Lebanon makes it to the World Cup via J Lo

BEIRUT: Unsure what to wear, Jennifer Lopez turned to her 2.8 million Instagram followers to help her pick the right sparkly dress for Thursday night’s performance. “I’m trying to decide what to wear today for the World Cup,” she wrote alongside a picture of her with three outfits in the empty Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo.

Would it be the cat suit, the silver halter minidress or the emerald playsuit, she asked. “Let me know!!!”

Hours later and 10,750 kilometers away, Lebanese designer Charbel Zoe tuned into Television Francaise 1 and watched as Lopez’ wardrobe decision gave him the career boost of a lifetime.

Lopez chose a reptilian emerald playsuit with a collar and beaded fringe by Maison Charbel Zoe, whose creation had her looking the part of a Brazilian Carnival dancer. She danced and sang to the World Cup theme song “We Are One” as part of the football tournament’s opening night alongside Pitbull, pop-star Claudia Leitte and Brazilian band Olodum: 4 minutes of uninterrupted bliss for 27-year-old Zoe.

“I can’t tell you how I felt. I was dancing, laughing, crying,” he told The Daily Star Friday afternoon, still audibly in shock from the night before.

Wherever celebrities gather, chances are a dress or two from Lebanon’s thriving fashion industry will make an appearance. Lopez’ decision to wear Zoe’s funky playsuit offered a moment of pride for a country brought to the World Cup if not for its athleticism at least for its sartorial talents.

“Everybody is happy. Maybe Lebanon didn’t make it into the World Cup but Charbel Zoe did,” he said.

As news services and World Cup fans the world over posted photos of Lopez’s performance, Zoe got to relish in what will likely become a career-defining moment. By Friday, the hundreds of messages crossing Charbel Zoe’s Twitter page were coming from all corners of the Earth: Russian and Polish magazines, Korean and American Lopez fans, French fashion watchers.

“How lucky you are @CharbelZoe how lucky she is @JLo how lucky! how lucky we are to have you Charbel,” tweeted Lorraine Kodeih.

Confusion over broadcasting the monthlong tournament resulted in no Lebanese stations playing Thursday’s match. The only Arabic network carrying the World Cup is Al-Jazeera’s beIN sports channel. With no access to beIN that night, Zoe almost lost his chance to see Lopez live.

“You know in Lebanon we had a problem with how to watch the World Cup, luckily we had the French television,” he said. “It was something wow.”

The green World Cup outfit was made in six days, Zoe said. Lopez originally requested warm colors like oranges and reds, but at the last minute and to Zoe’s delight she chose green Swarovski crystals instead, he said.

The playsuit was a classic look for both the 44-year-old diva and newbie designer Zoe, whose showgirl-inspired collections sometimes skirt the line of costume dress. Zoe, born and raised in Lebanon, studied fashion design at ESMOD Paris. He started his career working in the design houses of Givenchy and Elie Saab, and in 2013 gained some media attention after hosting two runway shows, the first at Miami Fashion Week and the second as part of Dubai’s Fashion Forward.

The Daily Star was at his October show in Dubai, where Zoe put out a parade of Swarovski-covered playsuits and tassled creations worthy of Carnival’s most ostentatious samba dancers. It was the only show where the models, so often cast as stoic human canvases, came to life by bopping down the runway in boas and smiles, shaking off hundreds of crystal beads in the process.

Lopez’s stylist took notice of the Charbel Zoe brand at the Life Ball charity gala in Vienna, when she saw an American supermodel wearing one of his glittering dresses. Soon after, he made a quick second impression when a picture of Lebanese diva Haifa Wehbe in a Charbel Zoe minidress moved the stylist to request some sketches on behalf of Lopez, Zoe told The Daily Star.

“Haifa was my lucky charm,” said Zoe, who called the Arabic pop-star one of his muses.

Lopez, who is known for wearing glitzy performance ensembles and having a close relationship with another Lebanese design house Zuhair Murad, makes an ideal ambassador for Zoe’s growing brand. His first dress for Lopez actually debuted a week before the World Cup performance, when she wore a blue bodysuit by Zoe for a performance on American Idol.

“Still I had some doubts before. I said ‘let’s see, I don’t know,’” he said. “I’m too young for this and it’s such a surprise.”





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