BEIRUT: Lebanese fashion designers made their way into international recognition and worldwide fame when Fashion Trust Arabia (FTA) announced four Lebanese designers as the winners of the Inaugural Prize.
On March 28, the four Lebanese designers were awarded in Doha, Qatar. Salim Azzam and Roni Helou scored the ready-to-wear prize, Krikor Jabotian won the evening-wear prize, and the Mukhi Sisters label won the best jewelry prize.
“The experience was insane!” Helou told Annahar, “We got to meet all of these big names in the fashion industry, who were very humble and nice, they made us feel like friends and that was so comfortable and made me enjoy the experience which I hope is not a once in a life time experience.”
FTA is a non-profit project that supports design talent in the Middle East, Co-chaired by Sheikha al-Mayassa Bint Hamad Al-Thani and Tania Fares, who founded the Fashion Trust in the U.K, aiming to mentor and fun promising talent from the region.
The competition this year was heated with 25 finalists from Morocco, Egypt, UAE, Tunisia, Riyadh, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, and Lebanon. While the judges were very important fashion icons, including Diane von Furstenberg, Alexander Wang, Haider Ackermann, and Victoria Beckham.
The winners of FTA prize each received mentorship and up to $200,000 in funding for their brands
But perhaps the show stopper and neck-turner was Helou with his ready-to-wear designs where he integrated multiple layers, sustainable fabrics, and one big concept, the garbage crisis in Lebanon, which he presented during the London Fashion week earlier in 2019.
He explained that the inspiration for his collection was from the period between 1998 and 2004, when the National Lebanese Basketball team was at its peak.
“I remember how everyone was united and gathered together to watch the game, this moment of unity, that’s what I wanted to integrate into the collection, merging the active wear details with my aesthetic which is tailoring, the interplay between structured and deconstructed designs, the androgyny and grunge, it was a very long process.”
Helou humbly explained that even though winning the prize was one of his most memorable moments, the highlight of his journey in the competition getting to know the other designers, the conversations they had, and the bond they all shared.
“I was so happy to win of course, especially that the results were not determined by political or other involvements which is sadly very common in the Arab World so it was a constant fear. When I heard my name and Salim’s name it proved that this was completely fair, and whoever deserved to win, won.” He added.
Winning the Fashion Trust Arabi award is only the beginning for Helou as he now plans on working and improving his brand marketing, working with more sustainable fabrics, and helping the community around him with his designs and concepts which always carry a humanitarian and social message in the details.
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