lebanon

Beirut Blast Anniversary: Zuhair Murad Turns the Mesh Covering the Destroyed Buildings into a Couture Dress for Charity

Beirut Blast Anniversary: Zuhair Murad Turns the Mesh Covering the Destroyed Buildings into a Couture Dress for Charity

Zuhair Murad
“For me, Lebanon is the land of eternal hope. To it, I’ll forever be devoted.” Zuhair Murad had said in a love letter to his home country, shared with Vogue Arabia two months before the blast in Beirut in 2020. On the tragedy’s second anniversary, the Lebanese couturier whose atelier was decimated in the explosion has captured this emotion in his latest design. The poignant creation is a dress made entirely of the blue mesh that wrapped most of the destroyed buildings in Beirut, and part of the project #RedressLebanon in collaboration with the affected local news organization AnNahar, and Impact BBDO.
Photo: Courtesy of Zuhair Murad
By transforming the fabric associated with devastation—and which still covers the AnNahar Building to this day—into art, Murad aims to “dress the city in a befitting gown” while supporting the victims of the blast and their families. The initiative #RedressLebanon will be selling 10,452 NFTs of the dress to raise funds for the affected, with all proceeds going to the Institute for Development, Research, Advocacy and Applied Care (IDRAAC), the first NGO dedicated to mental health in Lebanon. The chosen number of NFTs signifies the total surface area of the country in square kilometers. 

According to a statement, Murad has tried to “express joy and hope through the creation of this unique couture dress, with an aim to make it become a symbol of resilience, beauty, and willpower of the Lebanese who are still witnessing atrocity and living under severe economic and social circumstances.” While the dress takes on the designer’s signature glamorous silhouettes, it is cinched at the waist with the newspaper headlines printed on a satin belt which is held together by a sequined red heart. “Until today, I cannot describe the feeling that I had while wandering in the destroyed streets of Beirut, walking from Mar Mikhael to Gemmayzeh,” said Murad. “I saw what was like a ‘horror movie’—the bodies, the wounded, the screaming and wailing, the darkness, and the rubble. I did not recognize Beirut’s roads, or its buildings, this scene will remain in my memory forever.”
Read Next: 13 of Zuhair Murad’s Most Memorable Celebrity Looks

Pope Francis on the Beirut Blast’s Second Anniversary: “The Truth Can Never Be Hidden”

Pope Francis on the Beirut Blast’s Second Anniversary: “The Truth Can Never Be Hidden”

Photo: Instagram.com/franciscus
After his month-long summer vacation, Pope Francis made a public appearance on Wednesday, the eve of the second anniversary of the deadly Beirut blast. “My thoughts go to the families of the victims of that disastrous event and to the dear Lebanese people. I pray so that each one can be consoled by faith and comforted by justice and by truth, which can never be hidden,” said Pope Francis in his weekly statement.
He added that he sincerely hopes international communities will aid Lebanon in this strenuous time, making for the rebirth of the soulful city of Beirut once again. The Pope concluded his speech by saying that with external help, he hopes to see a “renaissance” in the land of Lebanon, where people from all surroundings and religions will be able to live together in harmony.
The tragedy happened two years ago today, on August 4, 2020, when an abundance of ammonium nitrate stored at the Beirut port detonated, leading to the death of hundreds. While the disaster led to the loss of lives, it also caused the country billions worth of property loss while leaving over 300,000 people homeless. As the loss of lives and capital piled on, this deadly blast holds a record for one of the biggest nuclear explosions in world history.
As the Lebanese authorities investigated further into the explosion, while many have been accused, no real suspects or evidence have yet been found. This judicial investigation has been on hold for over eight months, while those charged have refused to attend hearings. As time progresses, the families of those afflicted are still waiting for justice and closure. The political situation appears to have gathered concern, as the Pope was scheduled to visit Lebanon in June but withheld his trip due to the conditions in the country.
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Andrée Acouri, the World’s First Arab Model: “I Was the Master of My Own Decisions”

Andrée Acouri, the World’s First Arab Model: “I Was the Master of My Own Decisions”

