BEIRUT: In the recently renovated wood factory in Jisr al-Wati, Station Market has resurged for the weekend, now in its fifth edition. Station’s signature market event, which pops up seasonally or according to theme, confirms itself once more as a go-to shopping destination during the holiday season in Beirut. Upon first encounter, the vibe is eccentric. As a multipurpose venue dedicated to progressive cultural experiences, labeling it anything else would be an injustice to the prolific group of participants that make up the Market’s close-knit character.
Station’s Christmas Market is in continual flux, and to some extent, will be different each time you visit, given the variety of exhibitors and entertainers. Multiple visits are warranted, in fact necessary, to get a true sense of the participant’s richness and energy.
With its industrial architecture, and Beirut Art Center and Ashkal Alwan as neighbors, Station finds itself at the epicenter of Beirut’s creative and artistic scene. Possessed with a remarkable clarity of vision and commitment, Nabil Canaan, director of Station Market told The Daily Star in an interview on the opening night of its Christmas market, “This is an arts and cultural space where we curate, contrary to maybe others, the participants here.”
He added, “We do this because we care about the experience visitors have when coming here, but we also care that the designers we choose and the products they are presenting fit the overall Station, and because we like to see it as a platform for these designers.”
“The Market works as a platform for them in the sense that they can sell their products, which is the retail side, but also network, test new ideas and promote their brand.”
This approach equates the curatorial with the artistic, by inviting emerging and established designers to participate in the Market, as opposed to paying for cubicle space, which has seemingly become the norm at other exhibition spaces in Lebanon.
“I think for designers, exhibitors and participants, the association with an arts and cultural space is a plus, as oppose to renting out a hotel room or a hall,” Canaan noted.
There are three categories of exhibitors to be distinguished according to Canaan: “You have the exhibitor who already has a presence in the market, you have the ones who are selling online, and then you have the emerging talents, which we research and look out for, and then invite all to come here.”
At Station Market, the list of creative entrepreneurs and exhibitors is comprehensive, though not overwhelming. You might find yourself inadvertently sipping organic coffee by Kalei, or nibbling on gingerbread cookies by Cocao & Co while shopping the many kaleidoscopic racks of clothing, jewelry, accessories, home décor and stationary. The outdoor terrace lets you catch up with old friends or make new ones.
One exhibitor that stood out was “Men Just Wanna Have Fun”, a unisex clothing brand founded by Beatrice and Chantal Harb that, for now, exclusively sells at pop up events.
“We started as menswear, since they should have fun dressing too, but women started wearing [Men Just Wanna Have Fun] so now it’s a unisex brand,” Beatrice explained of the brand’s repositioning. “We are very much inspired by Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamota, which are all about asymmetrical, comfortable designs that you can wear from day to night,” she added.
Another intriguing exhibitor was Zuwar, a recently launched educational toy brand. Rima Khatib, architect and industrial designer, explained how the dolls are “social in the sense that it is made by the widowed women of SOS Children’s Villages in Lebanon, and educational because the dolls are time travelers who visit different periods of our history to teach children about our culture.”
Motioning to Lilia, a Zuwarian born in 2046, Khatib said “Her first trip is to the period of the Phoenicians, and she comes with a travel guide in three languages that explains how they were living at the time. She is dressed within a long ‘abaya’ tunic with a shawl wrapped around her body, a belt, and a lot of jewelry just like the Phoenicians.”
Although a very fresh business – they launched 10 days ago – Khatib told The Daily Star that they have a big team already, with 11 people working on the project, including fashion designers, illustrators, graphic designer and historians.
Reflecting on the Station Market, Canaan was keen to note, “Compared to last year when we started, I think that people now know Station’s signature market pop-ups, but it’s more than just that. They come for the experience of being here, and they can get shopping done.”
Station Market runs from Dec. 17-20 and is open Thursday an Friday from 5-11 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 3-11 p.m. For more information about Station visit their website at stationbeirut.com.