Beirut Street Style: From Latex to Princesses
The wonderful thing about global street style is the number of impromptu run ins one comes across with people who are somehow connected to you. Traversing through Gemmayze, an eclectic Beirut district of alternative art, fashion, cafes, restaurants and bars, I approached a woman waiting by an old cobbler. I thought her style was defiantly unique for what I normally see amongst Lebanese women. Masculine lines with bouts of bold and chunky. Danielle’s look is entirely her own, that is to say she designed the clothes she wore that day, minus the Raybans of course. The real story between Danielle and I is that she had been following Geeky Chic for a while and once made a comment of praise on my Facebook page. I was totally unaware of the fact when we met. In fact when I met Danielle in person I did not know who she was and vice versa. We made the connection after I told her I was a street style journalist based in Canada. Moments like these make me feel that the notion of our world being small is widely understated.
Two doors down from the cobbler is Deviations, the boutique where Danielle is the head designer. Before I entered the store, I could not help but notice a giant mirror adjacent to the door. Store owner, Amer, cleverly placed this mirror next to the store entrance to satisfy the narcissist in every Lebanese woman. The idea is that you look at yourself in the mirror, and then naturally at the store’s display of flattering evening dresses, all in an effort to inspire you to check out that sexy yellow number you can now so easily envision wearing (thanks to the mirror).
The story of Amer and Deviations is an interesting one. It’s a 25 year old brand, born in Los Angeles. The original concept behind Deviations included fetish wear, slits, studs and the like. The inspiration behind the aesthetic of a deviated look so to speak was a marriage between ’80s goth from NYC and Rock ‘n Roll L.A. The line was dominated by lycra to emphasize the woman’s body at all times. Some of Amer’s clients included Cher, Courtney Love and Annie Lennox. Deviants for sure. The advent of 9/11 brought Amer and Deviations back to Lebanon. A small part of the Lebanese culture at the time responded to Amer’s look. It wasn’t until Danielle came in and started designing for Deviations with more volume, colours and details, that more and more Lebanese women started warming up to the brand. These days a good amount of Lebanese women buy clothes from Deviations to wear abroad.
Deviations today, with Danielle at the helm, is inspired by fairy tales. Such is evident via trims, notions, details and playful colours. Many of Danielle’s dresses are embedded by wires that enable the look of the dress to change according to the woman wearing it. How fun! The brand and Danielle’s fairytales that come with it ensues with a bridal line of hers named Doochi. Doochi has not deviated from it’s mother ship entirely. The line caters to women who are non conformists, unconventional and unique.
3 years ago
The other side of Nicosia
Nicosia, the last divided capital in Europe is commonly characterized as a pastiche of old and new. One of the world’s oldest cities, Nicosia has rapidly been playing catch up ever since Cyprus has joined the European Union in 2004 along with Malta. Developed infrastructure such as chic resto-lounges, wider streets, a newly renovated airport and of course a blitz of Café trottoires, of which you’ll find the majority of the Cypriot population at all hours of the day, are among many indicators that this once sleepy island is now turning into a maturing European hub.
But what about the pockets of Nicosia that have remained intact and untouched by cosmetics? Incubated within Nicosia, they are not within a proverbial wall, but an actual one. Old Nicosia lies within the Venetian built walls, initially constructed in 1567 to protect it’s people from imminent Ottoman attack. Much of the wall remains, as does the culture and lifestyle of the Cypriots within it.
Old Nicosia is a time warp in it’s finest form. Narrow streets and old houses with ornate balconies extending from sandstone walls, and craftsmen in small workshops practice trades unchanged for centuries.
As for street style, the divide between old and new Nicosia is eye opening. Instead of running into brand hugging, trend following Cypriots most notably found smoking cigarettes and drinking frappés at modern cafes, I found types who prescribe to counter culture and alternative (life)styles.
They call him Butterfly (below). He is a political philosophy writer whose personal style is in such conflict with the growing establishment of Euro chic Cyprus.
My guide, Pascal (below), who also happens to be my brother in law, lies at the intersection between the inner and outer layers of the wall. He is tired of the hoi polloi of the “new Cypriots” as I like to call them, so he retreats every once in a while within the walls for some authenticity found in the people and the tiropita. He often marvels at the people he sees among him on the street, often asking himself where these people come from?
My sojourn within the Venetian walls of old Nicosia was an adventure in time, culture and style. In my first 16 years of living in Cyprus, I had never ventured this deep. Although I was pleased that such a micro world existed within Nicosia, and that almost 100% of it was preserved from centuries past, I was hoping for it to be less isolated from Nicosia at large. For one, i’d like to see more modern boutiques set up shop within the walls, while maintaining and respecting the cultural and architectural integrity of the area. I saw few examples of this within the more outer layers of the wall, bordering new Nicosia. I definitely think it would sprout a whole new dimension on a fashion front as an inspirational backdrop for burgeoning Cypriot designers.
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