After a Year of Crises, How Beirut’s Creative Community Is Rebuilding

CN traveler Bokja

by BETSY BLUMENTHAL – February 16, 2021

The city’s artists and designers are more determined than ever to survive—and thrive.

When a devastating explosion tore through Beirut, Lebanon, last summer, the capital city’s independent artists and designers, whose jewel box shops and busy studios fill the neighborhoods closest to the blast zone, were among those particularly impacted. For the country it was the latest tragedy in a year already marked by the pandemic and a collapsed economy.

“As a community, we felt like we’d all been hit together,” says designer Tatiana Fayad, a cofounder of the high-fashion women’s brand Vanina, whose store in the bohemian enclave of Gemmayzeh was heavily damaged. The network of designers, many of whom have been friendly for years, have always tried to bolster one another in the absence of more formal support, says Fayad. “We don’t have organizations that help us or teach us how to sell abroad—so we learn from each other.” That ethos of team spirit has persisted, with homespun recovery efforts that are as inclusive as possible.

Bokja The founders of this design studio, whose intricate pieces incorporate regional textile practices, started Bokja Mends, an initiative to repair damaged furnishings using its signature brightly colored stitching, at no charge.

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