Rebecca Dahrouge is a multidisciplinary creative and a talented young woman, working across the areas of dance, architecture and wearable textiles.
Studying architecture in Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts helped her to discover the world of fabrics and textiles. In 2012, in partnership with furniture fabric brand SKAFF, she upcycled their fabrics into her first collection of garments, being inspired by Beirut’s streets and the story behind their architectural identity. This first experience helped her discover “the beauty of traditional know-how, and the incredible dedication of Lebanese artisans.”
With an in-depth knowledge of architecture, she set out on a path in textiles and fashion, and she pursued two intensive courses in NABA Milan in textile design, followed by fashion design in IFA Paris. Ten years later, she left Lebanon to discover new opportunities in Paris and she was selected by a fashion incubator, The Wonders x Conscious Fashion, in partnership with Sézane Paris, for a woman-focused entrepreneurship program. There, she launched Contretemps, a smart clothing brand, which brings together Lebanese craftsmanship and innovation.
“Contretemps represents people who want to enjoy their day fully: passing by their office, going to their dance lessons, running under the rain or walking on a sunny day in Paris. Contretemps is a high end brand that is comfortable and in style,” says Dahrouge to Pulse. Her first piece, “Une veste à 4 temps”, is a transformable trench, made using polyester from recycled plastic bottles and that has colorful cords at the waist, “A playful garment that adapts to your day, by clipping on your hoody, unzipping the trench, and removing the sleeves,” she explains.
Last week, on October 13, she presented her project in front of a jury of fashion industry experts: the team from Sézane, the founder of Rive Droite, someone from The Wonders, and another person from Conscious Fashion. She won a residency at Sézane Paris, and one year of full coaching by experts, to help develop her brand. “Rooted in sustainability and depth, I continuously aspire to keep pushing boundaries and redefining what it means to be a Lebanese multidisciplinary designer living in this time of great changes and creative possibility,” she said to Pulse.
Pulse talks to Rebecca Dahrouge
What is the one thing you wish people would stop wearing?
I personally find animal prints to be trashy.
What creation of yours are you most proud of?
I am especially proud of my convertible Jacket “Une veste à 4 temps” because it gives another layer of flexibility to active users.
As a designer, what’s been your worst mistake?
It was in 2013, at the age of 23, and after one year of a successful collaboration with a Lebanese fabric brand where I was upcycling their leftover fabrics to unique-piece garments. Our project got disrupted by someone that didn’t believe in it. I got discouraged, questioned myself and ended the whole project. Really?
If you were to choose one of your looks, or that of any other designer, to wear every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The “Veste à 4 temps” is my favorite item from the brand, and it will stay in all our collections as the major piece. Adaptable to the lifestyle of each person, the vest should be a statement piece in everyone’s closet.
Who do you dream of dressing?
I would love to dress impactful women like Emma Watson or Amal Clooney. My ultimate goal is to see my clothes moving in a dance performance and being used as a tool of expression. Akram Khan, or Alexander Ekman come first to mind.
When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter?
I’ve never resorted to an all-nighter for work. Nevertheless, the moon and stars are my main source of energy, so I tend to stare at them for as long as I can!
Name five people, dead or alive, that you’d like to invite to a private dinner party at your house.
Imagine a dinner with Akram Khan, Milan Kundera, Nina Simone, Issey Miyake, and Alan Watts. Bam! I would sit there listening to them discussing life!
What does the word “sustainability” mean to you?
Sustainability means constant research, reshuffling priorities. Form should follow function and the philosophy of less is more. We should re-think materials and change our consumerist perspective by settling on more quality and less quantity.
What would the title of your Netflix documentary be?
“À contretemps” the story of my brand is the story of myself. It tells the story a woman who is mindful of every aspect of the world around her, a woman who adapts, and upcycles obsolete thinking to be contextual and impactful. If needed, she’ll unexpectedly stand against the world!
Describe the MENA region in 3 words.
MENA stands for diversity, union, and hope!
How is “Young, Arab and Proud” translated in your work?
Being half Lebanese I constantly feel I should get more involved in my country’s cultural uprising. Local artisans are a very scarce, valuable, and underrated resource who play a major role in bringing Lebanon back to the world’s cultural map. Working with Lebanese artisans, and finding ways to innovate and contextualize their work, will not only contribute to boosting local production, but also help to preserve our heritage and pride.
What is Arab DNA made of?
Family, pride, generosity, and festivities!
What is the most common misconception about being an Arab?
Living in Paris, the common misconceptions around Arabs are that we’re invasive, dangerous, and loud. Selective media, Western agendas and underprivileged conditions are factors that should not be taken lightly when addressing such stereotypes.
If you could travel in time to meet any Arab icon, who would it be, and why?
I consider Georgette Gebara to be an inspiring icon, as she was the first prima ballerina in Lebanon and the Arab world! Although she is still alive, I would definitely travel in time to watch her perform her iconic “Pas de Deux” alongside Georges Chalhoub; and see people’s reactions and interactions. Her art is avant-garde and an important witness of Lebanon’s golden era.
What is something that makes you uncomfortable in the MENA fashion industry and that you would like to see changed?
I would love to see a better standing for Arab women in the MENA fashion industry. The key to achieving this is diversity, acceptance, and proper education.
How do you see the gender-neutral trend translated in MENA fashion?
To boost the gender-neutral trend in MENA, the Arab world needs to move away from objectifying woman and get closer to asserting her role in the decision-making process. Beauty standards in MENA are still the victim of a patriarchal society in which gender roles are boldly defined. For instance, it’s less likely to see women with oversized pants or jackets whereby it would be deemed “confusing” or even “manly”.
What is one Arab tradition you would want to change, and what is the one you adore?
The one Arab tradition that I adore is the crucial role of the family, its ties, solidarity, and unconditional love, but that should not come at the expense of personal space and freedom.
What is the Arab dish you could eat every day?
Kebbe, in all its shapes and forms!!!
What is your favorite Arabic song, that is often stuck on repeat in your playlist?
Shayef, from Adonis, expresses best the attachment we have for our loved ones, nostalgic moments, and the hope for a better Lebanon!
Um Kulthum or Fairuz?
Fairuz “3al terwi2a” is a constant reminder of beautiful Beiruti mornings, eating labneh and man2ouche, and having the cool breeze in my hair.
What is this one city in the MENA region you could live in forever, and why?
I find the city of Mucsat to place great value on and have an attachment to its land and heritage, I also love the raw nature and the inspiring landscapes we stumble upon!