Surviving the Blast

The ammonium nitrate explosion in Beirut on August 4, which killed more than 200, turned 300,000 people homeless, and damaged and destroyed businesses throughout the city, occurred close to the shopping and arts district. This is an area where luxury designer shops and the headquarters of many creative companies, including fashion designers—of which the city has become a hub—are located. Lebanon-based designers including Zuhair Murad, Elie Saab, Krikor Jabotian, and Roni Helou saw their studios, flagship stores, and/or homes heavily damaged or destroyed. At least one designer, jewelry maker Hala Taya, died in the blast. This setback comes on top of a series of other crises in the city, including the coronavirus and financial hard times that predated the pandemic.

Most of the globally recognized designers based in Beirut are on the luxury end of the scale and focus primarily on producing their own collections and/or ready-to-wear lines. But some have been involved in collaborations and/or licensing deals in key categories. A few examples:

  • Elie Saab is probably the best-known of the Beirut-based designers and the most heavily licensed, and he has been expanding his licensing portfolio in the last year. In July, his label added the Onward Luxury Group (OLG) as its licensee for footwear and leather goods (OLG has produced Saab’s ready-to-wear collection for about a year); in January he launched a children’s line including apparel from Simonetta and footwear from Andrea Montelpare; in December 2019 he paired with Corporate Brand Maison (CBM) for furniture and home décor; and last spring he partnered with Emaar to develop interiors for a luxury beachfront residential development in Dubai. Other licensees include Safilo for eyewear and Shiseido for fragrances. This past Friday (September 11, 2020), he revealed a new couture collection called Beirut: The Sacred Source, inspired by the beauty of the city.
  • Sandra Mansour, who launched her label in 2010, announced an agreement in late August with H&M for a collection under the Fleur du Soleil name that takes its cues from nature and female artists such as Lena Leclercq, Dorothea Tanning, Toyen, and Bibi Zogbe and offers a message of hope. The dresses, blouses, skirts, blazer, printed t-shirt, and hoodie in the collaboration feature handcrafted details (such as ruffles), delicate layered fabrics, and a predominantly grey, ivory, and black color palate punctuated with motifs of dots and flowers, especially sunflowers. The retailer will donate $100,000 to support the Lebanese Red Cross.
  • Reem Acra, a noted bridal designer, collaborated with Essie in 2018 for a limited-edition collection of wedding-specific, shimmery nail polish in six colors, inspired by the bride’s bond with her attendants and family on the big day. In 2019, Acra collaborated with Joseph Abboud to create tuxedos to complement her gowns, adding groom’s and male attendants’ items to her runway show for the first time.
  • Tony Ward, a Lebanese-Italian designer, has a long partnership with Kleinfeld Bridal, a New York-based specialty retailer, where he serves as one of the store’s half dozen exclusive designers.
  • Rami Kadi, known—like several of the designers listed here—for dressing celebrities on the red carpet, was involved in a collaboration with Max Factor in 2018. The limited-edition collection included three Facefinity compact face powders.
  • Zuhair Murad, who dresses Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, and many others, was one of the designers involved in Gabriel & Co’s ongoing series of fine jewelry collaborations under the Fashion News: Designer Flash banner, in 2019.
  • Hussein Bazaza paired with Baume & Mercier in 2017 as one of three Middle Eastern designers in a collection of limited-edition Classima watchstraps introduced in conjunction with the 10th installment of Fashion Forward Dubai. Bazaza’s strap took its inspiration from architecture and featured metal elements.

Among the other Beirut-based designer labels of note are Azzi & Osta, Georges Chakra, Reem Kachmar, Jean Louis Sabaji, Renaissance Renaissance, and Salim Azzam.

Thirty-four of Lebanon’s designers have committed to helping rebuild Beirut through sustainable economic growth as part of Super Fund for Beirut, a five-year initiative. Each of the businesses involved employs between 20 and 100 people. The idea is not just to raise one-time funds, but to finance ongoing business initiatives that support designers and other creatives in achieving long-term success.

The latest edition of the Raugust Communications e-newsletter comes out tomorrow, September 15, 2020. The Topic of the Month focuses on the rise of seasonless fashion and the impact of the trend across property types, while the Datapoint research spotlight delves into who is doing deals in the cannabis space. If you are not yet a subscriber to this free monthly publication, you can sign up here. You can also revisit past Licensing Topics of the Month here and past Datapoints here.

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