BEIRUT: Though some sleek Beirutis seem immune to the summer heat, the season’s frizz-inducing, style-cramping, still-sweating-when-it’s-dark-out humidity leaves many bereft of outfit ideas.
A handful of Lebanon’s fashion experts have offered advice to ease the minds of those standing in front of their wardrobes resolved to throw on a pair of gym shorts and call it a day.
“What we wear doesn’t need to complicate our lives,” said Grace Rihan, designer behind label Atelier G. “In the summer you’re doing so many different things that you need to change more often. But you can be elegant with the simplest designs.”
Designers recommended some standard advice for defying the heat, in addition to some counterintuitive ideas such as how to wear black in the sun. Most of all, these designers urged ladies to use the season to experiment with color and loose cuts that repel heat and maximize comfort.
Organic, lightweight fabrics in whites and light colors reflect the sun and let air through. Loose garments and ultra-structured pieces that don’t cling to the body also promote air flow, according to Rihan.
But Rihan makes a living out of breaking fashion rules and defying trends. She prescribes comfortable garments as the most effective antidote for the summer heat.
Rihan launched her “Gim” collection for summer 2012 with coolness and comfort in mind. The conceptual – and affordable – line comprises four solid colors: light grey, white, khaki and black.
Rihan designed a handful of garments that can be mixed and matched with removable muslin accents in bright colors. Sewn from soft, thin cotton, the collection includes only loose, orient-inspired cuts such as baggy sherwal pants, halters, tunics and gilet vests.
Each of the pieces can be transformed to create a handful of comfy, cool looks.
“When you are comfortable, you are confident. Comfort is the most basic thing,” Rihan said.
Comfort and mobility sit at the heart of Atelier G’s collections. Rihan featured in an event for Beirut Design Week that highlighted the mobility of models wearing even her haute couture line.
In the spirit of breaking the old wisdom about summer colors, Rihan showed off a little black dress perfect for summer heat. A simple short cut, the dress is made from two layers, a lacy fabric over stretchy cotton.
Jessica Khoueiri, the designer behind Jessica K, also gave advice for women with an affinity for black in summer. The coolness of a loose, silk jumpsuit compensates for the heat-absorbing color, Khoueiri said.
More important than color, a thin fabric allows for comfort and air flow, the designers agreed.
Dresses in textured silk or loose cotton can create a feminine, hourglass silhouette without sticking to the body and trapping heat.
Shoppers should look for gabardine stretch cotton, lace, crepe de sheen, silk-cotton blends and linen, Khoueiri and Rihan said.
Jessica K sells solid silk tops and bottoms, shorts and loose pants, which can be paired together to create a monochromatic jumpsuit look. She recommends pairing a loose, summer jumpsuit with a colorful headband and a braid.
The designers recommended using accessories to brighten a solid dress or simple outfit in light colors: a colorful headband, big earrings, a statement necklace or using a loosely tied ribbon in place of a constrictive leather belt.
“You can wear anything in summer, you can experiment,” Khoueiri said. Just as winter promotes experimentation with layered knits and funky outerwear, summer offers a chance to experiment with very loose cuts, such as wide-legged pants, harem pants, square-shaped T-shirts and crop tops.
Jessica K sells a brightly colored, wide-legged “Fab pant” that is perfect for summer and professional jobs, she said. She also recommended opting for a tribal print, and high-waisted shorts instead of ordinary jeans.
Young women at the designer collective The Creative Space weighed in on tricks for beating the heat while adhering to Islamic dress.
They too agreed summer is all about light fabrics and colors.
“The best fabrics to wear in the summertime are the thin cotton or lycra; light-colored scarves as opposed to the winter veils, which are much thicker cottons and wools of dark purples or blacks,” said Fatima, a student designer.
Putting together a light-colored, understated outfit can highlight the beauty of a brightly colored or patterned veil, Fatima said.
The girls recommended loose tunics, bright colors and statement jewelry – such as a studded watch, a long necklace or a handful of interesting rings.
Veiled women can maximize their summer style with the accent of a colored trouser, structure from a thin summer jacket or layering cotton and chiffon fabric for a veil or blouse, the student designers said.
Student designer Baraa al-Abdullah said that for your outfit, “keep an overall simplicity with little, striking details.”