Creatives in Crisis: The Lebanese Designers Affected by the Beirut Blast

Lindsay Judge   |   01 - 09 - 2020

The Beirut explosion devastated so many businesses in the city and the creative industry was particularly hard hit. In a single moment, their livelihoods, life achievements and businesses disappeared. Many of Lebanon’s fashion designers have been affected, destroying years of work in seconds. We discover some of the designers that need support and strength during this terrible time.

 

Zuhair Murad

 

 

Couturier Zuhair Murad’s entire offices in the city were destroyed by the blast. The windows were blown out and the entire front of the building left open to the air. Inside you can see the true extent of the damage. The designer shared images and videos of the devastation on his social media accounts and it really hit home the true impact of the blast. He wrote: “You can’t imagine the damage. My heart is broken, can’t stop crying the efforts of years went in a moment. Thank God for everything.” He followed up with the below: “Although our Beirut Headquarters Building is completely damaged, I am extremely thankful for the safety and wellbeing of the Zuhair Murad family. May all the victims of this tragedy rest in pure peace, my heart is with everyone affected.”

 

Hussein Bazaza

 

 

Hussein Bazaza posted an image on his Instagram account of the debris in his Beirut atelier. With glass on the floor, it’s clear the windows were blown in and sketches of the latest collections are scattered amongst what was once his workspace. The Lebanese designer said: “The atelier was shattered but we were able to refix it. The blast was the cherry on top, the business was already affected by the economic crisis and COVID-19. Every business operating in Beirut has been affected, not only us as Lebanese designers.

 

As you may know ever since I launched my brand I have been auto- financed and super proud of what I was able to achieve given that I had no financial support. Today, with everything going on, I don’t know if we can keep on being auto-financed and that’s why there is the need to find a trustworthy investor in order to move forward. To my clients I say, thank you for being so supportive and your appreciation for my work. Couldn’t have done all this without you. Where do we go from here? There is no clear answer for this, just hopeful for better days.”

 

Azzi & Osta

 

 

Designer duo Azzi & Osta had just completed the inauguration of their new location in the city. The beautiful building had been renovated and was ready for opening when the blast hit, just days before the brand was due to unveil the venue to the world. Sadly much of the building was destroyed. The smoke of the blast could be seen from the atelier, highlighting just how close it was to the epicentre of the explosion.

“Just imagine a self-made brand striving against a country’s economic collapse, an endless political unrest, a worldwide pandemic only to be resilient and invest in growth, restore and move into a charming 3 century-old traditional Lebanese buildings that stood for centuries, turn them into a beautiful fashion house, we called it “our magical village in the city” and just days before the official reveal, to see all, absurdly and ruthlessly destroyed, uprooting us and bringing our business to a halt…Devastation is an understatement.

 

 

The unbelievable amount of moral support we received from friends of the brand, from the middle-east and different corners of the world, has genuinely eased the pain and gave us hope in a kinder generation that will build a kinder future.

To our clients, Thank you always, AZZI & OSTA is not an address, it is a brand that celebrates its 10th year of distinguished identity despite all. We are working on being up and running very soon! our dreams did not change, maybe the speed has been affected by the direction is and will always be up.”

 

Rabih Kayrouz

 

 

Couturier Rabih Kayrouz was badly injured in the blast as he worked at his atelier. The designer suffered a brain haemorrhage, two clots and had to have twenty-two stitches on the cuts he incurred with the blast hit. The brave designer shared with his 63 thousand followers: “As with you all, I am still trying to absorb the shock of this horrid calamity. I hope that you and your families are in good health. Your thousand messages and prayers warmed my heart … gave me strength to go on … I am recovering slowly but surely from a small brain haemorrhage, 2 clots and 22 stitches. I am in great care yet unable to answer any calls or messages at the moment. Words are not enough. We will not forget. We will judge. We will rebuild… And we will dance!” As well as being injured himself, his stunning atelier was destroyed in the blast.

 

Andrea Wazen

 

 

Shoe designer Andrea Wazen saw her store located in the artistic area of Mar Mkhayel gutted by the blast, arriving to find scattered debris and glass. The designer’s store had previously showcased her latest collections in a modern, luxury environment. In the days after the tragedy, the designer wrote on her Instagram account: “Thanking God every day that my team and family are safe, but can’t but feel so much with families and friends that have lost their loved ones…praying to God that we get justice. Every single person that was protesting yesterday had all the angels we lost on 04/08/2020 in their broken hearts.”

 

Yassmin Saleh

 

 

Clothes and accessories designer Yassmin Saleh saw her boutique and atelier completely ruined in the blast. She told A&E: “In just a split of a second, this inhumane explosion destroyed what we have worked so hard to build. It has left us with the loss of our Boutique/ Atelier space in Gemeyze but most importantly, it left us with unspeakable emotions of anger and sadness towards the injured, the homeless and the lives that were lost.

The morning after, we found ourselves surrounded by complete strangers who, injured or not, worked hand in hand to help us salvage what was left or our merchandise and production equipment. The hope and strength of the Lebanese people is our support system; we are already working together to rebuild what was taken from us all. We ask for people abroad to consider Lebanese businesses in their purchases, to use their platforms to talk about Lebanon and to donate to NGOs whenever they can.

