TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How and when did Lebanon transition into a regional hub for fashion culture and tourism?
CYNTHIA FLOUTY: Known as the Paris of the Middle East, Beirut is a unique cosmopolitan city that naturally produces a certain level of fashion singularity and an environment in which fashion and design can flourish.
Post-World War II, the country became a French colony, with all the cultural clashes that come with such an occupation. Quickly, it became a hub for business, culture and fashion. There was a need for the Lebanese people to mix tradition and a French-style of clothing.
Since 1960s, Hamra Street, Beirut established itself as the centre of culture, with the presence of American University of Beirut. Lebanon was then the centre of tourism for rich magnates and businessmen from the region.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Where do regional travellers who visit the country for its fashion and culture industry come from?
CYNTHIA FLOUTY: Travellers are coming from all around the world, especially from the Middle East and North Africa region. Beirut is the Middle East’s capital of fashion.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Describe the overall national and local climate during the annual Beirut Fashion Week?
CYNTHIA FLOUTY: Beirut Fashion Week is one of the biggest international events, not only in Lebanon but also for several Arab countries. It maintains high standards in glamour, especially with Lebanese designers.
Beirut Fashion Week is an official extension of fashion weeks that are held in many western capitals. People all around the world wait to see the new trends and fashion designs coming out of Beirut.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What actions are being undertaken to further improve and develop Lebanon's fashion tourism industry?
CYNTHIA FLOUTY: When it comes to fashion, no other Middle Eastern city can be approximated to France quite like Beirut. The Lebanese capital is the home of world-renowned designers, including; Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad and Reem Acra.
Our Lebanese designers are invading red carpet events and the Oscars. They have become well-known international designers.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How is Lebanon's tourism industry promoting the country's fashion culture across the wider MENA region?
CYNTHIA FLOUTY: The city constantly proves itself to be the centre of Middle Eastern cultural innovation. ESMOD was the first specialised fashion school to be established, and the school’s presence proves the country’s place as a regional fashion centre, making the city a source of endless talents.
The relative freedom experienced within the Lebanese capital has made it a centre for creative types and innovators. Lebanese designers that have achieved international fame are representing this industry worldwide and they are amongst the best.