Sitt. Samia’s Closet

Samia Saab’s closet is unlike any other. Inside it she holds a collection of textiles, garments and accessories from past centuries, which tell the fashion history of our country.

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A graceful elderly lady with a bright smile, Samia recounts our fashion history from the 16th Century to today’s famed Elie Saab and Rabih Kayrouz. The Emir Fakhr-al-Din introduced costume to Lebanese society. Sober and elegant, the outfits were distinguished by a cotton or hessian string according to the class the wearer belonged to. The clothes were made of silk, cotton or wool. The Emir and princesses had the most elaborate clothing, mimicked by notables and cavaliers. Peasants adorned the black Sherwal and covered their heads with the Labbade, a hat made with goat wool from the mountains. Women wore long dresses or skirts, and embroidered headdresses, which held the Mendil (veil), while noble ladies carried Tantours, a sophisticated headdress made up of a tall conic silver tube around which floated a silk veil.

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When she was five, Samia Saab went up to the attic of her tree storey house. In an old wooden trunk brought back by her father from Mexico, she found her grandmother’s petticoats. Her passion for fashion blossomed, as she started organizing masquerade balls for her friends and neighbors, and crafting costumes for her guests. Her inspiration came from the arts, nature and her travels from which she brought back treasured dolls, costumes and fabrics. She then opened a boutique and confectioned with her couturiers Kaftans, Abayas, and Kubrans, a straight gilet cut, paired with a Sherwal generally covered by a skirt. A browse through her creations, introduces us to Sarma, gold thread embroidery, brocades, and embellished silk from Zouk’s artisanal district. The luxurious fabrics and traditional techniques that Sitt. Samia uses in her creations are an invitation to travel through time.

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The Ladies Furrier

Mr. Dikran Tamirian is a furrier and a storyteller. His epic life story is one of resilience and drive. He was born around the end of the 1920s, and his fur atelier, in Bellevue, Mount Lebanon, is still bustling with activity.

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The furrier first learned the craft from his mother, Mayranouche. A twelve-year old fleeing the Armenian genocide, she was kidnapped by the Turks and placed in the village-town Severek. She met Hovhannès and ran away with him to Aleppo. In 1930, she heard that her brother, Agop Kermezian, was alive and living in Paris. He was a furrier for Jean Patou and other notorious couturiers. She traveled to him and learned his trade, while pursuing a hairdressing diploma. Three years later, she settled with her husband and son in Beirut where she started working at a salon de coiffure. Soon enough, she decided to dedicate herself to fur couture, and her brother sent her a sewing machine from Paris. At the time a few fur houses were establishing themselves in Beirut, reinforcing the city’s reputation as a capital of style and refinement, which attracted locals and foreigners. The oldest furrier in Beirut was the renowned Gabriel Djanandji, later joined by his sons. He opened a prestigious boutique on Bab Idriss, at the heart of the city.

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Dikran’s family lived in one bedroom, in an apartment with other families on Rue de l’Armée. The room was divided between a living area and the atelier, where Dikran assisted his mom by pedaling to activate the sewing machine, as there was no engine at the time. The elegant ladies of Beirut’s high society came to the atelier for their fittings. In 1946, Dikran decided to sail away to Europe to perfect his craft. He spent a year in Paris, six months in London, then two years in Berlin where he did an apprenticeship with his uncle. In 1949, Dikran set up a vast atelier shop, maison Marina (Mayranouche’s surname) on George Picot Street. He traveled to Paris, London and Frankfort to purchase his furs, and learned their treatment and cleaning in the United States. In 1967 he gained exclusive representation of Christian Dior Haute Fourrure in Lebanon and held fashion shows at Phoenicia hotel’s nightclub Le Paon Rouge. At the start of the civil war his atelier was vandalized and all his belongings, including appliances, machines and merchandise, were stolen. With the support of his suppliers who had become his friends, and a boutique put at his disposal by the Summerland hotel, he started over to reach new successes. And the story goes on.

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Address:
Fourrures Marina
Bellevue “Awkar
📞
: +961 4 543463
📱
: +961 3 671710
Mövenpick
📞: +961 1 869666
Direct: +961 1 791430

Layover on the Silk Road: The Silk Museum – Bsous

In a garden filled with jasmine, lavender and olive groves, lies a charming Lebanese mansion that was once a flourishing silk manufacture. Now turned into a museum, it is one of the rare testimonies of the blooming age of silk making in Lebanon.

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The Emir Fakhr-al-Din, at the end of the 16th century, imported silk production to Mount Lebanon from Italy. Farmers planted white mulberry trees, silkworms’ main food, and women in the house looked after the animals, feeding their ravenous appetites. The silk industry created the first jobs for women outside their homes. They were sought after as they worked longer hours, were paid five times less than men and had slender fingers allowing them to work meticulously with fragile cocoons and thin threads. White and fine threads from Tripoli were used for gold embroidered fabric, the strong silk from Beirut for weaving taffetas, moiré or tapestry, while the Chouf and Kesrouan’s robust and yellowish silk was suited for velvet. The first spinning mill was established by a merchant from Marseilles, Nicolas Portalis, in the village of Btater, using modern techniques.  Silk was the most important industry in the 19th century and a class of rich merchants emerged. Trade from different cities across the region transited through the ports of Saida and Beirut on the way to Ottoman cities, Europe and Africa.

Farmers at work      Magnanery hall

The Bsous Silk manufacture founded in 1890 terminated its activity in 1945. The region was suffering from bad harvests, war and foreign competition’s lower priced synthetic fabrics. In 1966, a couple, Alexandra and George Asseily, fell in love with the land and devoted their energies to bring it back to life. Reopened as a museum in 2001, it testifies of an era when the production and commerce of silk brought wealth to our mountains and seaports. Evening dresses, embroidered bags and tapestry adorned the life of emirs and sheikhs. Along with silk works, traditional techniques and machines the museum presents an exhibit every year. Until November, Silk Fantasy invites us into the world of Italian designers from the 70s to 90s. Gucci, Versace and their contemporaries were the first to draw patterns on silk, with playful cravats, flowery dresses and blouses. Andrea Pfister’s imaginative prints dialogue with the designers’ clothing, along with scarves highlighting artist Ken Scott’s spectacular color combinations. A gem from the past, the museum’s regular exhibits offer perspectives for a fading craft by revealing traditions and techniques from countries along the Silk Road.

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Address:
The Silk Museum – Bsous – Casa of Aley
Haret el Sett Street
📞: +961 5 940767
Fax: +961 5 942834
info@thesilkmuseum.com
http://www.thesilkmuseum.com

Silk Fantasy exhibit ends November 8, 2015. The museum reopens in Spring 2016