BEIRUT: As a small country, the creative circle in Lebanon is easy to break into, says Wael Boutros, an emerging stylist and art director, and once you do, and with some hard work, opportunities will begin to present themselves.
At only 21, Boutros counts designers Mario Bruni, Ashi, Azzi and Osta and Omar Nasser Khoury – whose work is currently in the British Museum – among the clients for which he has styled, and in terms of art direction, he has worked on Coca Cola, Pepsi and Buzz TV commercials.
As many of the same people are working on similar projects, this crossover creates new openings for creatives working in Lebanon, Boutros says.
“Once you get into that circle and you just listen and you watch and you pay attention and you really want to work, you can really get anywhere,” he says. “I couldn’t understand it if someone said they were out of work.”
For those aspiring stylists in Lebanon, Boutros recommends first shadowing experts in the industry – as he did with Beatrice Harb – and not just “going with the flow” but being always prepared to give that bit extra.
Boutros – who studied art direction at ALBA university – also works as a freelance graphic designer, and he is currently enjoying the diversity that these two fields afford him.
“It creates a balance – when you’re a graphic designer, you work in front of your laptop all day. And when you’re a stylist, sometimes you work 24 hours in one stretch: Usually when you have a TV commercial it starts at 5 a.m. and lasts until the next morning,” he says.
His own sense of style isn’t relevant when it comes to working for clients, Boutros says, but they give him a brief and then he works within that, selecting the model, clothes, hair, makeup and even the location, for a magazine editorial shoot, his favorite type of project.
Traditional Lebanese “style” can often lean toward “vulgar,” Boutros says, so he tries, as much as possible, to inject his own subtle take.
“You just take the mood of the shoot you’re working on, and you just push into that direction. But in parallel, I would say that I can be very over the top – very kitsch and colorful ... but not vulgar – but I can also be very subtle and simple, bringing the product into focus.”
The industry in Beirut, he says, is growing, and on a level with other fashion and design capitals such as Barcelona and London.
“We have a very good base and colleges that teach great stuff ... and part of the industry in Lebanon is very good ... And if you’re in that circle, it works for you. I went into that circle and all my clients move in that circle.”
From then it’s a snowball effect, and Boutros has gotten every job he worked on through word of mouth.
Keen to pursue a masters degree in the future, perhaps in London, Boutros thinks he would then return to Lebanon, and its circle of creative talents.
“This little circle ... it’s nice when you have these people, you go to their exhibitions, you see what’s going on, there are certain parties and you see those people a lot.
“That’s what’s nice about here ... with all of the drama and everything you have this other side of the country which is very Zen and which is in a parallel universe.”