Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz at PFW F/W16 (Photo: Citizen Couture)
Editors Note: This announcement is of special significance because Deena is an Insagram friend and we have followed each other for a while now. She is an amazing woman and not your typical pink loving princess. Her style is infallible and effortlessly mixes edgy with classic on a regular basis. Plus, she just happens to love and have a deep respect for vintage. Indeed, her Instagram feed is a myriad of old and new images that give you an idea of the depth of her fashion knowledge. She is a modern female renaissance woman and I cannot tell you how pleased this announcement made me. Congratulations Deena - I cannot wait to see what happens with this new project under your capable hands and vision. — xx Cherie
This autumn, Condé Nast International will launch a Vogue Arabia edition, with Saudi Princess Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz as its editor-in-chief, marking the publisher’s long awaited move into the Middle Eastern market.
Condé Nast, which has partnered with Dubai-based media company Nervora, will first launch a website in Arabic and English to develop further insight into its audience spanning the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The dual language website will be followed by a print magazine in spring next year.
“It makes sense to start with digital,” Jonathan Newhouse, chairman and chief executive of Condé Nast International told BoF. “In the past, the focus was always to produce the print product first, with the digital product as a secondary play. Now digital is front and centre and at the forefront of any business strategy.”
Launching a website in two languages is a first for the publisher, and will enable Condé Nast to move faster into wider Middle East and North Africa region, where last year the personal luxury goods market grew by 19 percent, reaching €8.1 billion (just over $9 billion), according to a report by Bain and Co.
The decision to finally launch Vogue Arabia is a significant one for Condé Nast, given Newhouse’s controversial comments less than 10 years ago dismissing a proposal to launch a Vogue Middle East because of the region having “an element that rejects Western values of freedom of expression, equality for women and expression of sexuality.”
“The time has come to make it a reality,” said Newhouse, adding that the company had decided to explore the market with its Condé Nast Traveller and Architectural Digest brands, before building the confidence to consider launching a Vogue in the Middle East.
“In the last 10 years, the interest in high fashion brands and products has grown enormously. We at Condé Nast International hear it from our advertisers,” Newhouse said, noting the success of international fashion events and the growing number of luxury shopping outlets in the region such as the Dubai Mall, Rubaiyat Department Store in Riyadh and Abdul Aziz al-Rabban’s Place Vendome Qatar, which will open in 2017.
The Vogue Arabia print magazine would be the 22nd edition for Condé Nast, published under an initial license agreement with Dubai-based media company Nervora. The Vogue Arabia headquarters will be based in the city.
“We recognise the enormous potential of the Arabian market and may invest in the company in the future,” said Karina Dobrotvorskaya, president of Condé Nast New Markets and editorial director of brand development.
Nervora, which was founded in 2009, already partners with Condé Nast on its Style.com/Arabia website, which will be replaced and rebranded as Vogue Arabia.
Vogue Arabia’s primary print distribution focus will be Gulf countries like Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, said Nervora founder and chief executive Shashi Menon. But it would also target the wider MENA region where most of the world’s 585 million Arabic speakers live and where emerging fashion markets like Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco are growing in importance.
Although a detailed strategy for the print magazine is yet to be announced, there are also plans to distribute it further abroad in key cities like London, Paris and Milan, where a small but influential number of affluent Arabs have second homes or travel to shop.
“There’s certainly an opportunity to be a unifying voice for such audiences — across any of the mediums on which we’ll be present,” Menon said.
It should be noted that launching a high fashion magazine in the Middle East is a belated step for Condé Nast. In spite of the complex and varied interpretations of modesty in the MENA region and restrictions on publishing in some Gulf markets, some rival Western publishers have firmly established their magazines titles’ presence nearly 10 years ago.
The total circulation of magazines in Middle East and North Africa region is estimated to be more than 30 million, according to a joint report by Northwestern University in Qatar and the Doha Film Institute last year, which included fashion titles like Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, Elle Oriental, Marie Claire Arabia and L'Officiel Maroc, which are published by ITP, Hearst International and Editions H.D, Group Marie Claire and Geomedia respectively.