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In the contemporary world, fashion and design has become a major aspect of global culture. Particularly, fashion has flourished in many parts of the world. This reflects change in terms of perspectives and perceptions that fashion in the previous decades elicited. Of particular interest is fashion industry in Middle East and other parts of Asia.
Despite different convictions, views and culture, fashion in Middle East has thrived amid strong religious practices and resistance. This essay explores fashion industry of Lebanon. The paper will highlight some of the major fashion designers in the country and draw conclusions on whether or not Lebanese fashion has flourished.
Besides, the conclusion of the paper will make a comparison between fashion industry in Lebanon and Dubai. This will not only provide a glimpse of Lebanese fashion but also enhance our knowledge on the intrinsic aspects of the country that makes its fashion industry irresistible to the rest of the world.
Lebanon Fashion Designers
Lebanon is renowned for exemplar fashion designers. Elie Saab is an iconic fashion designer with design shops located in Beirut and other parts of the world. Born in 1964, Saab showed keen interest in fashion and began sewing at a tender age of nine years. In 1981, Saab attended fashion and design training in Paris and gained knowledge and style that were critical for his career (Carnegy 79).
He returned to Beirut where he opened a fashion and design workshop. At the age of 18, Elie Saab had already launched his label and was able to start a designer shop. His initial fashion designs included wedding gowns and dresses. He used unique fabrics to exhibit designs that represented a shift from conventional Lebanese culture to a more liberal and global-accepted culture.
Despite his early ambitions, his work gained global acceptance in 1997 when he became a member of Camera Nazionale della Moda (McKelvey and Munslow 31). Consequently, he was able to ensure that his collections typify numerous fashion shows across the world.
It is important to note that Elie Saab is a major fashion designer who has been able to integrate eastern and western cultures. Use of such materials such as taffeta and satin has allowed the designer to come up with light gowns and wedding dresses. This in turn has led to recognition of his designs globally. His most memorable moment was in 2002.
Saab made history when he became the first designer not only in Lebanon but also in the entire Middle East to dress an Oscar winner (McKelvey and Munslow 301). Particularly, Saab dressed Halle Berry making his designs an instant success then and in the following years. Consequently, he became a member of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris (Carnegy 129).
Fig 1: Some of Saab’s Elegant Designs
To that end, Saab’s designs and fashion collections have become popular across the world. This in turn has allowed him to become one of the most recognized fashion designers having dressed over a hundred celebrities at the end of 2010. His business has also expanded across the region and the entire world. Particularly, he has opened over sixty outlets across the world.
To diversify his collection, Saab launched his maiden perfume known as ‘Le Parfum’ in 2012. The fragrance became an instant seller. According to McKelvey and Munslow, the perfume became the best seller in over fifteen countries across the world (162). It is imperative to restate that Elie Saab is a global and impressive fashion designer. Among the celebrities he has dressed are Beyonce, Katy Perry, Christina Aguilera and Rihanna.
Another renowned Lebanese fashion designer is Zuhair Murad. Unlike Saab, Murad is relatively younger having been born in 1971. He studied fashion in Paris where he achieved a degree in fashion and design. Upon his return to Lebanon, Murad opened his first shop in Beirut. He made his debut in fashion when he appeared on catwalks of Italy.
His designs captured attention of many designers and became a characteristic of fashion shows in Italy. Murad has been able to sustain his collection to the satisfaction of a myriad of clients. Mainly, he specializes in ready to wear clothes, eyewear and other accessories that are pertinent to the fashion industry (Hywel 28).
Although his fashion line grew in a modest rate, he has diversified his line to include lingerie and perfumes. In 2008, he opened two boutiques outside Lebanon. Like Saab, one of the shops is in Milan while the other one is located in Paris (Carnegy 67). He also has many showrooms that target fashion events such as New York Fashion Week.
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Fig 2: Miley Cyrus wearing one of Murad’s Designs
It would be unwise not to mention major highlights of Murad’s fashion and design career. Due to his ability of fusing Western and Eastern cultures, Murad has become one of the most sought after designers by many celebrities. Particularly, he has dressed many celebrities and royalties including Christina Aguilera, Blake Lively, Miley Cyrus among many others (Hywel 70).
However, his eureka moment was in 2011 when Kerry Washington wore one of his collections during Emmy Awards. It is also important to mention that princess of Saudi Arabia wore one of his collections during the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, in the same year. The most important aspect of Murad’s collection is elegance and expensive fabric.
Besides, his designs incorporate different cultures ensuring that clients come from all over the world. As such, Murad has made a fortune in dressing actors of popular TV shows and programs. They include The X Factor, Twilight Saga and most recently, Savages. In addition, his line of fashion has been able to address numerous needs of the clients across the world.
