Dazzling haute couture rises from Lebanon's ruins

Thu Jan 28, 2010 8:16am EST
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By Sophie Hardach

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Lebanon's new star couturiers face the typical problems of people working in fashion: snarled deliveries, canceled trips, delayed fittings.

Only in their case, such hiccups are caused by war.

At the Paris haute couture shows this week, a crop of Lebanese designers charmed private clients with sparkling gowns and wispy wedding dresses, produced in Beirut ateliers that have survived decades of bloodshed.

These days, helped by a period of political stability and strong economic growth, Lebanon's fashion houses are taking the elite world of haute couture by storm.

And while storied French names such as Christian Lacroix are in financial difficulties, the Lebanese are flourishing thanks to a style and service that wealthy Middle Easterners love.

"The Lebanese love fashion, we love going out, we love eating, we love books and cinema," designer Georges Chakra told Reuters before his show. "After a difficult time, we see things afresh, we have even more energy and we want to fight. That's life."

Beirut was known as the Paris of the Orient before the gruesome 1975-1990 civil war. Recent upheaval includes a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, a militant Islamist revolt and political killings.


<p>A model presents a creation by Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad as part of his Couture Spring Summer 2010 fashion show in Paris January 26, 2010. REUTERS/Charles Platiau</p>