking behind the Pepsi collaboration
Pepsi and fashion: not two words that you would immediately connect. But with Pepsi taking creative collaborations to new heights, we asked Arwa to take us through the journey that make the two brands such a match.
“This collection is all about the raw Saudi youth – the music, the arts, the streets of Jeddah. And Pepsi is just as much a part of Saudi street culture and tradition”. Relaying those weekend habits in Saudi, Al Banawi says that “it’s like tradition to order Al Baik (our Saudi McDonald’s) on a Friday – to sit in a room with Arabic seating and enjoy the meal – with a Pepsi. Pepsi is so relevant to the street food movement in Saudi; it’s nostalgic and reminds us of our street culture during these foodie get-togethers.”
Taking about what the essence of the word ‘fashion’ means to her, Al Banawi says that “fashion is so much more than design and fabrics; it incorporates every artistic element around. It’s an expression of who we are, and Pepsi (‘bebsi’, as we joke) is infused into our Saudi traditions. Pepsi became this huge thing – way back in the 70s – and evolved into this brand that is a part of our everyday. So, taking the vintage logo of Pepsi, along with the pastel colours of the 90s, and fusing it into the collection is just so relevant to our Saudi street culture. It is reminiscent of the past and how that past evolves into its own future.”
Creating a movement
Sticking to what she believes in as a designer, Arwa Al Banawi wants to show the world the Saudi traditions that are at the core of her design aesthetic, while modernising it for the Saudi Arabia of now.
“As Saudis, we are very in touch with our roots, but we are also very in touch with the world around us. I love interlinking my Saudi heritage and culture with modern aesthetics – it’s an evolving merge of East-meets-West”. Al Banawi further elaborates on design details by informing us that “the messaging and the Arabic calligraphy aims to convey the message of change and aspiration. You’ll see that many designers are now using Arabic calligraphy and design; it is really picking up momentum, so I am proud to have inspired both designer and consumers.”
The message behind ‘The Saudi Dream’
At the core of this Capsule Collection with Pepsi is confidence, says Al Banawi: “Confidence in who we are as Saudis; confidence to represent our cultural heritage and speak about who we are. It’s all the possibilities that we can bring to life in a Saudi Arabia that is evolving and changing during our time, and I would like to thank my country for inspiring me to live my Saudi dream; this beautiful time we are living in now is an inspiration to all Saudi dreamers”. Offering a final word of advice to the Saudi youth, Al Banawi encourages all to “Live your ‘Saudi Dream’ – it’s THE Saudi Dream; it belongs to all of us, so make it happen.”
In an age where Instagram is rife with brand collaborations, it is refreshing to see Pepsi localising its brand tie-ups through creative collabs that hit the mark when it comes to youth culture and regional resonance. Check out the Pepsi x Arwa Al Banawi video story for a further insight into the collection.