BEIRUT: Among virulent local trends, a far more dignified accessory has replaced the clunky-heeled sneakers that have, to some extent, finally made their exit. Crowns, in themes ranging from Roman regal to bohemian, were quite literally blooming across women’s heads at the weekend Afkart market in Zaitunay Bay.
A biannual exhibition for design, arts and crafts, Afkart was bustling all weekend with returning Gulf tourists gobbling up “Made in Lebanon” merchandise and passersby headed to catch the World Cup at the cafe-lined promenade. Free music also gave the market a boost Saturday night, when Fête de la Musique attracted thousands to relish a rare night of festival-style concerts in Downtown.
With the exception of a few well-established participants, Afkart tends to be made up of small-scale creators, whose handmade wares – such as silk-screen T-shirts and neon plastic jewelry – are more about catering to the trends rather than setting them. The adornment du jour revealed itself in the variety of gilt laurel leaves and ringlets of artificial flowers at nearly every accessories stand.
Sarah Houjaij, the creator behind Femme Funky, said she had stayed up well beyond the market’s 11 p.m. closing time Friday night, rushing to make more of her leather and metal headpieces.
“I had so many more designs, but I’ve sold out,” she said with an air of happy exhaustion. Her dangling headpieces came in two general forms: ones that pin to the hair and circlets that rest on the top of the head.
Greco-Roman themes have characterized these tiaras since they started popping up at design fairs in Beirut. Houjaij said she drew her inspiration for her line of headpieces from gladiator attire, which showed in her use of Hellenistic motifs such as a swirly square, known better to highbrows as a Greek key.
Among the first jewelry makers to create costume tiaras, CERA BARR is the most memorable. She displayed her first collection, with winged headbands alluding to mythical gods and Roman laurels, more than a year ago at Artheum gallery in Karantina.
Whatever the tiaras’ origins, said Raife Salha Zouhairi, the creator of Raife, a different era is likely responsible for the growing popularity of casually wearing crowns. Now in its fourth season, period Turkish television drama “Harim al-Sultan,” depicts the palace of Suleiman the Magnificent, in which ladies of the court rarely appear on screen without their signature headgear.
“Maybe it’s the trend from ‘Harim al-Sultan.’ It’s a very popular series,” she said. Her own gold-dipped copper pieces attracted a stream of buyers from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, who were particularly interested in her more-modern adaptations of the cornet, including a ringlet number set with cartoonlike butterflies.
The same influences that led to the tiara trend have also given rise to warrior-themed metal accessories such as thick cuffs and stiff neckwear closer to armored gorgets than typical chain-and-pendant necklaces. Nada Mehio Rawas, manning a stand selling her stone-inlaid necklace gorgets, said the interest in stiff neckwear complemented high-collared blouses.
“The trend is for a rigid necklace.”
Even more whimsical than a golden crown of butterflies was the summertime evolution of the tiara: a ringlet of artificial flowers. Accessory designer Maggie Baroudi was selling brightly colored garlands perfect for a child’s tea party or a Disney-themed birthday. The catch: These were for adults.
Baroudi wasn’t the only one peddling a vestige of childhood as a modern woman’s accessory. Young designers Tanya Hayek and Rebecca Dahrouge were wearing Hayek’s version of the daisy-chain headdress. The line of flower-themed accessories was born of a trip though California and Nevada, where the bohemian, beach-loving youth of the Golden State inspired Hayek to sew artificial flowers onto headbands.
“I wanted to be like a California girl with flowers on my head,” said Hayek, who will have her garlands on sale in Faqra later this summer. “It’s hippie vintage. It’s very bohemian.”