In the middle of the courtyard, an olive tree inhabited by dozens of busy birds. They chirp from daybreak which gilds the facades, till sunset, which turns them pink. Beyond, a row of trees hides the highway. It is 6 pm. It has been a long day, one more spent between moving and moving in, while the team at Azzi & Osta is working full speed to deliver the new collection. Assaad suggests that they close. Georges Azzi, Assaad Osta, and their Managing Director Lara Moubarak leave the scene before the rest of the team. Already at the Port, a fire broke out, but they saw nothing.

Ash rain
06:06 pm, the two creators are driving north, one behind the other without realizing it. Together, they take a slip road leading under the bridge that runs along the coast, not far from the grain silos. Suddenly, the tremendous sound of the explosion. Georges’ car is shaken. Assaad’s has a sunken roof. They get out of their vehicles, confused. They think of an aerial bombardment. Georges looks up and sees a gigantic cloud of smoke, very high in the sky. He arrives home in a daze, turns on the TV, and realizes what just happened. He hastily gets back to his car, rushes to the workshop. At the intersection of Burj Hammoud and Mar Mikhael, traffic blocked, alarm sirens, rain of ash and debris, people covered in blood, others in tears. “The road is covered with broken glass. It feels like walking on ice,” Georges remembers. He walks around, trying to find another access. There were still people in the workshop when he left. As long as everyone is safe…

“The gate is under your feet”
When he finally manages to get closer to the place, night has already fallen, black, thick, without the slightest light. He takes a route that seems to run alongside the facades. He gropes his way through the great portal of the premises where, along with Assaad, he dreamed of starting a new chapter and welcoming new inspirations. The ground creaks under Georges’ footsteps. He couldn’t tell the sidewalk from the road, sauntered over the debris. He hears Lara’s voice in the dark: “Georges, you’ve arrived. The gate is under your feet.” The dark shapes that stand out in the night are chaotic. Through the light of his phone, he can see all the able-bodied team members digging through every room in the rubble. Where are Suzy, Kamal, Khalil, Adel? He sneaks up the stairs, slips on puddles of blood, lifts what’s left of the sumptuous marble tables, stumbles on planks, yells. The ceiling collapsed on two team members. Ten wounded in total, including one crushed by a heavy stone from the building, others lacerated by shards of glass. All have already been evacuated. They will survive.

A grand celebration of mutual assistance
The next day, all the team returned to the scene without saying a word. Thefts took place overnight, but whatever. A glass roof collapsed, crushing the precious archives of the house. The most tremendous loss for Georges and Assaad is their library of embroidery. They are struggling to continue cleaning when suddenly they see a group of young people arriving with brooms. And all of a sudden, there is joy in this total devastation. A grand celebration of mutual assistance and solidarity is taking place. Soaring from what used to be the showroom, the first dresses of the new collection hang from the surrounding trees. Poles are used for storing them. Some are intact. Others will have scars. The olive tree is cut in half. Under the branches, dead birds.

The barely opened page is already turned. The team has to make sure that the dresses sent by DHL the day before the explosion have already left, and will arrive in time for that wedding. A new urgency sets in. The world is at a standstill, and the calendar will not wait. The collection is ready. It’s called “A Flemish Dream.” It talks about vanities without dwelling on them. Azzi & Osta will be the first to arrive at Paris Fashion Week. Today, they feel guilty for having gone through this ordeal in a sort of denial. But they talk about it every day.