In fact, Murad’s fashion line has created a unique style in Lebanon making him one of the most terrific fashion designers. Globally, Murad has elicited recognition and appreciation. In Hollywood, his fashion collection has attracted many customers and celebrities. According to various fashion designers, Murad’s fashion collection has become a household name similar to that of Armani and D & G (Hywel 172).
He has had the privilege of appearing in many fashion-related magazines and shows including Joan Rivers’ fashion magazine show, The Fashion Police. To that end, it is important to assert that Murad has been instrumental in popularizing Lebanese fashion across the world.
Reasons why Fashion in Lebanon has Flourished
Lebanon’s fashion industry has flourished in the recent past owing to various factors. At the outset, Lebanon’s geopolitical position and culture are important factors that have made the fashion industry to thrive amid growing competition across the world. The rationale is that Lebanon’s location has led to the spread of Arabic and European influences in the fashion industry.
As such, most fashion designs take into consideration both influences and cultures leading to a high demand for the collections. In fact, many designers describe Lebanon as the ‘Switzerland of the Middle East’ (McKelvey and Munslow 228). This fact has led to differentiation and distinctiveness of Lebanese fashion from other countries across the region.
In turn, Lebanese fashion has a unique style that does not reflect either Arabic or European designs. Lebanon’s fashion industry therefore integrates various cultures to make elegant and liberal clothes that are unique in the entire region. It is important to mention that Lebanon’s fashion industry has also been instrumental in maintaining historical elements of Lebanese culture.
According to many designers, fashion culture of Lebanon is unique from many others. Particularly, Beirut is regarded as ‘Paris of the Orient’ in the sense that the fashion industry in the city reflects that of Paris (Hywel 30). Historians point out that the culture of the country was an important factor that has led to the massive explosion of fashion and design industry in the country.
The reason is that weaving of elegant carpets, fabrics and artwork are cultural practices that the population has maintained for long (Hywel 82). To that end, culture and geopolitical positioning of Lebanon have supported growth and expansion of fashion industry within the country.
Second, it is important to highlight that political instability of the country has increased the diversity of the fashion industry. Prior to the civil war, Beirut was a major fashion destination of the world. Carnegy says that the escalation of war and violence facilitated the migration of many young Lebanese to Western countries (213). In these countries, many fashion designers from the country gained training and knowledge that is important in fashion industry.
For instance, Zuhair Murad fled the country amid the civil war to acquire basic and international training on fashion. Since the political instability within the country has reduced tremendously, many fashion designers who received training in European nations and America have returned to Lebanon. To that end, the designs and collections that have emerged in the country traverse Lebanese jurisdiction to become global brands.
It is essential to emphasize that many designers who gained training outside Lebanon have been in a position to launch collections that are liberal and are generally acceptable across the world. This is contrary to fashion industries of other countries within the region that have been relatively conservative (Hywel 45).
Further, government of Lebanon has appreciated and recognized the importance of fashion and design industry. The authorities have lured many young people to join fashion colleges in order to expand the small fashion industry. According to many fashion designers, Lebanon is the only country within Middle East that has enacted laws and regulation that sponsor fashion industry (Carnegy 111).
Ranging from tax subsidies and export incentives, the country has protected the local fashion industry from high-end competitors. In fact, the state of Lebanon has been able to increase the number of education institutions that nurture fashion talents from a meager three to sixty seven between 2000 and 2011 (McKelvey and Munslow 221). This has acted as a major motivation for many young and talented fashion designers leading to a major explosion of young designers.
In addition to protecting local fashion industry, the state has also ensured that public awareness has increased in order to create local market for fashion collections. To that end, many citizens appreciate the important role that the industry plays in the general economy of the country.
McKelvey and Munslow point out that the rise of globally recognized Lebanese fashion designers has inspired numerous upcoming fashion designers in the country (93). Such renowned designers as Rana Sam, Zuhair Murad, Johnny Farah, Mr Kayrouz, Karen Cherkerdjian and Elie Saab have opened many fashion avenues that young designers can explore.
Besides, the availability of quality fabrics and garments in the country has allowed designers to provide quality and elegant dresses and clothes that are competitive in the global fashion industry. As such, availability of raw materials such as satin and silk coupled with expertise and skills have enhanced the fashion industry in the country. As many people point out, it is important to mention that the liberal nature of Lebanese culture has made it distinct from other countries in the region.
This is not only in terms of global recognition but also in terms of diluting stringent laws that guide regional culture. Despite the rise of Lebanon’s fashion industry, it is important to pinpoint various challenges that have come along with the growth. Insecurity and political instability within the region have been major hiccups for the industry in the sense that the country has failed to attract and organize major fashion events.
