BEIRUT: The Internet age has driven an obsession with speed, increasing the production and consumption of goods and ideas of cheaper and shallower quality. Fashion retail is no exception.
That’s why Milanese brand Slowear, a men’s fashion store recently opened in Downtown Beirut, promotes the pleasures of going slow.
“Doing things precisely and taking your time is really the motto of the brand,” says Nadim Chammas, Slowear managing director, describing the fashion company’s evolution from high-end pants manufacturers to today’s brand, which emphasizes attention to detail and quality to make long-lasting, unique products.
Upon entering the new Slowear boutique in Bab Idriss, which held a soft opening just over a week ago, customers are meant to feel as though they’ve walked into a friend’s living room rather than a store for menswear. Art photographs of cinema icons and shelves of products – among them an eclectic selection of books – create a homey, antique feel.
Customers wandering into the boutique will sit, have coffee with a newspaper and soak up a little of the Slowear culture, he says.
“The books are not only for decoration ... it’s about going to a friendly place and spending as much time as you like, with the idea that you’ll eventually like something you see,” Chammas says.
Slowear controls four manufacturing brands that are “the stars of their field” for different products. The primary brand is pants-maker Incotex founded in 1951 and the three others are Zanone for knitwear, Glanshirt for shirts and Montedoro for outerwear.
All other products are manufactured by specific companies that Slowear has chosen to collaborate with because they are the finest in their category and subscribe to the “slow philosophy.”
Slowear focuses on apparel for men labeled as “smart-casual.” The brand also offers a woman’s line and an online lifestyle magazine, the “Slowear Journal,” covering arts, culture, food, travel, new technology and the environment.
However, the Beirut boutique – Slowear’s first in the Middle East – offers only menswear for now and other specialty products such as books, caps, candles, cufflinks, sunglasses and more.
“It’s a man’s world and there are some areas that are predominant: Italy, cinema, American jazz, everything related to photography and craftsmanship, also discovering other countries and cultures,” Chammas says, describing the themes emphasized at the Slowear Beirut boutique.
The philosophy of and ambiance at the Slowear boutique matches its signature style: classy menswear options – beyond a suit – to look well-dressed, but comfortable at any occasion.
“Most men wear suits to dress for work, but after when they leave the office and they want to relax, they usually have two choices: They take off the tie but still wear the jacket ... and the other option is to wear jeans and a sweater but that’s often too casual,” says Chammas.
The unfinished look of a suit minus the tie isn’t ideal, Chammas says. He demonstrates with the variety of knitwear and jackets how flipping up a collar or making other small adjustments can take a look from dressy to casual – versatility built into Slowear’s products. “You would be surprised how a small detail can make a difference,” he adds, rolling up the sleeves of a dress coat to reveal a colorful lining – a formal look transformed by the fun accent.
Even more importantly, Slowear manufacturers high-quality materials for the products, trying out special fabrics such as “ice cotton,” to keep you cool in the hot weather, and “airtec,” a structured weave of cotton and linen inspired by WWII jackets.
Already, Lebanese clients are coming to the store and appreciating Slowear’s new ideas, Chammas says, proving Beirut to be a good choice for the company’s first enterprise in the Middle East.
“In the fashion business, when you start talking about the Middle East and North Africa, everybody talks about Dubai. But we know that Beirut is also an important point for the fashion industry,” Chammas says.
“It’s a slow attitude – we know we’ll be in Dubai eventually but Beirut is as important as other cities, and Lebanese people are trendy and will understand this [concept],” he adds.
And Beirut has rubbed off on the brand in its own way already.
The boutique was originally supposed to be furnished exclusively with vintage furniture from Milan, but company executives stumbled upon unique pieces in Basta while visiting Beirut, putting them in the store and even bringing vintage furniture back to Europe.
In the future, Chammas says, the brand will be seeking to collaborate with leading Lebanese artisans and companies to sell their food products, scents and many other items at the Slowear boutique
“What we would like is to find brands that enter into the same spirit, which is always high quality products with attention to detail, the incomparable best in their field, and being sold at a fair price,” he says.
“Good value for money.”