Lebanese designer Elie Saab is no stranger to catastrophe. She started her business in Beirut at the height of the Lebanese civil war in 1982, which later became a Hollywood favorite due to her fairy-tale red carpet gown.
However, over the past year, Mr. Saab and his country have brought fresh tensions. A financial crisis sent the Lebanese economy free and sparked large street protests before the coronovirus epidemic began. Then, on August 4, A. Horrific explosion in main Beirut harbor Hundreds of people were killed and billions of dollars in damage.
This week, Mr. Saab and his son, Eli Saab Jr., chief executive of the family company, spoke to the New York Times about the city’s future and what might happen next for its fashion scene. The interview is edited and condensed.
How is life in Beirut right now?
Elie saab jr.: It is known for its vibrant culture and lifestyle, its hospitality and its Joy de Vivre. But the events of the past year have damaged Beirut, and the situation is getting worse day by day. People are on the streets, and they are furious.
Elie Saab: It’s such a difficult period for our city, and it’s getting It has become difficult for people to live here And make a life for yourself. It is very sad and not the image of Lebanon that we want to see.
Where were you when the explosion occurred?
ES: I was in the office with my team working on the next collection. At first, the explosion was so strong that I had no idea what was going on. It took me a minute to realize where I am in the dust and glass. Every single door and window in the building was blown up, and there was debris everywhere.
My main concern was to make sure that everyone present in the building with me was safe, along with my parents, family and friends. I came to know that my The house was completely cluttered – and all our local neighborhoods. It was a very sad day. But to be honest, in those early hours, I simply thanked God that I had lost only material things.
ES Junior: I was also in office but on a different floor from my father. I was having a business meeting when the explosion occurred. Many of us were cut with glass. We were convinced, due to the density of the damage, that it must have come from beneath us. Then my uncle called from the other side of the city saying that his building had also been destroyed, so we thought maybe we had done aerial bombing.
There was a lot of uncertainty, a lot of nervousness for others and those you love, and we had no communication with the outside world for some time. We could not reach people. It was terrible, the loss and loss of life. I pray that nobody wants to see something like this again.
The explosion took place in August, yet weeks later you produced a collection. Why was it so important?
ES Junior: Lebanese people are known to be very flexible. We do not look back – we move forward. It took us 10 days to reopen the atlier and start work again. And we did this because we had a lot to do, providing work to our employees and honoring our commitments to customers. It was not easy, but we needed to be like Beirut – dusting ourselves every time and coming back the way it was. This time, however, it is almost too much for our city.
And that’s why we made the September collection a tribute to Beirut, and gave hope for future possibilities.
Elie Saab is largely known for fashion that is for the great celebrations of life. But in the last year some weddings, red carpet events and girls have taken place. What does this mean for your business?
ES Junior: Security measures had to be put on hold to avoid the spread of infection. But we tried not to see it as an obstacle and instead reevaluate how we are doing. We still launched five collections during this difficult period. We also launched furniture and homeware lines and Kids Wear. I truly believe that, as the vaccines are rolled out and gradually visible at the end, people want to go out and be together and postpone all events, which is a strong 2022s. Make for
How is the fashion scene in Beirut?
ES Junior: Despite the current situation, we have a new showroom and flagship store in Beirut. We still believe in this country and want to be present here in a meaningful way. When it comes to craft and culture, Lebanon has a lot of talent and if it is supported, it will continue to provide us with a competitive advantage.
ES: The world loves Lebanese designers. We, the established people, are very grateful for that support. But I worry about new and emerging designers here. It is very difficult for them right now, and there is so much global competition. They know that there is so much to do, and I think social media helps them build their message and design internationally. I trust them
And advice: you have to constantly fight and bring something new. Do not give up. You can never give up. Especially in a city like Beirut.