BEIRUT: With her eyes set on her business and not on personal fame, 24-year-old Cynthia Jreige, Editor in Chief of Jdeed magazine, has turned her senior project into something beyond the academic field, and embarked on a journey worth being shared.
Mirroring the nature of her business, Jreige’s character reflects simplicity mixed with flamboyance, and an untamable flare of ambition.
Annahar met her in Sursock Museum Cafe, which is a place that has long been a haven for young artists, where they are met with beckoning inspiration in its every corner.
“It all started in September 2017 as a senior project for my Master’s degree, and I never thought that it would be public,” she said.
WANDERLUST BY HEART
Hearing more about the young ambitious artist as one scrolls through the pages of her beloved “Jdeed,” a link could be found by the tropical, exotic mix found all over 143 pages of “Jdeed El Tene” (meaning Jdeed’s second issue in Arabic).
Born in Luxembourg, originally Lebanese from her father’s side, and half Belgian half Italian from her mother’s side, Jreige’s heritage has contributed to the cosmopolitan theme of her work.
As a young girl, she always knew she wanted “to be in the fashion industry,” and says that she always wanted to write, “I was better at writing than talking.”
Jreige believes that everything happens for a reason.
“I was super ambitious from the beginning and made sure I always worked hard to get what I wanted. Like when I got to move to New-York, a city that was always a dream to me,” she said excitedly, adding that “she wanted to settle there.”
Jreige received her BA in Fashion Design from Istituto Marangoni, before going on to finish a one-year internship in New York, and finally integrate a Master in Fashion Journalism at London College of Fashion. Before that, she studied at the French high school in Luxembourg, and admits that her own travels “gave her that exotic touch,” in addition to her father’s travels for work, which have affected her a lot.
The young lady, who loves wearing black and embraces light blue as her favorite color, describes herself as “a wanderluster at heart,” and adds, “I don’t know why I always wanted to travel the world.”
Artists are often affected by their surroundings, and it seems that the support the young Editor in Chief got from her parents has really helped shape her journey. “It’s amazing how they’ve been very supportive, even though they don’t really understand what I do sometimes,” she said, adding “yet, they are very interested in it.”
FASHION JOURNALISM SCREAMING AUTHENTICITY
What makes Jdeed Magazine a work worthy of one’s attention and read is its richness in color, detail, and content, all oozing with creativity, which as a result, makes it stand out among other commercial fashion magazines out there.
Jdeed is all about authenticity.
She chose to only have three issues per year so far, in order to retain the quality and content; turning the saying “quality over quantity” into practice.
Her team randomly chooses the country, which is in most cases an Arab one, while Jreige dedicates herself to her ongoing journey of browsing on Instagram or through design fairs and art fairs, looking for artists. “When I gather all these artists, I try to find a common thing between them, that would unite all of the content in one issue,” she said.
“The next issue will be about urban art and street art,” she said, adding that this was mostly inspired by the abundancy of this kind of art in Kuwait.
One of her favorite countries to feature was Bahrain, a country she always wanted to visit, especially that the singer of her favourite band Majid Jordan is Bahraini.
Her interest in featuring Arab artists mainly stems from her support of Arabism. “We have borders, yet we are united by so many things,” she said, explaining that “artists do not care about these borders.”
Her interest in the Arab world is also because she wanted to “fill a void that was inside her, growing up as a Lebanese outside of Lebanon.”
“I think that my father’s cultural background was stronger than my mother’s. We learned about Lebanese food from him for example, and we came to visit our family in Lebanon every summer,” she said.
One of the brands created by a young Arab designer featured in Jdeed is “Boshies;” a brand celebrating the oriental Tarbush, with a modern twist.
Countries that have also been covered so far in the magazine are: Bahrain, Oman, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.
Featuring Armenia, a non-Arab country in Jdeed, was due to Jreige seeing that “there is such a strong Armenian community in the region.” Azerbaijan also appealed to her since “it is an Islamic country, which is close to Turkey, unlike Georgia, which is closer to Russia.”
Jreige so far owns two companies in Lebanon and in Dubai, with her magazine Jdeed being sold at 347 stores in Lebanon. Abroad, it is distributed in Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, London, Stockholm, and Paris, “but we’re always working on more,” the artist told Annahar.
Jreige shamelessly admits to being a workaholic.
Currently, everything she does has to revolve around something that has to do with work. “Even when I go on holiday, I keep thinking about work,” she said.
Part of that thinking led her to work hard on Jdeed’s e-commerce, so that people can buy it online wherever they are in the world.
Jdeed, founded by Cynthia Jreige, in addition to a number of freelancers, photographers, and graphic designers, has started receiving feedback on its social media accounts.
Jreige is aware that the more the business grows, the more people will expect of it.
One of the cultural/artistic debates on Jdeed’s Instagram account was around a photo of two male designers from the Arab world giving a voice to the LGBTQ community.
“That almost created a clash between followers,” Jreige said. However, she continued seeing the positive side and added that “it’s nice that people are interacting on the community.”
She is feeling very lucky now that many people are sending submissions to collaborate with Jdeed.
“One of our readers sent a message saying “this is the best magazine in the Middle East,” which shows that people are in need of something like this,” she mentioned.
Describing Jdeed in one sentence, Jreige said: “It’s about unveiling a side of the Arab world that hasn’t been seen before.”
Going on with a low profile and staying away from many events she does not find “authentic” enough for her, she confessed to Annahar that she prefers to watch Netflix with friends instead of attending such events.
It’s not about her, it’s about her business.
“When I talk about Jdeed, I say Jdeed is doing this and that, and not me, and this reflects my personality,” she said.
AWAL W TENE (FIRST AND SECOND)
Jreige’s favorite thing about Jdeed the first (“Jdeed the first”) is the interview she conducted with the Head of Scouting of “Not Just a Label.” Jreige is just fascinated by his job in finding new talents all over the world.
After all, she is proud to have interviewed Rober Cavelle Clark, from the “number one platform for emerging designers.”
Another favorite from the first is another interviewing, this time with Sarah’s Bag; a brand created by Sarah Beydoun that has a strong humanitarian purpose.
Furthermore, her favorite part in the second issue (“bil tene”) is the piece about emerging women photographers “because they’re not showcased as much as they deserve usually.”
Another favorite, which constituted more of a challenge, was interviewing Shoukri Laurence and Khalid Abdel Hadi; two men from Jordan and Palestine changing perceptions about LGBT, “not through talking only, but through actions as well.”
On that, Jreige hopes that “one day we will get to a point where talking about such topics is not risky at all in many places in the world.”
Favorites from both issues also include interviewing Rony Helou, a Graduate of Creative Space Beirut (CSB), and experiencing Armenia; a country that “has a modern and futuristic crowd of artists, yet at the same time, is still sticking to the roots and to everything old.”
Jreige aims to stretch the lifespan of her magazine. “I want to turn Jdeed into ‘the platform’ and ‘the reference’ when it comes to fashion and art in the region,” she said, explaining how passionate she is to “try and unite the Arab world and Arab communities through art.”
For her, “it’s very empowering to come from a culturally rich region,” and it is for this reason that she wants Arabs, and especially Arab artists to embrace their origins.
The ad-free Jdeed is looking for advertisers, the founder explains.
Encouraging everyone who wants to make a change through art in the region, Jreige sees that her magazine is one of the best decisions she made in life, ensuring that Jdeed will live long and continue to inspire artists to showcase their work and turn their dreams from a vision to a reality.
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