10/07/2011 08:12 am ET Updated Dec 07, 2011

Arab Women The Majority Of Couture Clients, Executives Say

Haute couture is traditionally associated with Paris and European glamour. But with a worldwide economic downturn and couture falling more and more out of favor, who is actually still buying the thousand-dollar dresses?

Arab women.

Reuters reported from Paris Fashion Week that women of the Middle East, particularly the royal families, are the biggest clients of haute couture.

The market in these oil-rich countries, say some executives, only started to rise recently. But how it's risen.

"For us, with China, the Middle East is the market that is growing the fastest," Hermes CEO Patrick Thomas said to Reuters. "These markets for a long time preferred a more ostentatious type of luxury and now want a more refined and discreet style."

The refined style is getting worn mainly at weddings. Simon Lock, the creative director of Dubai Fashion Week, told Reuters that at a recent local wedding, "4,000 women were invited to the reception and everybody in the room was wearing haute couture... And there are lots and lots of weddings to attend."

And you don't want to be caught wearing the same dress as another one of those 4,000 women. A young couture client from Kazakhstan told the Telegraph, "If I'm going to a wedding, I don't want to bump into someone wearing the same. In Kazakhstan, women love beautiful clothes. Our husbands don't have any say in what we buy. We feel these clothes are empowering."

And in doing so, the Arab women power the brands. "Women from the Middle East are our top buyers and they are likely to remain so," said Jeffry Aronsson, CEO of Emanuel Ungaro.

Added Catherine Riviere, head of haute couture at Christian Dior, "All the royal families of the Middle East are our customers."

Which royals, exactly? Sheikha Mozah, wife of the emir of Qatar, might be the biggest client. We've been tracking the glam royal's style for years and unlike some royals we know, we've never seen her pull a repeat -- meaning she must maintain quite the order with top couture houses.

Surprised that it's Middle Eastern women and not the European royals who make up couture's biggest buyers? Read more at and