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The BoF Podcast: Rebuilding Lebanon’s Fashion Industry

Elie Saab Jr, chief executive of Elie Saab Group, and Lebanese designers Roni Helou and Amine Jreissati speak about the urgent need for global solidarity in the face of crisis.
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BEIRUT, Lebanon — At around 6pm on August 4, 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in the Beirut port caused a devastating explosion that killed 137 people and injured thousands. The blast also destroyed buildings across the city, including the homes and studios of many members of Lebanon's fashion community. In the latest episode of the BoF Podcast, BoF Founder and Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed speaks with Elie Saab Jr., chief executive of Elie Saab Group, as well as Lebanese designers Roni Helou and Amine Jreissati about what it will take to rebuild Lebanon's local fashion industry.

  • The challenges facing many people in Lebanon are overwhelming. But the Lebanese fashion community must attempt to see this as an opportunity to grow, said Saab. "Either you look at this incident as something that will destroy you, or you look at this incident as something that will make you stronger," he said. "We encourage all Lebanese not to dwell on the destruction that took place, but to use this destruction to go back to work in a stronger, more focused way."
  • The Beirut explosion occurred in the midst of a pre-existing economic, social and political crisis. It is often such desperate times that can generate an influx of progress and growth in the long term. "I have been emphasising the importance of reshaping the [fashion] industry. We have seen both locally and globally that something isn't working," said Helou. "If we don't put a plan in place to recover, we are taking the hope away from people of putting food on the table." It is crucial that this plan includes careful financial planning, added Jreissati, in order to navigate the economic uncertainty that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and implement the foundations of a more resilient industry.
  • When looking to the future, the importance of patience and hope is underscored by all three designers, but global solidarity and aid is just as crucial. "Brands located in Lebanon today have been very limited with everything that's been happening. Some of them are not able to rebuild. We need international support," said Jreissati.

To aid Beirut's creative community, the Starch Foundation has partnered with The Slow Factory Foundation to launch crowdfunding campaign "United for Lebanese Creatives," which offers financial support to independent designers impacted by the explosion.

To support local grassroots and independent NGOs in Lebanon, The Slow Factory Foundation has also created a fundraiser dedicated to improving "sustainability literacy" in fashion.

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The BoF Sustainability Masterclass Series