This Thursday, at the stylist and retailer Johnny Farah’s iconic If boutique, in the port district of Beirut, a winter collection made from designer clothes destroyed by the August 4th 2020 Beirut Port explosion was unveiled. It was a unique event, and here are five highlights that encapsulate a moving, poignant gathering.
Meeting at CSM
A British designer, Larissa von Planta, meets a Lebanese designer, Rym Beydoun, at Central Saint Martins. The students become friends and share their talents. Larissa joins Rym in Beirut to help her develop her brand, Super Yaya, and eventually establishes her eponymous brand in Beirut as well.
In 2019, the year of Covid, Larissa relocates her workshop to London where she specializes in garment transformation and bespoke orders. Rym Beydoun continues to create fashion at the crossroads of Africa and the rest of the world by introducing several artisanal techniques to her work. On August 4, 2020, at 18:07, a cataclysmic explosion destroys the port area of the capital. Rym is at If, a stone’s throw from the port. She is seriously injured.
Larissa flies to Beirut, reassures herself of Rym’s condition and goes to If, where she meets Johnny Farah and sees the extent of the damage. Rym survives and slowly recovers in the hospital. Larissa wants to help, but all she has is her pencils and her sewing machine. At Johnny’s, she discovers the next winter’s collection, and some pieces from the current summer collection. Everything is ruined, torn, ripped to pieces, encrusted with shards of glass, covered with dust, damaged by smoke.
Designs by Comme des Garçons, Rick Owens, Sagittaire A, Riforma, Elena Dawson, Junya Watanabe, Ziggy Chen, Marc le Bihan, Simon Miller, Daniela Gregis, Yohji Yamamoto, Ivan Grundahl form a bedraggled mound in a devastated corner. Larissa and Johnny sort through them. Larissa takes about thirty pieces to London. Six months later, the collection is ready. The clothes, under Larissa von Planta’s expert hands and benevolent vision, return to Beirut, not only repaired but sublimated, almost transfigured.
Wounds and Confetti
Torn dresses are unraveled and remade, sometimes paired. Skirts are transformed into tops, pants into skirts and vice versa. Men’s jackets, reshaped, adapt to the female silhouette. The tears caused by the shards of glass will receive dressings in the spirit of Kintsugi, the Japanese tradition of repairing broken ceramics with gold.
Pieces of lining or fabric that cannot be salvaged are delicately cut into confetti, embroidered or hot glued onto the “wounds.” A characteristic red cross-stitch is sewn on lacerated fabrics. Light feathers are sewn over the holes: Haute couture emerges from a field of ruin.
Photographer Myriam Boulos has brought together many of those involved this tragedy for a photo shoot and a happy ending. Her shots are full of people impressed by what’s before their eyes. She captures scars, on bodies, souls and dresses. Above all, she has shown the beauty of life enhanced by resurrected fashion.