Zuhair Murad: we must prove that we will stay in Lebanon and rebuild the country

The Lebanese designer is determined to keep producing his world-renowned designs in his homeland

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Zuhair Murad’s sparkling creations may have dressed celebrities worldwide, but he has always been adamant that his headquarters remain in his homeland.

Despite the Lebanese designer's offices suffering severe damage in the Beirut port explosion in 2020, he stayed on in the country.

Directly after the blast, Murad raised money for the relief efforts by rallying his international clientele, designing a limited edition T-shirt and donating the proceeds to the humanitarian non-government organisation Offrejoie.

Last week, the country marked the two-year anniversary since the devastating event. With much of the city still undergoing repairs, Murad has launched the #RedressLebanon campaign to generate another round of aid, creating a couture gown from construction materials.

Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad created a dress from the Beirut port blast debris for a project called Redress Lebanon. Photo: Zuhair Murad

“What inspired the dress is the cloth that covers most of the destroyed buildings of Beirut since the blast,” Murad tells The National. “I tried to turn the pain of that sight into beauty and art, with the aim to redress Lebanon."

Despite the several crises that have plagued Lebanon since 2019, Murad intends to rebuild his atelier and continue to produce his award-winning designs locally.

Murad has said he's been “very moved by the number of celebrities worldwide who supported Lebanon”. Over the years, he's dressed the likes of Taylor Swift, Shakira, Katy Perry, Priyanka Chopra and Blake Lively for prestigious events and red carpet ceremonies.

Most recently, Jennifer Lopez chose one of his gowns from his ready-to-wear bridal collection for her marriage to Ben Affleck — an off-the-shoulder lace dress with a fishtail train, a corseted bodice and a matching veil.

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: Jennifer Lopez is seen on the movie set of 'Marry Me' in Uptown, Manhattan on October 18, 2019 in New York City.  (Photo by Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

“Fashion put Lebanon on the international map," he says. "Fashion can transmute a country’s culture and civilisation or help show how forward-thinking and educated a country is.

“By having my fashion dress some of the best of Hollywood and society, and my various clients around the world, it was a message. It was never just ‘Zuhair Murad’, it will always be ‘Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad,’ and I will always be so proud that from such a tiny country in the Middle East, that isn’t very well known, I managed to show the real Lebanon to the world through fashion.”

Covid-19 has affected the fashion industry worldwide, delaying major fashion events and the production of new collections, and Murad says Lebanon's problems are an added layer to these challenges, but not insurmountable.

Electricity cuts and supply chain shortages are only some of the issues Lebanon is facing, that Murad has to contend with, but his main concern is the mass exodus of young people who are seeking better lives abroad. He hopes there will still be designers willing to stay and become the next generation of fashion in Lebanon.

“I was brought up with a mindset of perseverance, of not giving up when faced with a challenge and of always overcoming difficulties,” he says. “We need to move forward because life will always be full of surprises and we never know what the future might hold.

“There is a new generation that is growing and needs to be supported. Lebanon has faced many wars and challenges and I can only hope this is the last problem the country faces and that we can rise again,” he says. “This is not the first time Lebanon faces challenges and we must prove that we will stay; we will continue and rebuild the country.”

Murad recently showcased his 2022-23 autumn/winter collection at Paris Haute Couture Week, resplendent with tarot imagery and horoscope symbols, contrasting fabrics such as velvet and silk with large sections of detailed beadwork.

“This year, we presented the collection inspired by prediction. This theme has always been very intriguing to me as I’m very interested in all the predictive ways to know the future,” he says. “It’s always a rush to be in Paris for Couture Week, but while every minute is memorable and every second is filled with hard work and dedication, from myself and from my entire team, some moments stand out, like the moment when the first model comes up on the runway wearing the first look of the collection.

“It’s the moment where I’ve done everything, and I’m ready for everyone to see it, where everyone’s making their first reaction. There’s nothing quite like it.

“We’ve had two years where most projects were delayed, put on hold or stopped altogether. Today, we are continuing the expansion of our ready-to-wear worldwide, as well as our accessories.”

The spring/summer 2023 collection is already in the works, and while Murad keeps most details under wraps, he shares some of his plans for the bridal collection, which will continue exploring the use of constellations and symbols like stars and the moon, with a fantastical, fairy tale twist.

Concoctions of silk tulle, taffeta and lace will be adorned with crystalline beading and sequins, from princess gowns with cinched waists to slinky, pleated pieces with long trains.

All of it, a continuing ode to his first love: Lebanon.

Updated: August 11, 2022, 11:28 AM
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