It’s easy to celebrate the menswear creations of Saville Row, or the bright plumage of the Pitti peacocks, but here we are taking a moment to focus on the sartorial things of beauty that are crafted in Lebanon, shining a spotlight on family run tailors Ejjeh 1926.
Currently taking the reins is grandson of the founder Amer Ejjeh, who with a dose of determination and risk-taking, has propelled his career into a 91-year-old fashion house for men, taking his family run business to the next level.
After studying management at LAU, Amer began a Master’s degree and then spent 6 months training at Vitale Barberis Canonico, the oldest wool factory in the world. Remaining true to his heritage, Amer returned to the land of cedars with the determination to take over the family store founded in 1926 in downtown Beirut. From 2001 to 2005, the Ejjeh House, based in Saeb Salam Avenue, made its comeback in the heart of the capital, however after the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, the building was barricaded with security guards and barbed wires.
Although, despite what can be described as a tumultuous past, Amer has continued to take this family run business to the next level, and here we speak to him about how he achieved it.
Can you tell us about your journey into fashion?
Being born into a family that has been working in the fashion industry for almost 100 years, my journey into fashion started at a very early age. I can recall a first important step at 12 years old, when I started travelling with my father to suppliers and manufacturers, attending international textile and clothing exhibitions. Every year it used to get better, whether related to fashion or textiles, and I also used to help my father during weekends and afternoons after school.
Can you share with us your first fashion memory?
The experience I had in Italy during my training program. I remember well the moment that changed my definition of textiles, when I assisted in the production of suiting fabrics. Witnessing the amazing process of fabric production, from spinning to weaving to dying, it was all so inspiring!
Did you always know that you would be taking the reins in your family business?
It was a passion that grew with me. Fashion was part of my whole life, from my childhood when I used to see my dad interacting in the textile field, following the trends, ordering new material, together with visiting and receiving our suppliers.
Tell us about the pressures on your shoulders in continuing your family’s legacy?
Being fortunate enough to be part of the third generation of our family business, I consider this pressure as a motivational tool that is challenging me every day to move forward, and to expand the business, thriving to make it reach wider horizons, new markets, more distinctive clientele, and loyal brand ambassadors.
Do you hope to be able to carry on the tradition and continue with the business being passed on through further generations?
In order to be able to pass it on with the same passion that I’ve received, I am constantly sharing my passion with my daughter who has this fierce curiosity to always know more about my business. She is always asking the right questions and her interest seems to be the utmost trigger for this curiosity, and I hope that she will one day interact more closely with the daily tasks and dynamics of the business. She told me lately that she would love to design jewellery in order to complete and add to my collection of clothing, and add a more feminine touch to our store.
How do you ensure the brand keeps its Lebanese roots?
The most important part for me is that the manufacturing and tailoring is always handmade in Lebanon. The team are all Lebanese craftsmen, showing their devotion in the end result of every product. Together with this, my main office and headquarters will always remain in Beirut, no matter the expansion.
You have been faced with many challenges following conflict in Lebanon, how much has this effected the business?
We started in 1926, and have been through several Lebanese wars, and during this time we have lost many real estate locations we had, boutiques and even stocks that were burned or stolen, which limited us demographically. We used to export textiles to Syria, which is also closed today, so it has been quite challenging to find other markets to replace this part of our turnover. Nevertheless, war was never a reason for us to stop, it was a challenge for us to be stronger and fiercer. We compete today in the global market against other companies who were never under the circumstances of a war.
Do you always want to keep Lebanon as the headquarters for the brand, despite these challenges?
Beirut is my favourite city, so no matter what it will remain my base. It has this authentic sense that you don’t feel in any other city in the world, and I do have gratitude for this place. Beirut remains a great inspiration for my work, the food, the mountains, the beach, the weather, the people, the culture, the hospitality, and most importantly its vibe! The amazing fact about the Lebanese is how resilient they are, always thriving for better, impressing the world with their creativity, art, and talents.
