Living in between Lebanon and Ghana I got a first-hand experience on how culture affects people and how it is a crucial part of their daily lives. From general norms and habits to little details in their lifestyles and eating habits, I was constantly in awe observing, and fascinated by the differences I experienced and witnessed before me.
During my last 6 years in Lebanon, I kept a close eye on the ways in which artisanal product design was booming in Lebanon be it in Fashion or Furniture. Although Lebanese have many differences, yet it seems the 10,452 km2 space is almost unanimously united around their heritage and their appreciation of Lebanese craftsmanship.
Hence, this blog post is dedicated to 3 inspiring Lebanese Designers who have left their mark in the industry, revived local craftsmanship and making a name for themselves internationally.
1. Sarah’s Bag
Sarah Beydoun is the dynamic and determined founder of Sarah’s Bag. Sarah’s Bag is a “one of a kind luxury handbags fashion house and social enterprise that empower both women who make them and wear them” (Sarah’s Bag, 2016). Beydoun started her business conducting a research for one of her university classes in Beirut.
The viability of her talent lies in her business model that allowed her to create jobs for less privileged women from all corners of Lebanon by involving them in the bag making process. Sarah’s Bag started off as a mere initiative to empower women through feasible signature skills of hand beading, crochet and embroidery. Hence, with every bag bought, the designer was trying to tell and sell a story, which added to the desirability and uniqueness of the brand.
Nowadays, due to high demands, Sarah’s Bags are considered art pieces and not just crochet bags. The designer has managed to perfectly fit her culture and heritage in every collection she has made this far. Among the celebrities who have worn her pieces are: Queen Rania of Jordan, and Amal Clooney. The designer will continue with her line and mission to maintain ancient traditional techniques alive and fresh by using them to portray modern design.
Another Lebanese brand making its way in the fashion scene and harnessing local craftsmanship is Vanina. Tatiana Fayad and Joanne Hayek are two young inspirational ladies and childhood friends oozing with creativity. They started their own jewelry line by reviving the design of old Lebanese coins and they have now successfully grown into Vanina, a remarkable brand that offers women accessories, jewelry and apparel that are proudly created, sourced and produced in Lebanon.
Through Vanina, the talented duo was able to create synergy between fashion and “sustainability. “Vanina’s backstage is a social project, that aims at promoting community development through the valorization of local craftsmanship and industry” (vanina.me).
Hence, what started off as a childhood dream soon grow to become a successful proudly Lebanese label currently distributed across the five continents.
3. Nada Debs
From the fashion scene, we move to furniture design with the talented Nada Debs. Raised in Japan, Nada Debs always believed “in the handmade and the heartmade” (Nada Debs). She is an artist that does not only work with her hand but with her heart. She believes that the heart is what creates, what tells the story and what guides her to preserve the narrative and culture through desirability.
Debs started her career as an interior architect student at Rhodes Islands School of Design in the United States. She opened her showroom in 2004 that specializes in designing, manufacturing and selling furniture and home accessories made in Lebanon.
Her rich cultural background and her passion for the crafts of the Middle East, namely the mother of pearl inlay, hand carving and perforation allowed her to find new ways to apply the different techniques in contemporary furniture-- and thus, leave her mark on the furniture industry in Lebanon and the middle east.