“The day that ‘the Saudi woman’ is no longer the story but a phenomenal achievement” – HRH Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud
In a new Buro 24/7 column HRH Princess Reema Bin Bandar Alsaud talks to entrepreneur and designer of Toby, Hatem Alakeel about women in Saudi, millennials and why more is always more…
This column is about celebrating and showcasing the hidden gems of Arabia. My quest is to change the perception and break the boring stereotypes from our region to the world. As an entrepreneur and designer I’m interested in empowering personalities that help shape the progressive landscape in KSA but more importantly those that touch our souls and elevate us.
Naturally my first choice of interviewee for the Buro 24/7 Middle East column is my dear long time school friend HRH Princess Reema Bin Bandar Alsaud, a pioneer and role model. She has single-handedly changed the role of women in the work place and is the ultimate example of how one person can change perceptions. Here, then is my interview with this phenomenal person who I am proud to call a friend…
Do you think women are still underestimated in KSA vis a vis the world in general?
I do believe women in KSA are underestimated, but that is not because people can’t see the vibrancy, skill and determination of the Saudi woman. I believe it is because the world finds it hard to release us from the narrative that has been historically written for us.
I look forward to the day that ‘the Saudi woman’ is no longer the story but rather a ‘phenomenal achievement’ regardless of gender.
It’s amazing how you have empowered women and because of this there is an amazing new generation of intellectuals and trendsetters that are following your lead. I think it’s important for people to know how you have pioneered a path for women in KSA and how impressive and proactive you have been. What do you have to tell the “millennials” and future generations?
Firstly, thank you for your kind words. It is profoundly important to me that people recognise that while they may see me as a delivery point for change, that the work is that of an amazing team. My advice to ‘millennials’ and future generations is: recognise, honour and respect the team of people whose collective work results in positive change.
What inspires you the most?
I am inspired daily by the volume of energy that I see in our youth. I’m also inspired by the diversity that is celebrated today because we feel empowered to shine.
I am on the quest to document and promote KSA and all of Arabia’s hidden gems. Is there a place in Saudi Arabia that you think many people still don’t know about and should be documented and talked about? What to you is Saudi’s ultimate hidden gem?
There are so many hidden gems. Mada’in Saleh is one, but also The Farasan Islands are a true sanctuary.
Historic hidden gems in Rijal Almaa’, Asir
Baraboux has become a significant brand on the retail market and in the online landscape too. What are the future plans for the brand?
For that I will have to defer to Mimi Fraser, Baraboux’s Managing Director, as I have taken a government position and I’ve had to step away from the administration on Baraboux. I am blessed, again, with a team that is dedicated to the vision I had for the brand, who is able to grow it in ways I didn’t even believe was possible.
Speaking of retail, do you feel that retailers take homegrown brands seriously or do they compartmentalise us? If so how do you suggest we can change that perception?
From my experience, we are indeed compartmentalised. There are a few break-out brands and it is shear persistence that has made that a reality. I say that because so many Middle Eastern brands have a high calibre of execution and design spirit but sadly never make it to the mainstream.
I am always in awe of what is created in our part of the world and I hope the world can one day recognise its value alongside the ‘usual suspects’ globally.
What is style to you?
Style is the outward expression of the essence of a human being. It is not what you wear, but rather how you carry your self, the energy and spirit you exude.
Less is more or more is more?
More is more, as long as it’s founded on kindness and generosity.