BEIRUT: Structure, structure, structure – this, if anything, is the unifying trend among Lebanese fashion designers’ summer 2012 lines.
The last of Lebanon’s young upstarts put out their lines just as summer blazed into Beirut. And from the international runways to the local ateliers, Lebanese designers have at least one common thread: dressing the women of summer in geometric, feminine silhouettes.
For the woman looking closer than Paris or New York for designer duds, the Lebanese have crafted summer collections full of structure, sheer maxi shirts and tightly tailored statement trousers in an array of colors and patterns.
“One of the main themes is big structure, not only in the shoulders,” said Hadia Sinno, fashion commentator and consultant. “It’s part of this futuristic theme that’s not only in fashion; it’s in architecture, it’s in design, it’s everywhere.”
The trend was featured at Paris Fashion Week several months ago, when the Lebanese giant Elie Saab showed a line chock full of finely tailored summer wares. Saab took a more understated approach to structure, building it into every piece without the sharp, military look.
Saab’s was one of the tamer takes on structure, from white blouses with rectangular detail to gold trim in subtle geometric patterns.
RONALD by Ronald Abdala built structure into every piece of his brightly colored collection, which he titled “Lilith” after the mythological femme fatal who leaves Adam in the Garden of Eden.
Abdala said clothing with structure is one method of channeling a woman’s strength.
“Our look is meant to empower women,” Abdala said. “We started thinking, who are the powerful women? That’s how we came up with Lilith.”
Intense reds and greens exaggerated the defined shoulders, square pockets and origami folds that made up RONALD’s structured collection.
Azzi & Osta, a collaboration between George Azzi and Assaad Osta, have a handful of intensely structured summer pieces hanging in their atelier in Ashrafieh. The designers paired intense folds with silk, textures and light colors to preserve a delicate femininity throughout the collection.
The pair of designers fused structure to another of this summer’s biggest trends among Lebanese designers: the sheer maxi shirt. One black evening gown’s structured skirt created a dramatic hourglass that flowed into a transparent, trailing maxi skirt.
Fashion expert Sinno said this contrast between masculine and feminine is one of her favorite design themes of this and previous seasons.
“Women know what they want nowadays,” she said. “I really like the mixing of masculine and feminine because it shows how strong the woman is.”
The sheer maxi, as well as the tailored, statement trouser were also common among Lebanese collections.
Rami Kadi, in his ready-to-wear line titled “Gypsy,” created a provocative sheer maxi with an asymmetrical hem in very transparent, textured gauze. A number of Kadi’s couture dresses hanging in his Clemenceau boutique featured a full skirt in translucent or transparent fabrics.
Lara Khoury’s answer to the sheer maxi, in her collection titled “Gluttony,” was an excessive use of toile in enough layers to make the skirt opaque.
“The human being is very greedy, politically speaking, socially speaking, in everything,” Khoury said. “In this collection, I decided to express that by doing an oversized volume in all the garments.”
This dramatic maxi skirt offers an option for the ladies too shy for the fully see-through maxi skirts of Azzi & Osta, Kadi and RONALD.
Sinno said the maxi skirt, even in its transparent interpretation, hasn’t caught on among Lebanese women. The maxi trend hasn’t fully made its way to the street in Lebanon because of the general preference for tight, sexy clothes, she said.
“The maxi skirt – this is something beautiful – but you won’t see it becoming a big trend among Lebanese except for maybe a niche group,” Sinno said.
Even more absent on the streets of Beirut is the mullet skirt, a newer trend, not only among Lebanese designers but also on the major runways. Azzi & Osta presented their interpretation of the mullet skirt, named after the ’80s haircut more often seen in comedy these days than in haute couture, in a bright floral print.
The statement trouser, which Vogue magazine pulled out as one of spring-summer 2012’s major trends, was no exception here in Lebanon.
The tight, colorful pant is particularly popular in Lebanon and its inclusion in nearly every local collection is no surprise to Sinno, she said.
RONALD did the statement trouser in vivid red and green. Kadi’s statement trouser was done in a bright floral print and Saab showed several statement trousers in varying shades of blue.
Even Zuhair Murad, among his many evening gowns and cocktail dresses, threw in a statement trouser in eggplant purple.
Several of these summer trends could be found in the summer collections at the Starch Foundation, a launching pad for aspiring Lebanese designers. These fledgling designers tend to march to the beat of their own drum, but Maher Bsaibes created a cropped statement trouser of his own in light green.
If there was one who truly broke from the trends this season, it was Atilier G by Grace Rihan’s “Gim” collection. Safari met the harem in “Gim,” as Rihan worked exclusively in cream, light grey, khaki and black, to create loose, draping silhouettes with colored silk accents.
Of course, no designer aspires to be trendy, Abdala of RONALD said.
“I don’t like to follow trends at all,” Abdala said. “But always when I finish a collection, it comes out and then I see I fit in with the trends.”