The Rise of Lebanese Fashion Designers: A Focus on Abed Mahfouz dynamic

Posted: May 27, 2010 in Miscellaneous Reports

By Weam Al Dakheel

Published in ‘The LAU Tribune’ (Newspaper)

fashion in lebanon

Lebanon has been the fashion capital of the Middle East. Thanks to the Lebanese designers such as Georges Chakra, Zuhair Murad, Abed Mahfouz, Rabih Kayrouz, and Elie Saab who are considered as the beloved ones in most of international fashion runways. In addition, the Lebanese people have a reputation for being among the most fashionable people in the Arab World. The fashion in the country is alive especially among young women wearing the latest and trendiest brands. “In Lebanon, fashion is becoming a progressing phenomenon matching one of the lead industries in Europe. The Lebanese designers are producing striking fashion designs in London, Milan and Paris runways. They add glamour to stars in the red carpet,” said Nabila Nazer, a Saudi Fashion Designer. As a result, fashion has become a creative and active representation of Lebanese men and women.

As Lebanon attracts a large number of tourists, especially Arabs, the country have witnessed growth in the fashion sector. “Last year a million tourists visited Lebanon. This is the first time since the end of the civil war in 1990 that Lebanon has seen such high numbers of tourists,” quoted by Radio Netherlands Worldwide. In addition, the U.S. apparel exports to Lebanon reached 9 million dollars in the first 10 months of 2009, constituting around 3% of total apparel imports to Lebanon, statistics done by U.S Commercial Service. This means, the fashion industry in Lebanon extensively advances retail activity in the country.

One minute Lebanon was just a site of war and chaos and then the next second, a battlefield of beauty and fashion as Lebanese designers continue to create buzz all around the world. Armed with unparalleled hands that create attractive and wearable designs, competitive Lebanese fashion designers rise to the global arena and are favored by famous Hollywood stars in red-carpet events, shows, and events because their designs “correspond to Hollywood celebrity standards: feminine, sexy, glamorous, but not provocative, not too personal,” said Lydia Kamitsis, a fashion curator and writer based in France.

abed mahfouz

One of the big names to come up in the world of fashion design is Abed Mahfouz. In 2009, he was #78 in Arabian Business’ list of 100 World’s Most Influential Arabs. Though an Electrical Engineering graduate, Mahfouz found his calling to be a fashion designer even as a child as he assisted his dressmaker sister Ghada Mahfouz. “I love to be random but distinctive. I go for new standards in every collection I design. My aim is to keep searching about the beauty of fashion to solve the woman’s secret,” Said Mahfouz.

In 1999, he entered the fashion scene with his first-ever bridal collection held at the Royal Plaza Hotel in Beirut. Following this, he showcased another bridal and evening dress collection in the same capital in 2000. Then in 2001, he launched “The Dreamer” or “Al Halima” Collection, which featured bridal couture and became the first of the many successful “Al Halima” collections. However, his international fame came in 2004 when he took part in the International Fashion Week in Rome. Here, he displayed his Autumn-Winter Collection. He has since been showcasing collections most notably his Fall/Winter 2008-2009 Collection presented in AltaRoma AltaModa Fashion Week in the garden of Villa Borghese Gallery and Museum, with the attendance of the Italian Prime Minister of Culture and the president of Alta Roma Style and Events Agency, among other prominent celebrities and public figures. “Abed Mahfouz is an exceptional designer with extraordinary style and character. He is so humble, respectable, and decent. When ever I attend his fashion shows I get inspired by his fashion perspective.” Said Rabiaa Breghli, a regular customer of Abed Mahfouz from Morocco.

Hence, in the recent New York Fashion Week, Abed Mahfouz announced the launch of his prêt-a-porter collection. “This season’s colors are natural colors such as pink, green, yellow, orange. The mood of the dress portrays a calm appearance towards a fruitful future. And the woman of Abed Mahfouz is always glowing, when she appears everybody would look at her,” said the creative director Ghassan el Hoyek referring to fall 2010-2011 collection launched in New York.

abed mahfouz

The collection reflects Mahfouz’s design principle of celebrating the female form, accenting silhouettes with draping and highlighting the shoulders and the waist. “ I attended his fashion show at the Altman Building in New York, amazing. The collection of fall 2009-2010 is inspired by a woman’s beauty and femininity. It is full of glamorous gowns with raised shoulders, the one-piece garments designed with crystals and white diamonds are very eye-catching and fashionable. Every piece Abed Mahfouz designs is fabulous,” commented Farah Kamal, a Lebanese Student in New York University, major Arts and film.

