Marriam Mossalli is Finding Her Niche
Saudi Arabia is producing many young women who are making waves to pave the way for the next generation. Marriam Mossali is a young entrepreneur with a bold vision and a warm heart.
Photographer Dennis Araniego at Capital D Studio
Makeup Artist Aga Lababedi at Max Factor Academy
Who are you?
Wow. So we’re starting with the deep stuff right off the bat? 🙂 I’m the childhood rebel who grew up to become the industry leader. But that’s not saying a whole lot when you’re brought up with a generation of “saudi female firsts.” It turns out making your mark is easy, but making sure it actually means something significant is a little harder. I’m now at that unique perspective of being thirty, where i am able to look back and appreciate how much we, as Saudi women, have achieved; but to also look forward and see how much more there is for us to become.
What do you do?
I’m a consultant. And before you think of all the negative connotations that come with the c-word, note that i’ve worked for over a decade fine-tuning a certain skill set in order to rightfully take on that title. For one, I’m very verbose, in case you hadn’t noticed! I’ll tell you something in 100 words that could be said in one; so I guess it seemed pretty natural that I would end up in pr. I went from writing features as an editor for saudi’s leading english daily, to creating entire communication strategies for international brands wanting to enter the saudi market. And that’s where I found my niche…Arabia.Today, my company works with most of the super brands found in the fashion dome of moe. We do digital pr, trend forecast, consumer behaviours and execute creative activations, from fashion shows to industry conferences.
How do you describe the changing face of Saudi Arabia?
She’s 25, newly married, and addicted to over sharing. She posts her daily selfies and records her life in segments of 10-second snapchat stories. She does work, thanks to saudisation, but she’s unsure of what that really means—but it’s not her fault; she’s transitioning. And she’s eager to learn! And she wants to grow, and change; and be all the things her king says she can be. But she’s also impatient, and sometimes confused.
Her internal fight to keep her values held close in her arms, makes grabbing for every opportunity towards modernity difficult. She knows that the two are not mutually exclusive, but is finding the middle ground between them, well, that will be her greatest achievement.
What does this mean for you?
I think it means I’m really lucky. I am extremely grateful to be able to say I was an active participant during these formative years of the kingdom. Like every teen, I always felt i was born into the wrong decade. I loved what the sixties stood for—it was a turbulent yet exciting period of questioning the status quo, but also inciting change…
While we’re not burning our abayas, we’re definitely demanding change—and in a way that will have long-lasting effects—not just make for good sensationalised headlines.
What has been the most inspiring moment of the past 12 months for you?
Last december, I participated in JOIN10KSA, an initiative that took place in Riyadh and saw over 10,000 women gather to form the world’s largest human pink ribbon.
What does this moment signify?
It signified more than just raising awareness for breast cancer; it signified us women raising our voices, collectively, for a single cause. I think it was amazing to see how the women in Saudi were able to come together, from all ethnicities and SES demographics, and simply unite on a single issue—especially one that was considered taboo before we relabelled it.
Which changes are giving you hope?
Women in Saudi have always been given the opportunity for an education. In fact, more Saudi women have degrees from higher institutions than our male counterparts. But now, with Saudisation, we are giving women the opportunity to apply that education in the workforce. Whatever the reasons, whether cultural or perhaps even caused by the fear of the unfamiliar, women were not previously encouraged to be active participants of our economy. This new enthusiasm from both men and women to have us included has me excited.
Who has been the voice of reason for you?
Is it bad if I say I don’t really have one?! Haha I mean, I don’t cuss on social media because my grandmother follows me… that’s probably the closest thing I have to a censor! That is bad! All joking aside, I would have to say my husband—he’s my partner…and my sound board. He is also the other half of this equation—the typical Saudi male, modern yet still traditionally conservative; playing devil’s advocate to all my debates.
What are you hoping to change?
“The dichotomy of the Saudi female.” That’s trademarked, by the way. I prefer it over “hypocrisy,” which is what many outsiders like to label it—but it’s not hypocrisy. It’s a cultural expectation with a set of gender definitive decorums. The males also have their own dichotomy, but I’m a one battle at a time kinda chick.
Blogger or entrepreneur?
What’s a blogger? I haven’t seen one since 2013?! I’m definitely an entrepreneur during the week… and a writer on weekends.
How do you think the future of Saudi looks for the Millennials?
Everything will be in Lo-Fi.
At what point do you feel you will become a mentor or are you there already?
I’ve been lucky enough to have already been a mentor, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning. If I could change careers, I’d be a professional student for life.
What else can we expect to see from you this year?
Definitely not babies! 🙂
Well, we are working on Saudi’s first ever official Fashion Week! We’re starting with men’s fashion and its scheduled for February 2017.
Where are you spending most of your time?
I think it’s important to live what you preach. So for me, I need to know my market, so while I may travel a lot—I make sure I’m home 2 weeks of every month. It’s the only way to have my hand on the pulse of what’s going on—otherwise, I’d become just another outsider talking about something they know nothing about.
How important is travel for your business?
When people would ask me where I lived, I would reply “Boeing 747.” I basically lived out of a suitcase until I found a home with my husband. Now I’m such a self-hating jetsetter.
Which fashion designers have you got your eye on?
I have an eye on all the big houses! It’s been an insane year for them! I was distraught over Hedi Slimane leaving Saint Laurent and it’s just sad how Dior is running around like a headless chicken. Alessandro Miele from Gucci has me excited, but this past cruise collection also has me very nervous that he may be a one-trick pony.
What are the last three purchases you made?
This interview took me three hours—30 mins to write, and 2.5 hours of shopping on FarFetch.com. The Chloe kaleidoscope rainbow stripped maxi dress I’ve been lusting over, and a pair of camel pleated culottes, also from Chloe. And now, you’ve just encouraged me to go back online and add to my cart.
Now you are married – what are your relationship goals?
How are you breaking stereotype in your world?
I don’t do paid for posts. I know, I’m such a rebel!
What’s making you smile?
Right now? Purchase number three. 🙂F