Creative pullApril 5, 2016

Beirut’s time has finally come. The Lebanese capital is shaking off its gritty reputation and giving style-savvy tourists a reason to head east.

Thanks to a solid circuit of galleries and museums – Aïshti Foundation and Beirut Art Center, to name just a few – the city is now a major player on the global art scene. Lebanese food has long been the stuff of legend, and restaurants like Tawlet have put the city on the culinary map. But if you ask Beirut’s in-crowd what truly sets their home apart, it comes down to one thing: Our designers are a magnet, says Sarah Beydoun, founder of Sarah’s Bag and recipient of the UN’s Oslo Business for Peace Award. “Together we create a synergy. It’s our way of resisting what’s happening in the region.”

With Beirut a mandatory destination on any traveler’s bucket list, Caravan Beirut is tiding shoppers over until they get there. A pop-up luxury marketplace, the shop is bringing the city’s brightest established and emerging talents to Washington, DC, for four days in April. The event will see over 20 names in womenswear, fine jewelry, art, photography, homeware and childrenswear in one contemporary souk, designed by architect Rabih Geha, the man behind some of the Middle East’s hottest nightlife destinations.

nour hammour 2

rings - diamonds - pink gold

So what should visitors expect to see? A stunning collection of pieces, for starters. An afternoon could be spent eyeing Selim Mouzannar’s glittering jewels or studded leather jackets from Nour Hammour. But look a little closer and you’ll see something even more impressive: Lebanese character.

It’s what Tala Hajjar credits with the success of Beirut’s design scene. Along with Paris Fashion Week regular and hometown hero Rabih Kayrouz, she is co-founder of Starch Foundation, an incubator for emerging talent that has launched the careers of many Bucolik designers. Starch recently beat out 23 other countries to take home the Best Curation award at London’s prestigious International Fashion Showcase during Fashion Week.

Tala believes that decades of civil war and political instability have created a culture of self-reliance in Lebanon, which encourages creative fearlessness. “We’ve been in survival mode forever,” she says, “but the fact that we rely so much on ourselves makes us courageous. We’re not afraid to launch our brands or do something new.” Rabih agrees: “In a country where you have to struggle, where you have to fight for everything, creativity becomes your only chance at survival.”