An Observation

with AGENDA CULTUREL - 2016-04-06

We all love the unique Lebanese designers but few of us can afford them. Elie Saab, Reem Acra, and so many others are so out of our league. Yet, doesn't every Lebanese women dream of having a dress, a gown, or a sweater designed by one of their own designers? I am sure they all dream with acquiring the outfit of a Lebanese fashion designer, but all also, the original creations of so many talented Lebanese who design from beautiful homes, rugs, tabletops, ceramics, and jewelry.

We are all so proud to see you succeed around the world putting the name of Lebanon so high wherever you go. We are not surprised. Lebanese have always had taste. Before the Civil war, it was great to just sit at a café and see the elegant Lebanese women dressed walk by. They had a natural sense for fashion. After the war, it seems that this lure to fashion and dressing up, has dwindled.

If Lebanon is to become someday a hub for creativity in design, and in the arts, I believe this creativity should be available not only to the rich, but to its middle-classes as well. It needs to trickle down to its people. As you all know for years we have a big brain drain in this country. So many talented people with so much potential that could help turn this country around have migrated elsewhere. We cannot tap on their skills. It is time that all these creative people are and are going to put their stamp around the world, also see that their creative stamp is available for the Lebanese masses.

I am using fashion, as an example, to make my point. Sure, fabulous gowns are prohibitory costly for the average consumer. We realize the cost of production, the many hours it takes to make a one-of-a-kind original. They are obviously, made for those who can afford these works of art, wherever in they are in the world. Congratulations to all who are succeeding in the fashion world and are being recognized around the world.

Yet at the same time, I think it would be an even greater honor for any Lebanese designer, artisan, or shoe maker, to see everybody in their country wearing their designs on the streets. The sense of satisfaction in knowing that their own people love their work would be just as satisfying. How awesome would that be? Imagine being able to impact and influence masses of your own people rather than just a few privileged in the furthest corners of the world.

If you look at your average Lebanese women, their wardrobe is filled from clothes from Spain, American, British, French, Italian, and Chinese brands. How many have Lebanese designs in their closets? Very few. Lebanese designs are way too pricey for the average consumer. Frankly, this globalization, wearing what all the world produces does not help distinguish Lebanon from any other country. I long to see a pride in Lebanese ownership of their own talents and skills. If you asked Lebanese women if they would rather consume or wear from local designers rather than foreign ones, I wonder what they would say. How will you know for sure? Here is a market that is not being tapped to its fullest.

We all know Lebanese women love to dress. All Lebanese love beauty and to be surrounded by beauty in their homes or on their bodies. Whom wouldn’t love to shop and buy from one of these amazing designers? They just cannot afford them.
A while back I read of a Lebanese lady who had the largest collection of Hermes scarves in Lebanon. That is wonderful. Wouldn't it be just as wonderful, to hear that Lebanese are collecting Sarah’s Bags, or Nivine Maktabi’s scarves and pashminas, the jewelry pieces of Randa Tabbah instead of Tiffany, for example? It is time to instill the pride of ownership in authentic Lebanese design in the country.

Just as you talented creative Lebanese can cater to your select world clients, you could also address the working Lebanese clientele. You are not tapping on your local middle-class customer base. They are here, and they are more than willing and ready to buy, wear, live, and eat at your amazing establishments and enjoy all your original creations.
You are not only talented, but you are descendants of the Phoenicians. Business savvy is in your blood. It is time to focus your creative attention on your people. Your devoted Lebanese followers will always be proud to acquire your creations and brands above anyone else.