Vogue entered the Middle East market on Tuesday with Vogue Arabia, setting its eyes on a fast-growing luxury market Bain estimates will be worth up to $276 billion this year.
The publisher is starting with an online presence, in Arabic and English, with plans to introduce a print publication in the spring. Editor-in-chief Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz is leading a team of 20 reporters that’s based in Dubai.
“The Middle East is one of the most misunderstood regions in the world,” said Shashi Menon, publisher of Vogue Arabia and CEO of Nervora, the digital media company that Condé Nast has entered into a licensing deal with to launch Vogue Arabia. Nervora’s editorial team, which previously ran Style.com Arabia, will produce the Vogue content from the region.
“The larger source of news about the region is centered around social and political unrest, so launching Vogue is about elevating the authentic and positive stories about what’s happening in the region and taking it to a global stage,” said Menon. Stories on the newly launched site include a video interview with Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab, “Elisa Sednaoui on empowering Arab women” and “How to style your hair under a hijab.”
Glossy caught up with Menon to discuss its plans for Vogue’s 22nd global edition.
Why digital first?
The Middle East demographically has the youngest population per capita in the world, which means they grew up as digital natives. Saudi Arabia has the highest viewership per capita in the world on YouTube and Twitter. All those statistics lend themselves to an audience that’s comfortable with the digital medium.
What’s the fashion scene like in the Middle East?
The region is in the middle of a creative renaissance, and technology has played a big part in that. Fashion is in the throes of reinventing itself. Kuwait is extremely fashion-forward; Saudi Arabia is fashion-forward, but women dress for private events among themselves. There’s also been a growing trend for consumers to look at the local market and buy and support local talent. Technology has made it a lot easier to view fashion, approach production, marketing, and build a loyal customer base.
You’re also hoping to tap Arabic speakers in Western countries?
Yes, but the idea is to make it regional and authentic. We don’t want to print a U.S. or U.K. Vogue based in Dubai.
What role will the local culture play?
We’ll take point of view, but that’s not to say conservative fashion or avant garde fashion is right or wrong. We’ll cover international fashion events, but highlight pieces of a collection that will be a better fit for Middle Eastern women. It’s about taking a global event and contextualizing it at a regional level.
What’s the biggest difference between this and Vogue’s other editions?
Publishing in Arabic. There’s upwards of 350 million people who speak Arabic, but dialects can be very different so a lot of different countries may not understand each other. So we want it to feel like an indigenous Arabian publication.
What about shopping habits?
The average Middle Eastern women spends more on fashion than their Western counterparts — four to 15 times more on beauty and accessories, according to different brands and retailers. Women dress a bit more conservatively, so individuality is expressed more through accessories and beauty.
We’ll also cover shopping periods with an Arabic focus. One example is the Ramadan period in London. It’s called the “Ramadan Rush,” and is an important retail season because of the amount of people that live in London or travel to London to shop. It’s a smaller audience but they’re extremely affluent and have a high discretionary income.
How have brands reacted?
We’ve [Nervora] been working with most of the brands [Chanel, Dior, Fendi, Dolce and Gabbana, among others] for years, but obviously Vogue is one of the largest if not the largest partner for them globally. We’re putting a big focus on sponsored content. We did a sponsored piece with Chanel to promote its new No.5 fragrance, where the theme behind the ad was, “Exploring the art of paradox.” We wanted it to be relevant to millennials in the Middle East, so we explored the ideas of minimalism versus maximalism, nostalgia versus futurism, secret versus exposed, and portrayed these through photos next to each other.
Photo courtesy of Vogue Arabia.