Hussein Bazaza, Sandra Mansour, Nour Najem, and Azzi & Osta are emerging stars who are set to become household names. Their respective roads to success, different design aesthetics, and various brands’ ethos’ underscore the ways in which the industry has changed for Lebanese designers. One of the biggest changes are the opportunities available to rising talents, thanks to their internationally-acclaimed compatriots; from apprenticeships under the patronage of Saab, to Kayrouz’s cofounded non-profit organization, the STARCH Foundation. Although a watchful eye and gentle nudge are helpful, the “Rising Four” are stitching and sewing paths that are truly their own.
— THE NEW COUTURIERS: AZZI & OSTA
Saab, Murad, and Kayrouz ultimately defined the quintessential Lebanese design aesthetic: heavy beading, intricate detailing, form-fitting, and boldly sexy. Luckily, that doesn’t stop the design duo George Azzi and Assaad Osta from redefining Lebanese couture with their signature style. With inspirations that go as far back as childhood and as fashion forward as surrealist art, Azzi & Osta are creating unconventional dresses that juxtapose delicate tulles and embroidery with sharp geometric shapes, deconstructing and creating a fresh Lebanese couture aesthetic. The designers’ only workshop is in the busy hub that is Achrafieh, Beirut, but an international expansion is easily foreseeable in their bright futures.
— THE SOCIAL SUCCESS: HUSSEIN BAZAZA
Crowded Achrafieh is also home to Bazaza’s studio, which he opened in 2012 with the help of STARCH Foundation. His unique designs are deeply soulful, evoking a darkly romantic femme fatale that sets him apart from the crowd. His talent landed him the Elle Style Award “Best Upcoming Middle East Designer” and this year, he is in the running for Style Arabia’s Fashion Prize. The competition platform? Instagram. Bazaza’s model? Lebanese fashion blogger, Lana El-Sahely (of L’Armoire De Lana fame) whose 121k international followers are sure to get him noticed. In this day and age, talent is insufficient to launch a successful career. A comprehens ive brand strategy that capitalizes on the opportunities available to fashion houses in the digital age is necessary, and one that Bazaza is making the most of.
— THE ACTIVIST: NOUR NAJEM
A digitally-savvy brand is challenging, but a sustainable one may be even more difficult to achieve. This is where Nour Najem shines (her last name appropriately translates to “star” in Arabic), launching a label in 2013 that simultaneously celebrates and engages with her Lebanese heritage. Found at the STARCH boutique in Beirut, her designs are quiet successes that use light fabrics and de-constructed artisanal patterns on loose tunics and dresses. Her deep commitment to creating a responsible company was showcased in 2014, with the launch of the NGO Kenzah in parallel to her luxury line. The foundation teaches women traditional artisanship as a way to preserve the heritage and improve the women’s economic prospects. Ultimately, Najem has accomplished a rare feat, effectively combining a Lebanon of the past and present.
— THE HYBRID: SANDRA MANSOUR
The tiny country on the Mediterranean is often described as the “Switzerland of the Middle East” for its cultural melange of East and West. Sandra Mansour quite literally embodies this epithet : born and raised in Switzerland and deeply tied to her Lebanese roots. Mansour cemented her love for the Arts in beautiful Beirut, choosing to launch her label there five years ago. Her designs combine practical shapes with rich fabrics and delicate embroidery, creating a simple elegance that contemporarily celebrates her cultural binaries of East and West. Mansour is internationally known, with her Bridal and Ready-To-Wear collections showing at Paris Fashion Week, her designs available in Parisian stores and locations across the GCC, and a boutique to her name in Gemmayze, Beirut.
Our “Rising Four’s” different paths represent unique aspects of evolving Lebanese design. Whether they are cultural hybrids or committed activists, their differences are only strengthened by their similarities: a love for creating and a love for the beautiful chaos that is Lebanon.
(1) Looks from Hussein Bazaza’s most recent collection, Luna Fall 2015. (2) Looks from Nour Najem’s Fall / Winter 2016-2017 Collection, “Zaman, A Tale Of Time”. (3) Looks from Azzi & Osta’s Spring / Summer 2015 Couture collection. (4) Looks from Sandra Mansour’s Spring / Summer 2016 “A Dream’s Collection”.