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Vogue Arabia to launch with Saudi princess as editor-in-chief

Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz has been appointed founding editor-in-chief [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 September, 2016

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Conde Nast International will launch a Vogue Arabia edition in October, with Saudi royal Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz as its editor-in-chief, marking the publisher’s striking tap into the Middle Eastern market.
Conde Nast International is set to launch Vogue Arabia in October, with a Saudi Princess as its editor-in-chief.

The publisher partnered with Dubai-based media company Nervora in a striking move into the Middle Eastern market.

Together, they will start a digital version of Vogue Arabia to run in both the English and Arabic language next month.

"There has been a growing demand for Vogue in the Arab world for some time, and now the time has come to make it a reality," Jonathan Newhouse, chairman and chief executive of Conde Nast International said.

Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz, 41, who is married into the Saudi royal family, has been appointed founding editor-in-chief.

"The Arab world consists of 350 million people, and they never had a Vogue," Abdulaziz told the Financial Times.

"The time has come, and it has been a long time coming.

"The Arab couture customer has been around since the 1960s – way before the Chinese and the Russian," she said.

"We might not be avant garde, but we are sophisticated, and we are going to showcase this."

Newhouse's controversial comments

The publisher's chief executive has not always considered the Arab world "en vogue".

In 2007, Newhouse strongly ruled out an edition of the glossy for the Arab audience, citing the region's "violent elements".

Responding to a query over the potential of licensing an Arabic-language version of Vogue, Newhouse said in a leaked e-mail: "Within the Arab world, or to be more accurate, the Muslim world, there is an element which accepts Western values.

"There is also a powerful fundamentalist, religious element which rejects Western values," Newhouse said.

"This element rejects freedom of expression, equality for women and expression of sexuality, to name three values associated with our publication.

"And this militant element is capable of aggressive opposition, even violence, to attain its goals. At its most extreme, this militant element is capable of murder.

"Our company has no wish to impose its values on a society which does not fully share them. And we do not wish to provoke a strongly negative, even violent reaction.

"It isn't even worth it for a few million in licensing fees," he concluded.

But the personal luxury goods market in the Middle East, which saw a 19 percent growth last year reaching €8.1 billion [just over $9 billion], proved too tempting, forcing luxury brands to respond.

Dolce & Gabbana launched its first collection of abayas and hijab earlier this year, while Qatar-based Valentino designed long gowns, suited to the region's aesthetics.

"We recognise the enormous potential of the Arabian market and may invest in the company in the future," said Karina Dobrotvorskaya, president of Conde Nast New Markets and editorial director of brand development.

Vogue Arabia is expected to roll out its printed edition next spring.

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