US and European logos, signature patterns and distinct symbols have become part of the fashion mainstay in television and film, clothing stars in brands that often have these on-screen appearances to thank for their popularity and lasting power. It begs the question whether there is not an opportunity for regional designers to make their presence felt in productions emerging from the MENA Region.
“You know when something is Chanel,” says Egyptian fashion stylist and costume designer Yasmine Eissa, “but local brands don’t have the same trademark identities or logos.” Although she endorses local designers as much as possible in editorial shoots, Eissa recognizes that their clothing is not used sufficiently in moving pictures. “The problem is that they always want publicity material – a picture, credit or mention, which is their right of course, but it’s difficult to get this in movies.”
Lebanese stylist Sarah Keyrouz, who has worked on TV series such as Kharze Zar2a and Hawas, agrees: “A designer might only have their logo in the [series] credits. They don’t get the same exposure as a cover shoot, red-carpet event or editorial.” And, although she works with smaller Lebanese brands such as Boyfriend, Roni Helou and Jessica K for screen projects, and borrows gowns from Lebanon’s star designers for big opening scenes, special-occasion settings or wedding scenarios, Keyrouz says it is often more practical to source clothing from stores that one can find anywhere, when creating everyday scenes that are “real.”
In addition, local brands are not always able to deliver garments in the quantities needed for TV and film shoots, so Eissa works with Egyptian, Lebanese and Emirati designers on custom pieces, when possible.
But Keyrouz says that the cost associated with customizing garments to fit actors is a big challenge faced by regional productions. “In one day of shooting a series, a person could have up to 30 looks, and there might be 40 to 50 people to dress, so it’s cheaper to buy brands that are found all over the world, because our regional brands are artisanal and don’t come in huge quantities,” she explains. “Also, a TV series takes a lot of time to shoot, so you don’t just keep a gown for one or two days, like an editorial shoot. We might keep it for three months.”
Eissa, who recently styled the actors in the documentary Egypt: Land of Civilization by using Egyptian designers, says, “We have exceptional, phenomenal brands, but not as many options as abroad. And, here in Egypt, despite the talent of designers, there’s a lack of fabric, and tailors are not always reliable and consistent.” At the end of the day, says Eissa, her job is to accomplish the task presented to her by a producer or director, to clothe someone according to a certain style. “It’s important to support regional brands,” she says, “but I source the product or piece that works best for the brief, rather than getting something for the sake of a brand.”