Nicola Formichetti Tapped for Saudi Arabia’s AlUla Creates Initiative

The right costume can evoke emotions and awaken a character in a way that no other part of a film can. And this is why Film AlUla, the Royal Commission for AlUla’s film agency, has just announced that Italian-Japanese artistic and creative director Nicola Formichetti is its new costume mentor for its AlUla Creates initiative.

Developing AlUla as a tourist destination is a mega project for Saudi Arabia, and Film AlUla positions this northwest region in the country as an international filming destination, building it out with facilities and infrastructure for blockbuster film production. The 2023 film Kandahar, featuring Gerard Butler, was filmed in AlUla.

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So, tapping Formichetti is a strategic move by Film AlUla, as his accomplishments in fashion have created iconic pop cultural moments in history. It was Formichetti who was behind Lady Gaga’s 2009 MTV Video Music Awards appearance, with her five dress changes in Jean Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen that night. From 2009 to 2012 he was a part of her creative team at Haus of Gaga and behind the fashion direction of many of her music videos like “Bad Romance” and “Telephone.” And let’s not forget Lady Gaga’s meat dress, made out of actual meat that she wore to the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards. That too was a Formichetti vision.

After Haus of Gaga, Formichetti has collaborated with the Grammy-winning artist several times since 2012, as well as holding top positions at Mugler, Diesel and Uniqlo. He also has held editorial positions at Vogue Japan Hommes, V and Harper’s Bazaar, while collaborating with brands including Pepsi, Nike and H&M. He has worked with celebrities from Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani to Bad Bunny and Olivia Rodrigo. Formichetti was the fashion director of Nicole Kidman’s Elle USA April 2024 cover.

“I’m excited and honored to mentor emerging talents for Film AlUla. This role uniquely blends guiding, learning, and creative exploration, all deeply rooted in AlUla’s rich history and culture. My aim is to nurture talent and craft unique stories through fashion, drawing from Saudi Arabia’s vibrant cultural heritage as a source of inspiration,” says Formichetti.

Right off the bat, Formichetti will be mentoring Saudi designers Alia and Abeer Olaif from Atelier Hekayat, and Arwa Al Ammari from ArAm in all things related to costume design. He’s also partnering with the winning film directors for AlUla Creates short films contest — Hana Alfasi and Maram Taibah — and sisters Raneem and Dana Almohandes. Other mentors standing alongside Formichetti include Saudi film director Haifaa Al Mansour (The Perfect Candidate, Wadjda) and producers James Richardson and Jane Moore of Vertigo Films (Monsters, Britannia, Bronson).

Arwa Al Ammari - ArAm - Fashion Design - Sketch
A sketch by ArAm’s Arwa Al Ammari

“At the heart of Film AlUla’s efforts lies a deep appreciation for not just the screen sector but allied creatives who play such an important role,” Charlene Deleon Jones, executive director of Film AlUla, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Can you imagine any of your favorite productions without the genius of fashion or music? Film AlUla’s collaboration with Nicola reflects our heartfelt commitment to working with creatives at the center of their fields. Where these creatives have a passion for opening doors and inspiring new storytellers and artists, we hope that Film AlUla can be a part of wider national initiatives, opening new opportunities and paths that five years ago would not have been imagined.”

AlUla Creates is a year-round initiative that allows new women filmmakers and creatives to work with those at the top of the industry, giving them access to development funds and the ability to share their stories with the world.

At the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, Film AlUla announced Katie Holmes would mentor female Saudi filmmakers. On the night of the 95th Academy Awards last year, AlUla Creates focused on fashion, with its ambassadors Mila Al Zahrani, Helena Christensen and Eva Herzigova wearing bespoke looks by Atelier Hekayat and ArAm — supported by British fashion designer Emilia Wickstead — for Vanity Fair’s afterparty. These Saudi brands were also featured in collaboration with the British Fashion Council during 2023’s London Fashion Week.

As both Film AlUla and the Red Sea Film Festival introduce Saudi Arabia to the world as robust film engines, working with designers like Formichetti, as well as models and actresses, further bolsters the marriage between film and fashion.

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