Tell us about your brand identity?
We are specialised in handcrafting suits for traditional, classical men with an elegant look, using a high-end quality of raw materials, from buttons, threads, lining, and interlining. Our signature is a high quality that defines our identity. We pride ourselves on a standard of excellence which is made in Lebanon and tailored for the contemporary classical and elegant gentleman, always using exclusive high-end luxury fabrics. Our masterpieces compare to the unique master of tailoring, the Italian Caraceni.
What is key to the growth of the brand?
Always being up to date with the latest fabrics, designs, and colours, together with launching trendy designs alongside the latest Italian trends for a classical look. We tackle different age groups, and when it comes to young men seeking dapper looks, we tend to introduce new items like the pins and new colours, as well as advising about how to mix and match the items. What is key to us is maintaining a consistent quality of the end result, a satisfied customer and a very good after sales service.
Do you predict that it will grow to be a worldwide name?
We are very well known in the Arab region and we are soon expanding into Russia and the Far East. However, we also have many clients in several areas who are sometimes disappointed about being far away from us requesting proximity, which is more reason for expansion.
What is key to the perfect suit?
Simply a perfect fit, together with the right fabric quality and right accessories that would fit with it.
What suits should every man own?
A tuxedo for formal black-tie events, plain navy for a classical chic look, and also a more fashionable suit with a pattern or playful coloured lining for every day.
You produce both bespoke and ready-to-wear suiting, which do you prefer designing?
The bespoke for sure, as I am hand crafting it for one person, and I have the opportunity to specify certain details such as colour, cut, body form, and design, whereas the ready-to-wear is more general, targeting many clients, hence being safe with the design. The aim of such a collection is more for a standard taste that can attract many at the same time.
Can you share with us the process that goes into creating a bespoke suit?
First, the client goes through a sort of an interview to enable me to understand and get closer to his needs, his taste, and his requests. Then we take the clients measurements, we craft a pattern from the measurements taken, and we stitch a prototype for the clients first fitting. After we do a first fitting with the first alterations, we then amend the mould and cut the fabric of the suit that the client selected. Afterwards, we will have the second fitting, before finally completing the stitching, making sure that the result goes in parallel with the client’s request.
What set’s your suits apart from others in the market?
For the ready to wear, they are priced competitively, and the cut is made as per the Lebanese male anatomy, more than the international standards. As for bespoke, there is no existing competition in the region, as there is no tailoring house that can get close to what we do, or that has in stock the variety and choice of the exclusive fabrics we have.
What are the ultimate accessories needed to accompany the perfect suit?
A silk handmade tie, and a refined 100 percent cotton tailored shirt. If someone would like to be distinctive, we can add a silk pocket square, a very trendy lapel pin, or a silk scarf ‘ascot’ around the neck that can replace the tie for a casual look. Our products cover all the needed accessories for the perfect look, including handmade leather belts, sunglasses, shirts, jumpers, socks, cashmere items, bracelets, leather goods, writing instruments, and silk braces.
Tell us about your own personal style?
Elegant, yet daring. I choose earthy colours, dressing to express and show the refinement of the fabric, the details of the stitching, and quality of tailoring.
How many suits do you have hanging in your own wardrobe?
Countless, I wear suits every day. I have several designs and cuts for different occasions. I love to mix and match, and accessorising my look is essential to me.
What is the next step for Ejjeh 1926?
Retail and selective distribution expansion.
Where do you see the future for the brand?
Surely we will remain a 100% owned family business, regardless of investors trying to acquire shares in our business. We believe in the authenticity in the structures of family businesses, and mine and my sister’s presence in the boutique remains extremely important to our clients. On an international level, our aim is to move forward with a selective distribution that will reside only in the main cities around the world, with partners that focus on the same principals of selective distribution and client loyalty.
By Eliza Scarborough