As a designer, Mahfouz designs for the contemporary woman who wishes to be “natural, transparent, and soaring towards a confident, independent and cutting edge future” said Mahfouz. “I love the way he makes fabric dance and mingle together, his magnificent ways and techniques, simply regal,” said Nabila Nazer. Today, celebrities and stars wear his clothes and sit at the front row of his shows. Between these are Tyra Banks, Taylor Swift, Tilda Swinton, Victoria Beckham, Beyonce, violinist Miri Ben-Ari and socialite Annabel Vartanian, who sat front row in his Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week.

Since Mahfouz’s designs are haute couture, they are expectedly pricey. The current economic crisis the world is facing has undoubtedly had an affect on the fashion industry, and for Mahfouz “it made an effect, but not that much” speaking of the supplies and demands in his fashion business.

Costume Made Dress by Abed Mahfouz for Wijdan Abdul Azize, the Bride.

Wijdan Abdul Aziz, a Saudi regular client of Abed who brought eight dresses from him, revealed her affection to his yearly fashion designs. “Abed Mahfouz designed my wedding dress. He is the best in Lebanon and so professional in and outside the fashion business. The relationship between the family and Mahfouz has nothing to do with money and materialistic aspects. Although you have to cash in big money in order to get one of his glamorous dresses.” The prices of Abed Mahfouz are as superior as the fashion pieces themselves. “Every dress have cost me more than 3000$,” said Wijdan Abdul Aziz. Therefore, Abed Mahfouz dresses are high-priced, for example, fashion pieces in silk and organza, in all colors and several lengths, some with elaborate embroidery and rows of crocheted crystals in silver or colored cost around 3500$, and with more fabrics and stitching prices are up high to 25000$.

The prices stated above are not from the invitation-only haute couture; they are ready-to-wear prices from the best department stores and boutiques. It’s hard for most people to fathom such outlandish excess; it’s become hard for the excessive spender to feel the full glory of her excess when the status barometer is forever on the rise.However orders from abroad are “peaking,” said Mahfouz, and the Lebanese designers know that fashion is a business where change is everything. “Ten years ago, we said this ‘trend’ of Lebanese designers would die. Well, it hasn’t yet and it doesn’t look like it will anytime soon,” stated Georges Chakra, a Lebanese and international fashion designer.

elie saab

Another designer who is one of the tops of this elite group of Lebanese designers is Elie Saab who is much inspired by “the Middle Eastern culture, especially the city of Beirut and the richness of its culture, and my sensitivity to fashion is reflected through rich and warm items as well.” Elie Saab has skyrocketed to fame when Hollywood actress Halle Berry received the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2002, wearing the famous full-skirted burgundy gown with a sheer top with strategically embroidered flowers where she looked “faultless,” stated Saab.

halle berry

He has since been designing for other Hollywood A-listers such as Christina Aguilera, and Angelina Jolie. Other names that continue to create buzz in Hollywood are Reem Acra, Rabih Kayrouz, and George Chakra, all of whom have deep affinity with their home country and have designed for the likes of Tyra Banks, Carrie Underwood, Queen Latifah, famous political wives, among others. Because of these talented and creative designers, fashion in Lebanon has since been vibrant. As more young designers are finding their voice, they are bringing new and unique perspectives to fashion. ” I strongly believe in young blood and as a result I have selected four graduates who are getting complete guidance in not only creating collections but also on how to develop the business plan as it is extremely important for building the brand in future,” Stated Rabih Kayrouz, Lebanese designer and creator. As a result, countless fashion institutes also began coming in, giving more chance to those who want to make it big in the fashion world.

reema acra

Because of Mahfouz and other Lebanese designers, the country is becoming the fashion capital of the Middle East. These designers are greatly influenced by their culture and they in turn influence the way locals dress. Since Lebanon is an open country compared to its neighbors, Lebanese are now more fashion-forward, edgy, and stylish, thanks to the designers who are making everyone proud. Given that Lebanese designers are adept in wedding gown creation like Mahfouz and Acra, Lebanon is an unexpectedly beautiful place for a destination wedding and other important fashionable events.

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