BEIRUT: Downtown saw a parade of enlightened street style Saturday afternoon in Beirut Souks when 20 young people, mostly amateurs, competed for the title of top stylist.
The competition fused technology and fashion through Raghunter.com’s online shopping interface. Contestants used the website and application to build their outfits, handpicked them from the racks of participating shops in Beirut Souks and then paraded them for a panel of expert judges and a crowd of around 300 weekend shoppers.
Raghunter hosted the “Hunt the Look” competition to give some exposure to their budding startup. Raghunter, which allows users to browse dozens of fashion outlets in Lebanon, is tailored to the country’s shopping culture: one that prefers to browse online but buy in person.
Most of all, Saturday’s showoff offered some great style inspiration.
The styling champion, Sally Sarieddine, decked out head to toe in monochrome burgundy, brought her silk summer shorts into fall with a tailored blazer and faux-fur accessories.
Sarieddine, who won a $1,000 shopping spree at Beirut Souks, was no stranger to styling. She owns her own line of handbags, Lala Queen. Sarieddine planned to hang her giant check at home and perhaps invest in the pair of burgundy, stiletto ankle boots that helped win her title, she told The Daily Star after the competition.
Monochrome outfits, one of the competition’s rules, inspired a handful of competitors to attempt fall outfits in complete white. They gave the summer staple color an autumn edge with things like white knit beanie hats and wool coats or played up contrasts with a dark plaid or black, platform penny loafers.
Men constituted a quarter of the contestants and offered a rare focus on Beirut’s take on menswear. One male contestant took back the sherwal, traditionally a male pant with extra fabric at the crotch, which has been usurped by designers as a contemporary women’s garment. He paired the sherwal cargo sweatpants with combat boots, T-shirt and casual blazer.
Another contestant, architecture student Ali Shehade, used cobalt pants to brighten up an already lively green color palette.
Raghunter’s competition offered proof that stylishness is easily attained by mixing accessible, inexpensive clothing brands with a few high-end statement pieces. Most of the looks were a mixture of clothing from chain stores such as Monsoon, Mango and Bershka and upmarket boutique Depechemode.
Even the audience had turned out in top form and offered its own style inspiration. One of Raghunter’s founders, Narina Najm, was dressed in her own monochrome look, with a tailored, tomato-red jumpsuit.
And leather was all around: cropped leather motor jackets, some with embossed floral patterns, others in bright colors, a leather circle skirt and loose faux-leather pants. One young lady put a sporty spin on slouchy jean overalls with high Nike-brand socks, black tennis shoes and a Nike T-shirt.
Raghunter handpicked the 20 finalists from a host of entries and asked them to construct a look in complete monochrome or in a single print – like leopard or stripes – using at least eight items from three different stores. Contestants were given a little wiggle room with a cheat item that could be outside their chosen color or print.
Hunt the Look’s expert judges comprised Hadia Sinno, celebrity style consultant; Aya Jammal, editor-in-chief of U Magazine; Kirkor Jabotian, Lebanon’s youngest couturier; and fashion photographer Tarek Moukaddem. Raghunter asked them to rate each contestant based on how strictly they stuck to their color or print, creativity and presentation.
Not a single contestant was daring enough to take on Raghunter’s print challenge; and so unfolded a fashion show of monochrome looks, some more faithful to their color than others.
One of the loudest looks of the day was the competition’s only monochrome-red outfit, with a cherry jacket, beanie and scarlet, heeled sneakers.
Overall, the contestants mixed and matched easily wearable looks, Sinno said after the show.
“It was a super nice event. They got to use their creativity,” Sinno said. “But none were edgy, they played it pretty safe.”
Besides big-name stores at Beirut Souks, Raghunter offers exposure to smaller boutiques and independent Lebanese brands, whose designers often face trouble breaking into the local market.
Participants happily celebrated Raghunter as easy to use and helpful in assembling their outfits.
Natasha, who chose a burgundy midi-skirt as her centerpiece, said she used Raghunter’s phone app to scour shops for her final outfit: “It’s easy to use, you can find everything you need.”