Now 80, Andrée Acouri – the first Arab model to walk the international runways–reflects on a remarkable life of glamour, beauty, and (almost) no regrets. 
Andrée Acouri wears gown, Valentino; necklace, stylist’s own. Photographed by Kiki Xue for Vogue Arabia November 2021
Her shoulder-length blonde hair is swept back in waves, accentuating her angular face and almond-shaped eyes. From Rome, where she currently lives, Andrée Acouri smiles wistfully. Now 80 years old, she looks back on her years as the world’s first Arab model.
At a fashion show for Lebanese designer Jacques Cassia in Beirut in the 60s
Acouri’s story begins in 1962, two years after marrying Italian diplomat Italo Livadiotti. “I was not planning on entering the fashion world, despite the fact that my father was a fabric merchant, and I was attracted to materials like lace and guipure,” she recalls. “It all started by chance. I was with my sister-in-law at a restaurant in Switzerland–I vividly remember that I was wearing a Chanel suit–when a well-known designer offered me the chance to model his collection.” Despite her frankly admitting to him her lack of background in modeling, he insisted. His intuition was not wrong. The 1.78m slender young woman confessed that she experienced fear for a moment before entering her first show, but she soon overcame it, mesmerizing the audience. While her husband supported her new career as a model, her father strongly disagreed, and removed himself from her for two years. Much later, she discovered that he used to attend her shows secretly, finally confessing his pride after a show in St. Tropez. “It has been my favorite gift yet,” she says of his support.
Acouri wears trench, shoes, Michael Kors Collection; pants, stylist’s own. Photographed by Kiki Xue for Vogue Arabia November 2021
As a young girl growing up in Beirut, Acouri recalls that her parents separated when she was nine. “At the time, divorce was rare,” she shares. “I was deprived of seeing my mom. My dad sent me to a boarding school. I was a troublemaker to the extreme, not caring about school. I was the master of my decisions, and never liked being told what to do.” Greatly affected by her disconnection from her mother, Violette, Acouri underscores that she inherited beauty and femininity from her mother. She admits that one of the main reasons she chose her career path was to showcase her strong resemblance to her mother.
Andrée Acouri walking in a Dior show in Beirut, 1965
After her first show, one came after another and she became one of the most coveted models for global fashion houses, from Dior to Nina Ricci, Chanel and Saint Laurent. Adored for her charisma and bright nature, Acouri entered the fashion world through the big door and met big names, including Christian Dior, Nina Ricci, and Coco Chanel. “I was like a butterfly on the stage, as if I was flying,” she reminisces. Ricci played an integral role in her career. Acouri did not just model for the brand, but soon became the house’s muse and fitting model for seven years. She continued to work as a model until the age of 35, considered an unusual age for modeling at the time. She also took part in advertorial films with Sylvio Tabet and Rodrigue Dahdah, among others.
Acouri and Georgina Rizk
Riding above and beyond societal restrictions, Acouri launched a modeling school from her home in Beirut. Georgina Rizk was one of the young women who joined the school, and was accompanied since the age of 14. Acouri mentored Georgina Rizk’s pageant journey, from becoming Miss Lebanon in 1970 to Miss Television, Miss Europe, and finally Miss Universe in 1971. She balanced her role as a socialite, mother, and model, proving that women can achieve their dreams. Acouri, who was deprived of her mother’s embrace and affection, had a daughter with her first husband. She describes Paula as her one and only precious treasure. “My daughter is the most beautiful gift in my life. I’m proud of her and her achievements. We are very close,” she says. Acouri’s two favorite compliments are that she is an amazing mother and friend. “Paula accompanied me to the shows until she was nine; people used to call us Caline and Calinette,” Acouri shares, referring to the runway name–Caline–that Sylvio Tabet gave her to use as a model instead of Andrée, which represented her life off-stage.
Acouri with her daughter, Paula
Her career later slowed down after her marriage to her second husband, Bruno Livadiotti. Despite the hustle of life and fame, Acouri faced a painful phase in her life when she was diagnosed with cancer at the peak of her youth, but it did not stop her from loving life–rather, it increased her determination to live in the present, always looking forward. “I decided to live day by day, and always positively,” she says, adding that destiny blessed her despite the suffering. Now, she is full of life and glowing energy, and her eyes still sparkle.
Acouri wears dress, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini; earrings, Jil Sander. Photographed by Kiki Xue for Vogue Arabia November 2021
Today’s fashion does not appeal to the model who witnessed first-hand the work of the design masters of the past. She favors the Saint Laurent suits and Dior dresses of the 60s, and loves classic pieces–her current favorite brand is Armani. As a glamorous woman and an expert in fashion, she declares, “Today’s models are so skinny. They do not smile and walk without presence. This is sad. They must walk and turn their heads gracefully with an elegant smile beaming through.” Acouri believes that the ideal woman is always beautiful, elegant, and feminine, as she freely controls her life with independence. She then dedicates a message to herself: keep going and never look back. “I do not regret the past. What I regret is that I’m no longer in my twenties to walk for Elie Saab and Armani.” Yet one decision that Acouri regrets is that she had to decline novelist Auguste Le Breton when he offered her a role in the project Rififi. She yielded to her husband’s refusal for participation in the project, which still saddens her.
Acouri wears trench, shoes, Michael Kors Collection. Photographed by Kiki Xue for Vogue Arabia November 2021
Acouri will always remain the first Arab model and an icon of Lebanon’s golden age. “I do not know if this era will one day return,” she says. “The 60s were wonderful and prosperous, and we were fast-forwarding in fashion. In those days, I traveled a lot, and every time I came back to Lebanon, I told myself that we had nothing to envy the west for.
Acouri wears gown, shoes, Valentino; necklace, stylist’s own. Photographed by Kiki Xue for Vogue Arabia November 2021
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Originally published in the November 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia
Style: Michele BagnaraHair: Alessandro Rebecchi at Green Apple ItalyMakeup: Mary Cesardi at Julian Watson AgencyProduction: Interlude ProjectPhotography assistant: Viatceslav SenkevicStyle assistant: Rujana Cantoni

