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Saudi designer Ashi first from Gulf in French couture federation

Indian megastar Deepika Padukone in an Ashi dress, also worn by Beyonce at a Mandela concert
— Paris (AFP)

Saudi fashion designer Mohammed Ashi announced Monday he had joined France's haute couture federation, becoming the first couturier from the Gulf region to join the prestigious roster.

His eponymous label Ashi Studio will have its first show as part of the official line-up of Paris Fashion Week's haute couture shows on July 6.

"This appointment is the highlight of my career," Ashi said in a statement.

"This recognition brings me the greatest emotion, it offers me the opportunity to share with you who I am."

Ashi's clothes have adorned many stars and celebrities on red carpets, including Deepika Padukone, Beyonce and Lady Gaga.

Eva Longoria in an Ashi dress at the amfAR Gala during last month's Cannes Film Festival

He launched his label in Beirut in 2007 and moved his headquarters to Paris in 2018.

As he told AFP in an interview earlier this year, he never made a point of his nationality, partly out of shyness and partly due to the fact that Western fashion was still taboo when he was growing up in 1980s Saudi Arabia.

"In the 90s I was the only designer from Saudi. But I never said I was Saudi. I wanted the clothes to be out front, not me," Ashi told AFP.

Now, with his country going through momentous social changes, he has been welcomed home as a mentor for its Fashion Commission, set up in 2020 to help build a homegrown industry.

"They're giving scholarships to people for something that was prohibited when I was growing up. It's an iconic moment," he said.