| Fashion Designer

One Year On From The Beirut Blast: 4 Lebanese Designers Send A Touching Message To Their People

By Christina Jaber
04 Aug,2021


Resilience, strength and perseverance. Three words that best describe Beirut and its people. The city that refuses to die, chooses life above everything one more time and proves that she will always rise again.

A year after the 4th of August, the day that will never be erased from our memories, the day we had to call our families and friends to check if they were still alive, and the day we lost a piece of our heart with the victims, Beirut is recovering and its people are still licking their wounds and seeking accountability and justice.

The capital of Fashion is Paris, yes, but Beirut is the home to the biggest Couture ateliers amongst whom Elie Saab, Azzi and Osta, Krikor Jabotian, Zuhair Murad and more. The ateliers got destroyed, and just when we thought the Lebanese creatives can’t surprise us more, they rebuilt everything from zero, they were ready for their runways and they proved to the world that no one can beat a spirit that wants life, just like Beirut’s.

A year from the blast, Lebanese designers Azzi & Osta, Krikor Jabotian, Hass Idris, and Hussein Bazaza told Special Arabia their own stories on the 4th of August and sent their personal messages to their fellow Lebanese.

 

Azzi & Osta

Where were you on August 4, 2020?

We had just left the atelier, we were on the highway right in front of the port - our team was still at the premises. 

 

How much were you, your staff and the atelier affected?

Total damage, our teams injured, collection destroyed - it was massive - we were amongst the front line of the explosion and it was something like we have never seen before.

 

 

 

Where are you mentally and emotionally a year after?

We are still distressed, and cannot believe a year has passed…always looking up and forward but never forgetting. 

 

A message to the Lebanese people.

We are strong, we are creative, we shall stand stronger together. From under the crumbles Beirut will rise again through our continuous collective support. Hope and resilience will always prevail.

 

Krikor Jabotian

Where were you on August 4, 2020?

On August 4, 2020, at the time of the blast, I was in a coastal village not far from Beirut where I had a clear view of the port. The image that is forever imprinted in my mind is that of the enormous mushroom cloud that filled up the sky. It was like nothing I had ever seen before, accompanied with a shaking of the ground and a loud blast. It instantly prompted thoughts of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. No one had any idea what had actually happened. It was pure chaos and confusion.

I don’t recall the first person I hugged or spoke to as I was overwhelmed and under shock but until this day I’m extremely moved by the influx of text messages and phone calls from people in Lebanon and abroad. In hindsight, I see it as an outpour of support and love but at that moment it was purely a matter of safety. A call to make sure the person on the other end of the phone made it out alive. 

 

How much were you, your staff and the atelier affected?

Our homes, workplaces and beloved city were in ruins. Where do you even begin when the scale of the damage is so massive? Albeit material things, it was hard to see one’s personal belongings gone in the blink of an eye. We were all shattered to the core, we had no mental clarity for weeks and yet we were obliged to start rebuilding right away, for those who were lucky enough to be able to salvage their property, as many were rendered displaced. 

 

 

Where are you mentally and emotionally a year after?

Apart from the fact that it took forever to be able to step foot back in the atelier, my creativity was completely stifled. Today, much later down the line, I can say that I’m finally able to weaponize and transfer the anger and emotions that are still in me into producing work and pushing myself forward. Choosing to stay in Lebanon and remaining active is a form of resistance. 

 

A message to the Lebanese people.

Lebanon is its people and I’m eternally proud of the inspiring individuals that put the country on the map. The people that are constantly working against the iniquity of the political class, who have shaped the country, against all odds, through their own means, vision, support systems and limitless energy.

We will never forgive or forget and neither will history. The political class in its entirety is guilty of the demise of the country and the blood of innocent citizens is on their hands.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is not a way to live, especially when the killing is very much real. For the longest time Lebanese people had built their existence around conflict but today the line between surviving in times of crises and total collapse is no longer thin. The constant burnout is inhibiting the growth of an incredibly skilled, intelligent and talented group of people, not to mention draining the country of its brightest. You get to a point where you are unable to battle the decades of systemic corruption. 

 

Hass Idriss

Where were you on August 4, 2020?

I was at my atelier. We had a bridal trial and she was late so we had to stay late at the atelier, which actually saved our lives. Otherwise my staff and I would be on the road and God knows what could’ve happened.

 

 

 

How much were you, your staff and the atelier affected?

Luckily, no one was affected physically but emotionally we were devastated. The atelier was also destroyed, so a few months after the blast, I wasn’t able to release my Fall/Winter 2021 collection. Instead, I launched in November 2020 a campaign on Instagram that aimed to empower women and give my voice to strong women in my community.

 

 

 

Where are you mentally and emotionally a year after?

I was paralyzed emotionally because I wasn’t getting any inspiration, I wasn’t able to design or even to continue living the way I was before the 4th of August. With time, things got slightly better and I am back on track now.  

 

A message to the Lebanese people.

I am feeling like a refugee in my own home, but we can’t keep going without hope and this is what makes us Lebanese. We always have hope and we are always positive.

 

Hussein Bazaza

Where were you on August 4, 2020?

I was at my showroom in the Sodeco area in Beirut.

 

How much were you, your staff and the atelier affected?

The team and I were very lucky. No one was hurt fortunately and the atelier had damages that could be repaired thankfully; nothing like what others who have lost their homes and loved ones have had to endure and are still enduring.

 

 

Where are you mentally and emotionally a year after?

Sometimes I’m still there, on the 4th of August, other times I’m in the present with the aftermath and everything Lebanon is going through now, while some other times I’m thinking of our next steps but there’s always a sense of hopelessness creeping in. No Lebanese person is neither mentally nor emotionally stable, and whether it’s a year later or 50 years from now, we don’t know how or when we’re going to come out of this.

 

A message to the Lebanese people.

Leave so you can stay. Some have every right to never look back but I’m hoping most won’t abandon it completely. We should always try to rebuild Lebanon and keep trying even if we fail time and time again. It’s the only country that’s worth living in.