29 July 2012

The Lebanese Way: Introduction

Sarah Thelwall reports on the challenges and opportunities facing young designers in Lebanon and the circumstances contributing to the surge in fashion and design in the country.

© Sarah Thelwall

The Lebanese Way
Sarah Thelwall

Over the last five years, the Lebanon (and Beirut in particular) has built upon its role as a hub for the creative industries in the Middle East and we now see a burgeoning fashion scene full of Lebanese-trained fashion designers whose work is achieving recognition across the region. The design sector has also grown significantly and the work of Lebanese design studios can now be found in New York, London, Paris and Milan.

The fact that this has been achieved without any government funding makes the achievement all the more important. The short articles that follow seek to examine this recent growth and answer a series of important questions about the nature of enterprise (and indeed sectoral) development within the creative industries - i.e. what are the factors that have enabled Lebanese creative entrepreneurs to develop both the market and the aesthetic themselves? What are the pros and cons of this sales-led organic sectoral and company growth route?

There are several key differences in the way that the creative industries operate in Lebanon compared to those in Europe, America and the Middle East, with whom Lebanese designers compete.Some of these differences offer learning opportunities for other countries, others relate to the market dynamics and cultural requirements of the Middle East market, whilst others still present problems to the sector that need to be solved before the market’s potential can be fully unleashed.

Part I: The Route for emerging Fashion & Design talent in Lebanon - an article focusing on the challenges of investment; sales-led growth; access to space and the development of international connections.

Part II: Policy & Production - an article that looks at fashion & design entrepreneurs in Lebanon collectively, and the broader industry issuesaffecting their development.

Sarah Thelwall is the Director of MyCake.org, an online toolkit to help creative entrepreneurs manage the financial side of their business simply and easily. She has been working with creative entrepreneurs for over a decade as a consultant, business development coach and trainer. In November 2011, she spent a month co-delivering a creative business development programme with Percy Emmett (one of the main developers and deliverers of Nesta's Creative Enterprise toolkit) to several Lebanese creative entrepreneurs in Beirut, and then participated and curated a fashion conference organised by the British Council andStarch Foundation (click on the video below to see more).

British Council/Starch Foundation's Fashion seminar in Beirut (December 2011).