Lebanese designers keep pushing the envelope

28Jul09

The gowns are cut low, slashing down to the navel, or low in the back, swooping below the waist, inset with delicate see-through fabric. They couldn’t be further from the modest dress generally worn by women in the Muslim Arab world.

Yet these fashions come from Lebanon, a tiny Arab country of four million on the Mediterranean. This nation better known for military conflicts than the arts has produced an impressive crop of designers, such as Reem Acra and Elie Saab, whose work is showcased at celebrity events such as the Oscars and the Golden Globes.

Lebanon’s name has always been synonymous with war, but when it comes to fashion … these designers really make us proud,” said Laura Seikaly, 39, who was among a recent crowd of bikini-clad sunbathers on a beach north of Beyrouth.

I guess it comes from the society itself, the way Lebanese women dress. They’re very courageous, even more so than Europeans.

Perhaps best known among the long list of couturiers is Saab, a Lebanese icon. He catapulted to fashion superstardom in 2002 when Halle Berry accepted an Academy Award sheathed in a dazzling Saab burgundy gown — a first for a Lebanese designer.

The list also includes Zuhair Murad, Robert Abi Nader, George Chakra, George Hobeika, Abed Mahfouz and New York’s Acra, best known in the U.S. for her bridal designs and dressing such celebrities as Eva Longoria, Kate Beckinsale and Jill Biden, the wife of the U.S. vice-president Joe Biden.



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