Lebanese fashion designers reign supreme despite crisis

Wed Oct 13, 2010 10:35am EDT
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By Yara Bayoumy

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The top Western fashion designers suffered massively when purses around the globe snapped resoundingly shut during the financial crisis.

But Lebanese designers, who hail from a land where Fashion TV is the channel of choice at the swankiest bars, say they have managed to escape the brunt of the crisis because of two things -- affordable haute couture and rich Arab clients.

It's fair to say that Lebanon just doesn't do casual. High heels, form-fitting dresses and salon-styled hair are part of many Lebanese women's daily routine.

Renting a designer dress to wear at a wedding is far more acceptable, than, horror of horrors, opting to purchase a generic high-street gown.

So it's no surprise that the country's top designers became more famous for their elaborate, long, sequined and chiffoned collections than classical ready-to-wear lines. And their clientele keep coming back for more.

In fact Elie Saab, whose slinky, decidedly feminine dresses are a red-carpet favorite for many Hollywood A-listers, said his pret-a-porter lines suffered for a few months in the United States due to the crisis, and not his haute-couture lines.

"Lebanese designers have always been distinctive with their haute-couture, not pret-a-porter. What they present to the world is distinctive," Saab told Reuters.

Saab was speaking just before his first fashion show in Beirut in 18 years, where he showed his Autumn-Winter 2010/2011 ready-to-wear collection to mark the official opening of the opulent Beirut Souks shopping district in the city center.   Continued...

<p>Lebanese designer Abed Mahfouz reacts during an interview with Reuters at his showroom in downtown Beirut, September 15, 2010. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi</p>