BEIRUT: The opening night of Beirut Design Week drew throngs of foot traffic to Beirut’s pristine Saifi quarter: artsy young people fresh from work, veteran designers showing support for new blood, magazine editors and retail folk.
Three years since the design week’s inauguration, evidence of its steady maturity emerged as hundreds of people, from professionals to passersby, packed into the cobblestone alleyways that make up Saifi Village. Even the week’s event for rookies, the “Newcomers Exhibition,” included design brands with impressive credentials.
Take One Plus One, for example, an innovative line of nailless, glue-less furniture made by established architecture and design firm White Sur White. Cyrille Najjar, head of the company, explained that One Plus One was a new addition to their brand and was already set to sell at French department store Gallerie Lafayette.
Each of the minimal wooden pieces, a children’s seesaw, a chair, a stool and a cushioned lounge seat, were assembled from single panels of plywood without nails or screws; easy to assemble and disassemble. The concept for One Plus One is also an eco-friendly one, Najjar said.
“We cut down on consumption by using single panels,” he said. “Good design is as little design as possible.”
He wasn’t the only designer at the newcomers exhibit with an interest in minimalism.
Emne Mroue stood behind a line of rustic-looking leather bags called Sacoche. Mroue, the creator of Sacoche, is a creative mind of many talents; the graphic artist-cum accessories designer said she used as few stitches as possible to craft the purses, wallets and bags on display.
“I keep it simple as much as I can,” she said, pointing to the rough edges of a dark leather messenger bag. “I use stitches just where you need them.”
Sacoche is made completely of Italian leather, which happens to be her family’s business, Mroue said. She works professionally as a graphic designer, where minimalism also typifies her clean and simple style.
BDW’s Newcomers Exhibit has been an important place for youngsters to get a boost in the public eye. Take Jo Baaklini, who in 2013 was showing off scraps of fabric printed with his colorful illustrations. A year later, Baaklini’s prints are now the basis of his first fashion collection as part of the Starch Foundation. He also showed his collection in Dubai at April’s Fashion Forward runway shows.
Young fashion designer Sanaa Ayoub said she hoped the exhibit would give her newly launched brand Sana’ a similar boost. Ayoub was another example of a newcomer already in the thick of making a name for her herself. Since the beginning of spring, she has put on or participated in multiple fashion shows, which have garnered her enough buyers to keep her saturated with work.
“Right now, I’m taking all the orders and customizing them from the fashion show,” she said. “It’s only me, so it’s a lot of work.”
Busy bringing hems down and necklines up for more conservative buyers, Ayoub said her next step was getting clients to try her more daring creations. A triptych of Ayoub’s more playful summer frocks aimed at drawing interest from just that sort of clientele.
“At my fashion show, I was showing for an older audience, between 25 and 40,” she said. “Here, I’m targeting a younger crowd, around 25, 26. Young people are more daring.”