Fashion designers Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad are determined to rebuild their shattered buildings in Beirut following the devastating blast that occurred on August 4th, 2020. The explosion, caused by a huge stock of ammonium nitrate stored at the nearby port, inflicted significant damage on the city and left Saab’s and Murad’s headquarters in ruins.

Elie Saab, renowned for dressing British royal Kate Middleton and celebrities such as Halle Berry and Helen Mirren, witnessed his elegant home in the fashionable Gemmayzeh district of Beirut being severely damaged. The house, which showcased traditional Lebanese architecture, was gutted by the blast. Marble columns now lay in pieces, windows and balconies were smashed, and a once-grand chandelier hangs as broken glass from a tangle of wires. Johnny Zeinoun, Saab’s long-time assistant, expressed shock at the destruction, stating, “This place was alive… To see it like this…”

Zuhair Murad, another celebrated Lebanese designer, also experienced extensive damage to his headquarters near the port. Images shared on social media displayed debris spilling out of once-glamorous display windows and loose lettering hanging from the building’s facade. Murad shared his despair on Instagram, saying, “The efforts of years went in a moment.”

Rabih Kayrouz, the designer behind the flagship atelier housed in the 19th-century Dagher Palace, also suffered significant damage. The explosion blew off chunks of the red-tiled roof. Nevertheless, Kayrouz expressed determination on Instagram, stating, “We will be back soon.”

These fashion designers not only confront the aftermath of the Beirut blast but also grapple with Lebanon’s worst economic crisis since the civil war and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The creative sector, already struggling due to the economic downturn, faces further setbacks with the destruction of art galleries, boutiques, bars, and restaurants in Gemmayzeh.

Nonetheless, Saab remains committed to rebuilding. His primary focus is on reconstructing and restoring what has been lost. Zeinoun, Saab’s assistant, explains that Saab’s attitude is, “We started once; we can start again.” This determination to overcome adversity and rebuild reflects the resilience and spirit of the people of Beirut.

Despite the immense challenges faced by the fashion industry and the city as a whole, these designers remain dedicated to their craft and their beloved city. By rebuilding and reopening their businesses, they contribute to the revival and recovery of Beirut. Their unwavering dedication serves as a testament to the power of fashion and creativity in uniting communities and fostering resilience in the face of adversity.

Useful links:
Elie Saab Loves Lebanon campaign
Zuhair Murad on Fashion Trust Arabia