Young Arab designers showcase at international platform
London - The International Fashion Showcase in London offered Arab designers a privileged platform to display cloth and jewellery creations inspired by their culture and heritage.
The late-February event featured several designers, some from Lebanon and Egypt, each presenting a single design. Operating under the theme of Blueprint Beirut, the Lebanon showroom revealed the work of young designers from the Starch Foundation, an organisation that helps local designers establish their brands globally.
Timi Hayek’s dress was inspired by her mother’s childhood home, a traditional Lebanese home with three arches, palm trees and fans, which are shown in the print.
“There is a lot of layering and pleating in the design of the dress representing the original blueprints that have a lot of layering and transparencies,” Hayek said.
Armenian-Lebanese Sevag Dilsizian presented a jewellery design of a fish inspired by old Lebanese souks that have pre-historic fish fossils. Coming from a family of jewellery designers, Dilsizian’s design is a blueprint and can be used as a brooch and a display piece for men or women. It is made of copper and the eyes are sapphires. On the back side of the fish, bare bone is visible.
Dilsizian said it is Lebanese tradition to make things with copper. “I wanted to show the duality of Lebanon,” he said. “For some people it is heaven on Earth and for others it is a struggle to get by.”
Nour Najem displayed a dress that she said was inspired by what women take with them when they marry, such as clothes that represent their heritage. “Handmade brooches are rare to find now because people don’t have the time to make them or it is too expensive,” she said. “That is why I took pieces of metal and attached them to my kaftan. My design is contemporary but has a big part of heritage to it.”
Mira Hayek said her dress Bluebell was inspired by a motif used in Lebanese tiles. It is a four-petal flower that is the shape of the dress. From above, it is a 3D version of a bluebell. She said her previous work was inspired by Wes Anderson’s film The Darjeeling Limited and photographer John Rollins.
Margherita Abi-Hanna said she researched architecture in Lebanon, especially architecture in the 1960s and ‘70s before coming up with her design, which consists of four prints of nine squares each.
Lebanon’s showroom curator Ellie Metni, an architect, interior and product designer, put on the display with the help of the Arab British Centre and British Council Lebanon.
“I used lights because it is a material you can touch, feel and even smell. It relates to the Utopia theme of the showcase as an imaginary, surreal world. Light also represents tradition which reflects the past into something you can touch, feel and smell,” he said.
In the Egypt room, Daki Marouf and Ahmed Sabry, founders of Cairo’s Sabry Marouf design studio, applauded Egypt’s participation for the first time in the event, although it had been invited the previous four years.
“The previous (Egyptian) ambassadors (in the United Kingdom) did not believe it was important to take part,” Marouf said. “However, the new ambassador believes in the importance of fashion as it could affect the supply chain of the Egyptian economy.
“If designers do well, the manufacturers will do well so the economy will do well. We did not have a budget for the showcase but we managed through a crowd-funding campaign and some (non-governmental organisations) helped us.”
Presenting designer bags, Sabry said they were inspired by ancient Egyptian artefacts, notably Nefertiti’s bust and other works of Thutmose, a 14th-century BC sculptor.
“I was mostly inspired by the materials they used in sculpting, what was underlying, how they finished the sculptures and how they kept it long-lasting,” he said of his creations, which have the shape of the scarab and Tutankhamen.
Egyptian designer Reem Jano maintained that Egypt’s Room represented the “rebirth of a new Egypt we dream of and hope to be”. She said she was inspired by the pharaohs and their belief in life after death, especially the goddess Maat, who had long wings, after which Jano shaped her jewellery design.
“My choker necklace represents the suffocation Egyptians feel due to the ‘Arab spring’. I relate this to Maat as the goddess represents truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality and justice. I left the choker necklace open from the back to represent hope,” she said.
Sara el-Mofti is founder of SAYA swimwear. “My design is made from bikini bottoms representing the Egyptian flag and eagles that represent freedom and flight,” she said. “The trail at the back represents eyes that are covered by the chiffon veil to mimic how Egypt was covered and now we are trying to show a new hip Egypt.”