Emirati Label Qasimi Reissues Don’t Shoot T-Shirt to Raise Money for Kids in Lebanon

Emirati Label Qasimi Reissues Don’t Shoot T-Shirt to Raise Money for Kids in Lebanon

Qasimi Fall 2017. Courtesy of Qasimi
Emirati menswear label Qasimi helmed by Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi is reissuing its renowned Don’t Shoot T-shirt in a charitable effort to raise funds for Lebanon. During August and September, the brand has pledged to donate all proceeds from online sales of the shirts to Save the Kids International. The charity organization has been working in Lebanon since 1953 to secure shelter, education, protection, food security and rights for children. It estimates that up to one million children – both Lebanese nationals and Syrian refugees – across the country are in need of urgent assistance.
The Don’t Shoot T-shirt is a nod to the ones originally worn by journalists in Lebanon during the 1982 war. Reporters were given a white shirt bearing the text “Don’t Shoot” in English, French, and Arabic in bright red lettering to make them easier to identify and protect them from harm.
This is not the first time the T-shirt has been used to raise money for the Lebanese. Following the deadly port explosion in Beirut on August 4 last year, the London-based label pledged all proceeds from the item would go to the Lebanese Red Cross. The only change Qasimi has made this time is to add its name under the original wording.

The cotton garment was first released in the London-based brand’s fall 2017 collection. In 2019, however, Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia’s Spring 2020 collection for Vetements garnered attention in the Arab world for featuring the same T-shirt, with many critiquing the brand for seeming to appropriate the issues raised by the conflict. Late brand founder Khalid Al Qasimi said that, apart from seeing an internationally-recognized brand prey on ideas of an emerging label, it is the context that he found disturbing. “I understand what they are doing,” he said, referring to Vetements. “It’s about consumerism. But it’s a complete F-U to the region as well. I used that print to highlight the plight of something going on in the Middle East. For Vetements to use it in such a flippant and provocative manner; I don’t think they realize what these words mean to us Arabs.”
The brand is now spearheaded by his twin sister Sheikha Hoor, who took over the reins following Al Qasimi’s death at the age of 39 in London in July 2019.
Read Next: A Year After the Beirut Explosion, a Lebanese Photographer Tells the Survivors’ Stories Through Their Scars

Middle East’s First Jewelry Line with Lab Grown Diamonds Launches Collection with Lebanese Entrepreneurs

Middle East’s First Jewelry Line with Lab Grown Diamonds Launches Collection with Lebanese Entrepreneurs

Reem Kanj, Aya Ahmad and Natalya Kanj. Photo: Courtesy of Fyne Jewellery.
Fyne Jewellery, the Middle East’s first contemporary fine jewelry brand created in Dubai using the highest caliber, conflict-free lab grown diamonds and responsibly sourced 18K gold, has launched Stargazing, an ethereal collection co-designed with founders of talent management agency Ego & East, Reem and Natalya Kanj. True to the name, every piece pays tribute to the stars and the sky, offering forward-thinking design – in line with the Kanj sisters’ minimal aesthetic.
“Our design process was very much organic: Reem and Natalya had a few inspired ideas and we worked closely together to design an effortless, intricate five piece collection. My favorite design from the Stargazing collection is the Zenith Diamond Body Chain – it’s very eye-catching but alludes a subtle sexiness to it as well. You immediately feel more confident as soon as you put it on,” Lebanese diamantaire and Fyne founder Aya Ahmad told Vogue Arabia.
Photo: Courtesy of Fyne Jewellery