We would like to thank our clients for their constant care and support. We ask them to be patient with us as we are working quickly to be up and running again and to not lose hope in the Lebanese creative community. We are temporarily setting up a production space and atelier in a vacant apartment in our building and are working as fast as we can to be able to cater to orders from our online store and partner retailers. The creative process behind all our previous collections stemmed from the socio-economic situation in Lebanon, so we will not stop here. We will continue to use our brand to support our country and raise awareness.”

 

Boyfriend The Brand

 

 

Boyfriend and the Brand is the fashion label of well-known Beirut- based fashion stylist Amine Jreissaty. Both of his brand’s shops and his home in the Mar Mkhayel area were shattered to pieces. Amine was also injured in the blast but is making a steady recovered. He shared his gratitude for the city’s healthcare workers with his Instagram followers as he works to recover what is left of his stores. Jreissaty told A&E: “the 4th of August explosion devastated me at all levels. Having lost everything I’ve worked for and built makes you realise that your dreams are shattered. But we will build again, and rise again. It will take time but with the moral support and love that our customers are giving us we can’t but be hopeful for a better future.”

 

Roni Helou

 

 

Roni Helou’s atelier was located on the front line facing the port where the explosion took place. This key location meant it was particularly badly affected. The designer told A&E:

“The impact of the explosion caused our windows to blow up and our doors and furniture to fly off, but we take solace in the fact that our building is still standing unlike so many other residents of Beirut who are now homeless or displaced. Our business is currently suffering from the tangible physical damages, but also of cancelled projects and missed work opportunities, which all have been affected by the tragedy.

 

 

We are all collectively going through an ordeal but it is only by standing together that we can rebuild our country. The sight of young people picking up their shovels and brooms or coming up with crisis management plans fills me with hope for the future. The new generation is our hope. We (the Lebanese youth) will finally reclaim our country and build it the way we know it should be. My only message at this point is to keep raising awareness about what happened in Beirut and help in any way you can.”

 

Sandra Mansour

 

Sandra Mansour who established her brand in Beirut in 2010, recently hit a career-high when she collaborated with high street brand H&M on a capsule collection. But things fell apart as in seconds when the blast hit on 4th October. When sharing an image of smashed glass and debris, she wrote to her 98 thousand Instagram followers; “our heart and soul is aching for our Lebanon. Praying for all the victims of this horrific event. To all those lost, may Your Souls Rest in Peace, and to all those affected, we are here to help. To our SM Team, we are so glad you are all safe and sound. Thank you for your dedication and effort. Without you, we would not be. Praying for our Lebanon. May God bless and protect this nation and its people. Stay strong beautiful Lebanon.”

 

Sarah’s Bag

 

Accessories brand Sarah’s Bag founder Sarah Beydoun had a beautiful, bright showroom located in Gemmayze. Her workshop gave work and taught women who were struggling in society. This devastating explosion ripped through the windows of the workshop left it in ruins as well as leaving many of these women without work. Beydoun told A&E:

“We need all the support possible. We need the world’s spotlight on Lebanon. Beirut’s Mar Mikhaël and Gemmayzeh neighbourhoods are home to Lebanon’s creatives, artists, entrepreneurs, and designers. It is home to some of the best cafes, restaurants, bars and small businesses in the country. The neighbourhood was severely damaged by the explosion. The showrooms and workshops of the best Lebanese designers were all destroyed: Zuhair Murad, Rabih Keyrouz, Elie Saab.

I feel we are at a tipping point. We are either going sink into gloom and despair at the scale of the damage and violence done to us, or we rise up from it, fight back and reclaim our country. This depends on the help of our friends from all over the world. It’s time for them to show love for Lebanon and what we stand for and to support its people and its talents.”

 

Azzam Salim

 

 

Born and raised in Lebanon, Azzam Salim was one of the winners of the Fashion trust Arabia prize in 2019. The designer saw much of his dreams shattered when the explosion hit Beirut. His showroom in Downtown had already been closed due to the economic crisis in Lebanon and this devastating blast added yet another tragedy. But the designer is staying positive during these times and refusing to give up. He shared on his social media account: “I speak to myself and so many creatives in the industry: we are not going anywhere. Not a bomb, not a pandemic, not the economic crises, not even our government can take our voices and what we are here for. We’ve always used inspiration and creativity flowing through us to create ripples of positive change in our country. I shared and will always do what makes Lebanon a beautiful place to me, and I hope you do the same so that the light overcomes the shadow.”

 

Other designers including ready-to-wear and accessories brand Vanina, Jessika K, Nada G, Karoline Lang, Maison Pyramide and so many more were hugely affected by the terrible events. While it will take months and even years for these brands to rebuild their businesses, there has never been a more important time to support Lebanese designers in the region.

 

While there is a long road ahead, one thing is for sure, the Lebanese people are resilient and will bounce back from this. Many are calling out for and the future is very uncertain, but the determination of the people and support from outsiders offers no doubt that this country will rise again.

 

One initiative has been set up in dedication to help Lebanese creatives. Re-Create is a crowdfunding campaign created with the unified support of Starch Foundation, Slow Factory Foundation, Fondation Saradar, Bureau Des Créateurs, Maison Pyramide, Faux Consultancy and Roni Helou. The fundraiser will benefit Beirut’s independent designers and artists whose damages amounted to over $850,000. Working in consultation with the affected designers, the fund has been able to identify the assistance needed as well as the amounts required for each of the 39 applicants. Both online donations and direct bank transfers are accepted. Visit https:// slowfactory.foundation/superfund for more.

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