BEIRUT: A rainbow of neon colors has invaded Beirut Souks this week for the summer Afkart Exhibit. “Now that it’s summer, neon colors are so in,” Ginan Arigie of G Accessories said.
“You wear something simple and these bright accessories make the outfit, make it pop.”
Everything from bright pink, ice cream-scented soaps at Beezies to baby clothes in vibrant greens and yellows by Little Miss Sunshine are exhibited in the maze of more than three-dozen pop-up shops at Beirut Souks.
The Afkart Exhibit features fashion, art and furniture by regional designers, the majority from Lebanon.
A tent city housing the exhibition opened Wednesday evening and will remain open through Sunday, accessible to the public each day from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Afkart has been holding exhibitions since 2002 with the purpose of promoting the country’s artistic sector, according to the exhibition’s coordinators.
In addition to designers, the event offers a range of fried food from spring rolls to french fries, as well as entertainment for children courtesy of Mini Studio Club.
Neon duds hang on clothing racks as far as the eye can see.
But several of the designers stand out for their creative incorporation of these garish colors.
Le Nour displayed its les Royales de Zaria line of oversized handbags in neon colors, which were all but hidden by black lace embroidery and Swarovski gems.
The black on bright made for dramatic contrast, which has been very popular among Gulf women, said Nour Noueihed, the young designer behind Le Nour.
Just across the aisle, Satchel displayed shelves of neon-colored, leather purses in single, solid colors.
Many of shoppers Wednesday evening happily received this ubiquitous trend. Young women swarmed Jessica K’s stand, chock full of silky, monochromatic tops and trousers in shocking shades.
For anyone wishing to fill up on the Marilyn Monroe paraphernalia, the sex icon was also a mainstay for several of the pop-up shops, including N. by Nicole and Lylus – selling housewares and fashion accessories, respectively.
Afkart promotes itself as an exhibition for Middle Eastern artists, and many designers drew inspiration from their Arabic heritage.
Furniture designs by Madera added traditional motifs to otherwise contemporary style furniture.
The designer, Roger Joseph Tohme, specializes in mosaic work with Mother of Pearl tiles, he said.
Tohme inlays these traditional embellishments into high-end wooden furniture. Prices start at $1,000.
A handful of designers stood out from the rows of pop-up shops for their completely unique work.
Bilal Barrage manned his tiny tent housing just two rows of handmade jackets. Mixing the badass statement of a structured leather jacket with feminine details like floral prints and splashes of color, Barrage’s designs had no comparison at the exhibit.
Likewise, Trapeze offered a one-of-a-kind furniture concept. The store sells one thing: a trapezoid.
About a meter in length, the trapezoids fit together like puzzle pieces to make tables, chairs and bookshelves of various shapes and sizes, creator Louay Haddad said.
One trapezoid starts at $300.
Back among the rows of neon, one designer collective is taking their love of bright colors to the streets.
Dihzahyners is the crew of young designer-activists behind the colorfully painted stairs in Gemmayzeh, Bliss Street and Sakiet al-Janzir.
The group’s stand at Afkart marks the beginning of a marketing campaign to draw donors and patrons for more work around Beirut, said Jubran Elias, just one of about a dozen artists in the collective.
“The color is meant to get away from all the darkness in the city,” Elias said, “to make people happier.”
Afkart summer exhibit runs until Sunday at the Beirut Souks.