Lebanon is the home to some of the biggest names in the fashion world. Beirut has long been considered as the alpha of Arab fashion in the MENA region. With emerging names such as Elie Saab, Rabih Kayrouz, Zuhair Murad, Georges Hobeika, and many more, the Lebanese fashion scene has been at the top table for a very long time now. Back in 2001, Elie Saab designed an outstanding gown for the famed actress Halle Barry, which she wore to the Academy Awards. His career has been on the up ever since.
Way before that, the 1960s was Lebanon’s golden era and it comes as no surprise that there’s an Instagram account to celebrate these heady days. Joe Challita is an Australian/Lebanese couturier and the holder of the Lebanese Fashion History account on Instagram. Although Challita is a qualified solicitor, his passion for fashion is his true calling.
Challita’s inspiration is all about his Lebanese roots and heritage. “During my time in Lebanon, my inspiration came from our culture and history and all things tactile, but I noticed there was a lack of documentation of our fashion history and the works of our predecessors,” he said. Having had this realization, Challita’s curiosity was peaked and he started documenting everything he learned about Lebanon’s fashion history.
The main goal of the account is to raise awareness about the richness of Lebanese culture and fashion history, and to give the new generation some raw material that shows off everything that Lebanon had at its peak. “My page is not about nostalgia and dwelling on the past. The page is to educate and highlight key figures that played an important part in our history, putting Lebanon on the global map,” he says.
Le Bal des Petits Lits Blancs, Baalbeck, 1962
Challita gets his content from endless reading and research. Everything he posts is drawn from local and international libraries, interviews and unexpected, surprising sources. “Most stories are made complete or put together through vigorous investigations from various sources to complete the story, and that is where I get my satisfaction,” he said.
His favorite image is a photo taken at Baalbeck at the after party of the French charity ball, Bal des Petits Lits Blancs, in 1962. The ball used to be held yearly in Paris, but that year it took place in Lebanon, heading outside of France for the very first time. The event was attended by European and Arab royals, Hollywood stars and celebrities. It is Lebanon’s grandest ball in its history, to date.
“For me, the photo encompasses various elements in one shot. It shows the glories of our past and heritage through the columns of Bacchus, the richness and decadence of our fashion and hospitality, our ties to the international community, through the A-Listers that attended the event. It encompasses all that I dream for Lebanon and the message we want to send to the world,” said Challita.
The Lebanese Fashion History account embodies all the glam of the golden era in Lebanon and this most modern archive is all down to Joe Challita.