The rationale is that insecurity is not only a pertinent issue to the government of Lebanon but also an important aspect in Middle East. As such, regional peace remains a major challenge for the growing Lebanese fashion industry. Moreover, political instability has also led to the emergence of extremist groups that perceive fashion industry as an aspect of Western culture.
Such groups as Hezbollah have minimized chances of the industry to thrive amidst global competition. Due to the challenges, it is essential to mention that Lebanon’s fashion events have not received similar audience when compared to respective events in Europe and the United States. In addition, lack of sufficient financial resources and institutions are attributable to unpopularity of fashion designers.
Ignorance about fashion and design is therefore overwhelming in a substantial proportion of the citizenry. Nonetheless, Lebanon’s fashion industry is the largest and most elegant in the Middle East. Many fashion designers concur with the assertion that Lebanese fashion will continue to typify major fashion events across the world.
Fashion of Lebanese
Lebanon boasts of diversity in fashion, design, beauty and culture. This is notwithstanding adversity that has rocked the country in recent years. Fashion in particular is a major tourist attraction owing to its elegance and its association with global celebrities and royalties. In fact, many designers argue that Lebanon is home to the most diverse and liberal fashion collections.
The country’s is also renowned for its finesse in the fashion industry. This does not only allow the country to attract customers across the region but also around the world (Hywel 45). Creativity is also a major component of the fashion collections in the country. In May this year, the country hosted an annual fashion festival known as Cannes Film Festival.
The event was not only an opportunity for myriad of designers to display their collections but also an avenue through which the international community can appreciate the elegance and creativity of Lebanese designs. In addition, such events have attracted major fashion icons from all over the world. As such, it is imperative to mention that Lebanese fashion has grown in an unprecedented way and has gained recognition from other countries.
Availability of special and unique skills and styles of making garments has also allowed the country to design excellent designs (Hywel 58). It is important to mention that major fashion designers in the country attract a specific clientele particularly, the affluent and wealthy members of global society. Therefore, Lebanese fashion has been associated with quality, creativity, elegance and high cost.
Why is Lebanon Fashion Designers Famous in the World?
Undoubtedly, Lebanese fashion designers have captured the attention of the world in the past few decades. At the outset, Lebanese designers have been able to adopt a culturally relative approach when designing, displaying and marketing their collections. The rationale is that many Arabic countries view fashion shows and designs from the perspective that they represent Western culture.
However, the Lebanese designers make clothes and dresses that reflect unique cultures for specific clients. According to various fashion designers, culture is a strong factor that is closely associated with success or failure of finished designs. As such, Lebanese designers take into consideration the impact of cultural ethnocentrism and relativism during the process of making outfits.
Second, Lebanon fashion designers are famous for the type of clients they target. Particularly, such designers as Zuhair Murad and Elie Saab have dressed global icons like Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Halle Berry and Blake Lively among many other celebrities. Consequently, fans of the celebrities associate Lebanese fashion with elegance and style.
This has not only made the fashion industry in the country to flourish but also made the designers to acquire high standing in the fashion industry. Additionally, Lebanese fashion has integrated quality and creativity to produce some of the most outstanding dresses and outfits. The quality of Lebanese silk and taffeta is unique across the world making the designers to be identified with the attributes of the country’s quality fabric (Carnegy 79).
Finally, it is imperative to underscore the fact that the process of globalization has enabled the designers to traverse many countries and continents. As such, they have gained insights on the fashion needs of different societies across the world. The above-mentioned facts have therefore made designers from Lebanon to be popular and famous all over the world.
In essence, Lebanon’s fashion industry has grown tremendously over the past decades. This is evident by the number of designers that have emerged from the country. Zuhair Murad and Elie Saab are among the most renowned designers from the country. Their designs have been displayed in numerous fashion events across the world.
Various reasons have led to the popularity and expansion of Lebanese fashion industry. They include high quality designs, availability of fabric, government incentives, famous fashion designers as well as creativity. As such, Lebanese fashion designers have dressed celebrities and royalties.
While it is true that Dubai has a strong and upcoming fashion industry, Lebanon has already made its presence in the global market already. Nonetheless, the political challenges apparent in Lebanon do not affect Dubai. As such, Dubai might overtake Lebanon as the most renowned fashion destination in Asia.
Carnegy, Vicky. Fashions of a Decade, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Press, 2006. Print.
Hywel, Davies. 100 New Fashion Designers, New York: McGraw Hill Publishers, 2008. Print.
McKelvey, Kathryn and Munslow, Janine. Fashion Design: Process, Innovation and Practice, Boston: Sage Publishers, 2011. Print.