Beirut Explosion: The Fashion Industry in Ruins

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On Tuesday August 4, an explosion rocked the city of Beirut, capital of Lebanon. The explosion, which resulted in a death toll of over 200 people and counting, while more than 5,000 were injured, took place near the city’s port and central district. This area is known for its high population density, surrounded by multiple landmarks such as the official residence of the Lebanese President. The real cause of this blast is still under investigation but as of today, it is believed to be linked to the storage of unsecured explosive material as large as 2,750 tonnes, at the city’s port. According to the government of Beirut, 300,000 people have become homeless as a result of the blast while the property damages amount to an estimate of USD 15 million.

“Among the wreckage, the broken glass, and shattered offices lie the glowing colours of hope!

For better tomorrows, we pray, we hope, we aspire!” shared Lebanese fashion designer, Nicolas Jebran, on his Instagram. The year 2020 hasn’t been an easy one for the Lebanese creative community. As many other brands around the world, the impact of COVID-19 has been tough, but that’s not all. The persistent political unrest and recent collapse of the country’s banking system are challenges that the country is now facing in addition to this catastrophe.

A city, which was once crowned the Paris of the Middle-East for its multiculturalism but also for its involvement in art and fashion, is now trying to recover from widespread destruction. Renown couture houses, such as Zuhair Murad, have entirely lost their headquarters and ateliers to the explosion, leaving behind their archives and workshops, but also their upcoming fall collections. At the moment, the people of Beirut and the world as a whole are urging people to support the local creative industry financially because of the current economic state of Lebanon. Several fashion entities such Vogue Arabia or Louis Vuitton are doing their part by donating the proceeds of their sales to organizations such as the Lebanon Red Cross or UNICEF to help rebuild and give assistance to those in need. Others are using their online presence to influence people to support any fund in favour of the crisis in Lebanon, such as the founder of Renaissance Renaissance, Cynthia Merherj, who has completely devoted her personal and business Instagram accounts to creating awareness about the situation in the country. CEO of another couture label, Elie Saab Jr. has expressed how important it was to start rebuilding and resuming normal activities soon as it could bring hope back in people’s hearts. According to him, the property damages are immaterial in comparison to what the country is experiencing at the moment.

With an increasing death toll and an unstable government, how will Lebanon recover from this tragedy? Ahead of an important season for the fashion industry, how will Lebanese designers and artisans be able to draw inspiration to put into their craft? As this is still unsure, the country needs the support of international organizations now more than ever to bounce back from the aftermath of the explosion.

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