A Designer’s Guide to Stylish Jeddah
Nora Al-Shaikh reveals where to shop (and eat) in the fashion-centric city.
Saudi women are legendary in the world’s fashion capitals for their over-the-top devotion to all things Chanel, Gucci, and Cartier. But where do they shop when they’re closer to home? We caught up with Saudi designer Nora Al-Shaikh, whose contemporary silhouettes have landed her in the Los Angeles Times, WWD, and Vogue Arabia. She moved to Jeddah from the capital, Riyadh, and notices major differences between the Kingdom’s two major cities: “The fashion scene here is bigger than Riyadh,” she says. “I believe the women here love fashion more. In Riyadh they love international brands, they’re so obsessed with Western designers. When I moved here I felt people appreciating my work more.” It’s easy to see why Jeddah’s style-minded locals have been drawn to Al-Shaikh’s bold, structured designs. “The Nora Al-Shaikh woman is modern, she loves new trends, and she’s not shy to try on new designs or colors,” Al-Shaikh says. “She’s a world traveler.”
As the Kingdom’s laws have become less strict over time—the notorious driving ban on women was lifted in June, and dress codes are becoming more relaxed as well—local women are becoming more visible in every aspect of life in Saudi Arabia. Al Shaikh’s globally inspired dresses, with sculptural details like ruffles, volume, and sharp lines, are a huge hit with local fashionistas who have long pleaded sartorial allegiance to the fashion houses of London, Paris, and Milan.
So where do these stylish women like to shop and eat when they’re not jetting off to Paris or New York? Al-Shaikh shares some of her and her friends’ favorite spots in the city.
The Everything Store: Homegrown Market
Head to the second floor of the hip housewares store DOMVS and you’ll find Homegrown Market, a boutique dedicated to celebrating Saudi fashion and accessories — from the Abaya Factory (which makes convertible abayas that transform into jackets) to Nasiba Hafiz (known for her bold, asymmetrical looks) to the Arabian Beard Company (which makes men’s grooming oils and products in local scents like oud and rose). “I always check them out on Instagram,” says Al-Shaikh. “They have very cool local designers.”
The Clothing Store: Cugini
Al-Shaikh might be partial to this chic boutique because it’s where she shows her collection, but that’s not the only reason she’s a fan. “The buyer has a very nice eye for clothes — she’s always up-to-date,” she says. Cugini also carries edgier international labels that are hard to find in Saudi Arabia — think UK label A.W.A.K.E from Harper’s Bazaar Russia fashion director Natalia Alaverdian, N°21 by Italian designer Alessandro dell’Acqua, and MGSM by Massimo Giorgetti.
The Coffee Shop: Medd Café & Roastery
This seaside Corniche coffeeshop and gathering place for local creatives was the first to properly introduce Jeddah to third-wave coffee culture. “The coffee is always fresh and they do it by themselves,” says Al-Shaikh. “It’s made and established by Saudis, you can feel the passion. I like the atmosphere and the vibe.” Aside from the coffee, Al-Shaikh is a fan of their date salad with quinoa.
The Restaurant: Toki
“You cannot hate it if you live in Jeddah,” Al-Shaikh says with a laugh of this Asian restaurant on King Abdul Aziz Road. “Everyone who’s like, we don’t know where to go — we go to Toki. It’s like the signature of Jeddah. When you go there, you say hi-hi-hi to all the tables, you know everybody there.” Al-Shaikh is partial to the sashimi: “I think it’s the best in the world,” she declares.
Worth the Distance: Lounge by Aurum
It’s well worth the trek to get to this open-air restaurant in the Abhur district in the northern reaches of the city, if you want to join a trendy crowd smoking sheesha and playing cards—and scope out some seriously chic street style. “They’re different than all the restaurants here,” says Al-Shaikh. A fun touch: “They have street art on the walls.” (Particularly intriguing is the giant Cookie Monster splashed near the entrance.)
Cugini: Al-Rawda Street; +966-12-661-2099
Homebrown Market: DOMVS, Al-Rawda Street; +966-2-661-1447
Medd Café & Roastery: Beach Tower, Northern Corniche; +966-12-613-2122
Toki: Al-Khalidiyah; +966-50-466-5658
Lounge by Aurum: 6338 King Abdull Aziz Rd, Abhur Al Janubiyah District; +966-12-290-6686Where to Stay