Ahmad was first drawn to the world of lab grown diamonds for their innovative and inclusive outlook challenging traditional practices in the industry of mined diamonds. According to Ahmad, sustainability, now a necessity rather than a choice for brands, starts at the design stage; she believes that there is no use in creating a collection from recyclable and eco-friendly materials if new ‘drops’ are churned out every week, which is why Fyne is a made-to-order brand that designs season-less collections meant to last for generations.
Photo: Courtesy of Fyne Jewellery
Ahmad believes that sustainability in fashion is undoubtedly related to feminism. “The more we learn about global warming and its relation to consumerism, the more we see that it’s not a gender-neutral issue,” she says. “Particularly in the fashion industry, the statistics speak for themselves: 80% of garment workers are female, producing clothing for females, as women spend far more on clothing than men. What’s more, most of these women are operating in unsafe conditions and experiencing gender-based violence and harassment. This is all the knowledge we need to stand up for women, not just in the fashion industry, but against other rights violations globally.”
She added, “Because of the female nature of this issue, it’s no wonder that women are at the forefront of the sustainability movement. In fact, evidence suggests that females in the top executive and political positions are far more likely to prioritize sustainability and climate responsibility than their male counterparts due to their compassionate and empathetic nature. This shows that feminism directly benefits the earth, in ways more than one.”
Aya Ahmad. Photo: Courtesy of Fyne Jewellery
Ahmad says that her heritage plays a role in her jewelry design. “I come from a beautiful village in the South of Lebanon where we have ancient olive trees, a mountainous landscape that connects to the Mediterranean sea, and limestone houses built four decades ago, passed down through generations. The poetic landscape of this nature and the generational architecture fuel so much of my creativity, inspiration, and design aesthetic! They remind me that the earth needs to be preserved, not only for nature, but for people to continue to live and thrive. It’s this core value that pushes me to consciously create, always designing jewelry with sustainability in mind,” she added.
Natalya Kanj. Photo: Courtesy of Fyne Jewellery.
Reem and Natalya Kanj say that it’s key for them to utilize their platforms as influencers and businesswomen to ensure that their audience is excited and aware of the concept of sustainability and environmental issues, such as plastic pollution and climate damage.
“By sharing knowledge on the subject relating to isolated issues, such as the fires which devastated the Amazon rainforest in late 2019, or suggestions on how to maintain a more sustainable life through daily small changes, we perpetuate the subject in a relatable manner, hopefully offering a space for someone to grasp the issue and feel emotionally connected to it enough to make a change. We feel that highlighting and promoting fashion and beauty brands with sustainability at their core is a great way to remind everyone that what and how we shop have an impact on the planet,” they told Vogue Arabia.
Reem Kanj. Photo: Courtesy of Fyne Jewellery.
The Kanj sisters offer advice for aspiring jewelry designers who want to incorporate sustainability in their designs and promote it effectively.
“There are so many brands and companies using key words such as ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘sustainable’ to simply greenwash themselves with no real steps or methods to actually contribute in a positive way. We would suggest that designers aim to truly understand how they can make changes to become more sustainable for the long term and implement these within the brand’s DNA. They can then educate their consumers on the difference they’re making and why it’s important in their social media content and marketing strategies,” they told Vogue Arabia.
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Krikor Jabotian Unveils Brooch Collection Inspired By Lebanese Women in Support of Non-Profit Beit El Baraka

