BEIRUT: Before the massive Jamaloukicon event officially opened Thursday afternoon, the exhibition center was an inchoate scene of fashion in formation, like a store setting up before that holidays, where everything was possible
Strolling through the cavernous space the silence was suddenly broken by the sublime cords of a piano and the beautiful singing of a countertenor, all while casual dress, tall mannequins marched through their paces getting ready for a formal catwalk later in the day.
Matteo El Khodr, countertenor, who would be singing Thursday night at the Azzi/Osta fashion show in Jamaloukicon, made friendly introductions to Annahar during a break. “I was born in Beirut, raised in Paris, and I one of the few countertenors in the world and the only one in the Middle East,” El Khodr told Annahar.
He has performed everywhere in the world.
Nearby, elegant drag queens applied makeup getting ready for the rigors of the performance shows, as exhibitors from fashion icons, and makeup brands, to the technology platforms such as Uber, Careem, and Anghami were setting up their final touches for the three-day conference at Biel.
“This year’s turnout has doubled from our last installment, where more people, companies, and brands have set up booths to take part today,” Imad Niazi, one of the organizers of the event told Annahar.
Niazi highlighted that Jamaloukicon will have more of a kick to it than its predecessors, due to acquiring more international and well-known sponsorships that validate the idea behind the conference, the highest of whom is Air France.
As the kickoff hours closed in, the line at the door stretched all the way outside, with the audience curtailing from a mix of people from the young and eager fashion designers, bloggers, fashion entrepreneurs, to the graceful femme fatales that dressed to impress on said day.
“This is my second time attending Jamaloukicon, and it has become my go-to conference every year whenever I want to mingle with the fashion and makeup industry in Lebanon, and keeping up to date with what’s new,” Joumana Makhoul told Annahar while being under a blowdryer, a 29-year-old accountant by day and fashionista by night, that was getting her hair done at a pop-up hair salon.
Soon after, the attendees rushed to a conference hall on the outskirts of the conference to watch a makeup workshop given by the renowned celebrity makeup artist Bassam Fattouh, whose booth was also one of the most appealing.
Nearby, a VIP lounge was set up between the conference hall and the catwalk for A-listers to enjoy bite-sized food and drinks, all while entertained by a set list of music different from the rest of ongoing festivities of Jamaloukicon.
“It’s nice to see and meet so many upcoming locally-bred fashion experts, entrepreneurs, and designers gracing the halls of this conference, which will hopefully act as a beacon of hope for the country’s fashion industry,” Mariam Saad, a fashion entrepreneur that begain a startup called Be It or Wear It, told Annahar as she sipped on a colorful fizzy cocktail with her girlfriends in a Sex in The City kind of manner.
Walking through the endless trail of exhibitors, it seemed as if every booth had a life of its own, sporting an exclusive X-factor that would pull attendees to its doorstep, from fun activities, to dancing drag queens.
Popular fashion influencers and vloggers were seen strolling through the conference, visiting booth after booth with their smartphone cameras on and broadcasting the experience through their very own narration to their stream of followers on both Instagram and Facebook.
As people spun Careem’s, the UAE-based cap hailing app, prize wheel at the hopes of winning free rides, some took a breather at the conference’s cafeteria for a good coffee and bite to eat; others exchanged business cards for future collaborations and partnerships, and visited the conference’s Meet & Greet area to formally meet their favorite bloggers and influencers.
“The event was filled with fun activities, whether it was spinning the wheel to win prizes, getting your nails and hair done, or getting informed from the various conference panels and workshops,” Tamara Kanj, a student attendee, told Annahar.
“I also got to meet fashion influencer Sara Zaiter, commonly known as Blogger Wannabe on Instagram, she’s quite the hilarious person,” Kanj added.
On a more serious note, everything wasn’t all that glitzy and a la mode at Jamaloukicon; where numerous fashion entrepreneurs shared their challenging stories of how they formed businesses, fashion lines, and consulting services from their social media fame which wasn’t an easy task to be done.
“I attended a panel discussion labeled ‘The Other Side of the Story’ which hosted Mr. Moudz, Rita Hayek, Rami Kadi, and Okhtein that discussed the ugly and tougher side of the industry,” Stephanie Mrad, a student attendee, told Annahar.
Mrad considered listening to these stories to be interesting, by highlighting a perspective of the fashion industry far from the glamorous lifestyle people falsely perceive. “This, in turn, showed me that we all pass through the downs as frequently as the ups, which motivates me to always persist with whatever I want to achieve,” she added.
On the sidelines of the conference, a number of local designers displayed their clothing and attire for purchase for people to discover the underground workings of Lebanese fashion designers.
“It’s very nice to see that there are quite a few Lebanese designers on display here since it is their first step into the limelight,” Tatiana Kaddoura told Annahar as she was making a purchase from one of these booths.
Jamaloukicon will carry on through Friday and Saturday at Biel Sea Side venue from the hours of 3 pm to 10 pm.
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