The past 12 months have been bittersweet for Sandra Mansour. While she was getting ready to launch her capsule collection for Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M, which was slated to be released on August 27, 2020, the horrific August 4 Beirut blast tore through the city, eradicating both her showroom and her atelier. “Our showroom is still located in Gemmayze, and it took us around three months to repair,” she says. “On the other hand, our atelier was too badly damaged and had to be relocated.” The harm to Mansour’s business was tremendous, but the Lebanese fashion designer didn’t let the blast stop her work. Her collaboration with H&M was released on schedule at the end of August, making her the first Arab woman to create a collection for the Swedish brand.
Most recently, Mansour unveiled her fall/winter 2021-22 collection, “Au Bout du Labyrinthe” (At the Edge of the Labyrinth), which is an ode to surrealist painter Rita Kernn Larsen. “The Danish artist is one of the few women with a recognized role in the surrealist movement,” Mansour says. “Her art explores the subconscious with dreamy imagery and melds figuration with abstraction. ‘Au Bout du Labyrinthe’ is a collection woven into the subconscious and dreams. Each piece expresses unique illusions – embroideries crawling like ants, one over the other, whimsical lines on a crepe satin dress hugging the body, golden earrings that burst into tears and a hand-knitted ensemble adorned with anamorphic golden buttons created by the house.”
The new collection bears the Sandra Mansour imprint, with poetic outfits suggesting a heightened sense of reality. But this new fall/winter range is also different from previous ones. “I’ve designed it in a more sustainable and eco-friendly way,” says Mansour, “with more attention to details when it came to allocating fabrics and looking into upcycling textiles. Also, I think there is a sense of calm in this collection – the colors, the airy silhouettes and the flowing embroideries give me a sense of calm. A time to heal.”
Reflecting on the consequences of the Beirut blast and its impact upon her design work, Mansour says: “There will always be a link with August 4. It has affected all of us in some way, and it will have future repercussions on our personal and professional lives. It will be part of us forever.”