Krikor Jabotian Unveils Brooch Collection Inspired By Lebanese Women in Support of Non-Profit Beit El Baraka

Photo: Courtesy of Krikor Jabotian
Lebanese bridal fashion atelier Krikor Jabotian, in collaboration with non-profit charity organization Beit el Baraka, has launched its new campaign “Flower of Glory” to run throughout the month of June. The collection is made up of seven limited edition brooches created by Lebanese artisans, and all proceeds generated will go to Beit el Baraka, who are dedicated to keeping destitute communities in Lebanon afloat by providing them access to food, medical services and education.
Photo: Courtesy of Krikor Jabotian
Over the past two years, up to two million Lebanese people have found themselves in crippling poverty after the worst socio-economic crisis since 1920 hit the nation. The Lebanese currency’s soaring inflation rate, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the August 2020 Beirut blast – one of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions in history – have compounded Lebanon’s unprecedented financial and economic collapse.

Lebanese women, the nurturers, fighters, and mentors who let Lebanese communities blossom and persevere despite grave hardships, inspire the seven delicate brooches named Anahid, Layla, Sabah, Salwa, Therese, Varteni, and Victorine.
Together, the brooches create an exquisite bouquet of brass and pearl, each with its own one-off unique design, exemplifying the exquisite artistry of traditional Lebanese craftsmanship.
Photo: Courtesy of Krikor Jabotian
The most moving part of the campaign is a three-minute clip featuring three old Lebanese ladies fondly reminiscing their love for fashion, whether it be dressing up or sewing clothes from scratch for their loved ones, and their love for their country, Lebanon.
Creative Director and Lebanese fashion designer Jabotian says that he has a great sense of gratitude and respect for Beit el Baraka’s mission and vision. “It has been a devastating year for Lebanon, and this is the atelier’s humble way of giving back. We remain ready and willing to support one another, in hopes that one day every Lebanese can lead a dignified life. Hand in hand, we hope to make a significant step towards realizing this dream,” he added.
Read more: Yasmine Sabri is the Face of the New Panthère de Cartier Jewelry Collection

Exclusive: Rula Galayini’s Latest Collection Pays Tribute to Lebanon with a New Brand Logo

Exclusive: Rula Galayini’s Latest Collection Pays Tribute to Lebanon with a New Brand Logo

