BEIRUT: Fashion and philanthropy are coming together this year, with two events at the weekend, Christmas in Action and Fashion for a Cause, offering shoppers the chance to look good and do good during the holiday season. At the second annual Christmas in Action exhibition at Le Gray hotel in Downtown Beirut, well-heeled shoppers with wine glasses in hand ogled festive dresses, jewelry and accessories from a host of local designers.
Forty percent of the proceeds are being donated to the Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon.
“We’re expecting amazing sales,” Leslie Gabriel, one of the event’s founders, told The Daily Star.
“We hope to double what we did last year. Inshallah,” affirmed her co-coordinator Cynthia Boukather.
The inaugural bazaar last winter raised $53,000 for the center, enough to treat one child for an entire year, said former CCCL Chairman Paul Edde.
An eclectic array of local designers have lent their support to the cause.
“There’s not a single person that doesn’t have a family member or has not gone through it [cancer] themselves” said Hass Idriss, sitting in a candlelit corner of the exhibition space surrounded by his darkly intriguing McQueen-esque designs.
The endeavor had proved financially fruitful for him, too. “We’re selling quite a bit!” he said.
Bridal- and eveningwear designer Reem Kashmar said she was hoping to attract customers shopping for winter weddings. While she typically caters to the couture set, Kashmar said she had curated some pret-a-porter designs for the event. Selling items at “much more affordable” prices than usual would allow more people to contribute to the CCCL, she said.
Other local brands, from sleek ready-to-wear label Dough to vintage Lebanese leathersmiths Le Sellier, also proudly displayed their collections.
As a Miley Cyrus song played in the background, French-speaking shoppers wandered round the space, ticking Christmas presents off their lists.
In Rabieh, a fashion-focused charity event of an altogether different kind is raising funds for the Red Cross Antelias-Naccashe. Fashion for a Cause, a market styled as a garage-sale, features racks upon racks of barely used and deeply discounted clothing and homeware. Every bit of the proceeds will go toward preparing bundles of food for local families in need, said Roula Ragette, who started the semiannual sale in her apartment 10 years ago.
All of the items are donated by charitable locals with overstuffed closets, Ragette explained. “It’s a huge collection,” she said.
Within an hour of the event’s opening Friday morning, scores of fashionistas had descended upon the venue, deftly flipping through the carefully arranged hangers.
While most of the stock is made up of fast fashion staples, there were plenty of hidden treasures: An Alexander Wang sweater dress for LL30,000; a Missoni sweater for LL60,000; a Ferragamo dress for LL300,000.
Tucked between two utilitarian winter jackets, The Daily Star stumbled across a mint-condition Christian Dior fur coat with a LL1.5 million price tag. A LL450,000 Chanel trench, complete with gold buttons, hung unassumingly nearby.
The selection of accessories, from a bejeweled purple Prada purse to vintage ’80s costume jewelry, was equally impressive.
However, convincing locals to buy used clothing has been a challenge, Ragette said: “It’s been a process.”
Most shoppers originally came to buy household goods like china and silverware. Now, however, the pull of cut-price apparel is kicking in, and Ragette expects some 2,000 shoppers over the next few days.
Between these two events, humanitarian-minded holiday shoppers will be able to contribute to worthy causes while replenishing their closets.