Beirut Will Rise Again: The Resilience of Lebanon’s Fashion Industry
Some thought it was just an earthquake. As the ground began to shake and the windows began to shatter, no one could have predicted what would happen next.
When 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, negligently stored in a warehouse in the port of Beirut, ignited on August 4, 2020, the force of the blast that devastated the city’s streets could be felt as far away as Cyprus. and Syria. He wiped out entire neighborhoods in seconds, decimating the country’s creative and artistic centers in his wake.
From haute couture houses to emerging designers, Beirut’s fashion industry has been devastated by the explosion. The severity of the damage to the many studios and showrooms located in the neighboring areas of Mar Mikhal, Saifi Village and Gemmayze was unthinkable. At least, that’s how shoe designer Andrea Wazen described the state of her store after the incident. The explosion shattered light bulbs and mirrors, causing the entire ceiling of his store to collapse on itself.
Roni Helou, known for his androgynous ready-to-wear collections and eco-conscious philosophy, lost his studio and home in the explosion. The recent recipient of a yearlong mentorship program with Matches Fashion, the designer was sitting in the front room of his studio with his sister, mother and cousin when the explosion happened. We have just run out of the room. When we reached the hallway, that’s when the big explosion happened, he says. The room we were in was facing the harbor. It was destroyed, says Roni Bazaar.
Everything was in shambles, nothing was out of place, reveals Sandra Mansour, the first Arab designer to partner with Swedish retailer H&M, when she describes the state of her home and workspace. From walls to windows, from roof to doors. Luckily Sandra was overseas and her team had left for the day the explosion happened (no one was hurt).
In the days that followed, stories of utter devastation were not uncommon within the community. Images circulating on social networks revealed the extent of the damage: raw materials ravaged by the force of the explosion; collector’s items scattered on the floors of the exhibition rooms; shards of glass enveloping hard surfaces; structural damage to buildings; injuries and much worse.
While many industries in Lebanon were hit by the explosion, which killed more than 180 people and injured more than 6,000 people, the country’s fashion industry suffered a severe blow, which prompted many questions in the days that followed how the industry would one day recover if it could at all