Photo: Courtesy of Rula Galayini
Lebanese designer Rula Galayini’s latest collection titled Romancing Tomorrow is an ode to her country’s resilient spirit and people. The spring/summer handbag collection sees the launch of a new brand logo — an embossed R protruding from the bag’s metallic base. The newly revamped logo is Galayini’s love letter to Lebanon, embodying a phoenix rising from the ashes alongside a revolutionary sentiment. It speaks of resilience, the determination to rebuild, and the pursuit of making things right.
Vogue Arabia spoke to the designer about the thought process behind the newly refurbished logo and the new pieces.
Photo: Courtesy of Rula Galayini
Why was it important for you to introduce the new brand logo after such a trying year?
The past year had been a great, unprecedented opportunity to sit back and reflect on things – both on a professional and personal level. It was the time to reflect on my purpose as a mother, as a creator, and above all as an individual.
Ten years ago when I created Rula Galayini, the purpose was twofold: firstly to support local artisans who were being threatened by the influx of the mass-produced, and secondly to highlight, represent and export a piece of beauty from my region, so often victim to much negative stereotype.
Looking back at all that my country has recently been through and what my people are struggling with today, I wanted the brand’s raison d’etre to be as loud as ever.
Photo: Courtesy of Rula Galayini
How did the blasts in Beirut affect your creativity and production?
Firstly, the blast happened right in the heart of Beirut’s creative community. Our workshops, factories, and many of our artisans’ homes sustained major damage if they were not completely destroyed. Furthermore, our logistics facility is located at the port itself so it literally crumbled to the ground, causing a major setup back to our international logistics operation.
And this is not to speak of the emotional damage caused. I remember reading a statement released on August 4 that read, “We’re all dead today. If it didn’t kill our bodies, it killed our hearts.” Nothing summed the sentiment better. The moment, I heard the news, I remember stumbling to call my parents, my inlaws, my friends to make sure they were alive. Never mind if their homes were destroyed, their memories buried. That all seemed trivial at the time.
And then, I began to feel an overwhelming sense of guilt for having been abroad.  For having escaped the horror. For having the privilege to live in a non-toxic environment. For being able to actually live as opposed to just exist.
But then buried under a few weeks of disbelief, shock, bitterness, and helplessness, I uncovered a renewed sense of purpose.
Photo: Courtesy of Rula Galayini
Talk us through the creative process behind designing the new pieces. 
Rula Galayini bags have typically had very discrete branding. Our aspiration was to create a strong aesthetic identity without the use of names, but rather through a visual language that became iconic to the brand.
When designing the new logo, I wanted to remain true to that. But since there lies heavy symbolism in this season’s story, having one letterform was key in kickstarting that conversation. The ‘R’ is highly stylized in a matter that is reminiscent of contemporary architecture, which is an infinite source of inspiration. Then came the notion of what the ideal material and finishing would be ideal. Ultimately, brass was chosen in a rich gold-plated coating. The base of the plaque is lackluster but then a glossy gold ‘R’ protrudes through as though to insinuate brighter days ahead.
Since we design for a diversity of markets, we wanted to ensure the specificity of our story resonated well on a global level. The last year has been a challenging, eye-opening year for all. Whether people restructured their priorities and lifestyles, there is an unprecedented sense of mindfulness that now consumed us as. And this is, no doubt, one of the silver linings that happened to us. To that end, we wanted our new pieces to facilitate a sense of control in today’s unpredictable world. Secondly, women are buying smarter so our new pieces are timeless and versatile to cover as many walks of life as possible.
Photo: Courtesy of Rula Galayini
What’s next for Rula Galayini the brand?
India has been the latest market for us to land in. We are really happy about that as we had noticed a growing popularity of our products among the young, fashion-forward Indian tourists visiting Dubai.
We’re also focusing more of our efforts on growing our e-commerce outreach and offering as well as creating a meaningful sense of community amongst our customers and fans.
We have also recently opened a B2B line of business where we provide retail consultancy services to both regional and international fashion and beauty brands, who inspire to create meaningful experiences.
Read Next: How Rula Galayini’s SS20 Collection is a Tribute to Working Mothers

You Can Now Shop Lebanese Ready-to-Wear Brand Boyfriend Online

You Can Now Shop Lebanese Ready-to-Wear Brand Boyfriend Online

After a tumultuous year in Lebanon, Beirut-based brand Boyfriend is powering through into 2021 with the launch of its very own e-shop. On this occasion, the ready-to-wear label has also launched a poignant new collection, which is exclusively revealed to Vogue Arabia by designer Amine Jreissati. The word sajeen, meaning prisoner, is at the core […]
The post You Can Now Shop Lebanese Ready-to-Wear Brand Boyfriend Online appeared first on Vogue Arabia.

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