Introducing Renaissance Renaissance, the Lebanese label shortlisted for the LVMH Prize 2021
DUBAI: “I’m doing femininity by myself phrases,” says Cynthia Merhej, a LVMH Prize 2021 semi-finalist — the first-ever Arab lady to be chosen as a semi-finalist for the distinguished accolade — when requested to explain her womenswear label Renaissance Renaissance.
Merhej, the 31-year-old Lebanese designer, who studied graphic design and illustration at London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins artwork college, was at all times destined to be concerned within the trend trade. She hails from a number of generations of designers — her great-grandmother and mom each ran their very own ateliers in Palestine and Lebanon.
Her focus and willpower to push the envelope might be traced again to her household historical past. “She was an anomaly,” stated Merhej of her great-grandmother. “To have this actually robust lady who determined to start out her personal trend enterprise and run it herself was fairly distinctive on the time.”
Merhej grew up in a tiny suburb in Beirut. Her earliest childhood recollections are of her mom’s bustling atelier, watching seamstresses at work and seeing her mom fastidiously drape clothes on purchasers all day.
“I didn’t have the standard story the place I’m trend as an outsider and considering ‘wow, it appears so glamorous, stunning and fantastical.’ Trend was one thing very actual. I used to be uncovered to the entire different aspect of it, which you often don’t hear about or see in magazines or trend exhibits and issues like that,” she stated.
At 17, the third technology tailor left Lebanon to pursue an schooling in London, earlier than shifting again aged 24 and launching her personal sustainable label alongside her mom in 2016.
However though her mom was already a profitable dressmaker with over 30-years of expertise again dwelling, Merhej revealed that her personal foray into the trade started with self-learning. “My mother was too busy. She wasn’t like ‘oh, I’m going to take a seat and educate her methods to sew and educate her how to do that,’” stated Merhej. “And I actually respect that, as a result of trend is a extremely robust enterprise.”
Merhej needed to take pattern-making courses for a yr and a half earlier than she felt she was on “her mom’s stage,” as she put it. The mom and daughter duo went on to develop items for the model of clothes recognized for its bulbous silhouettes, corset-style detailing and flouncy, female ruffles.
“The model goals to problem perceptions of femininity, however in a stupendous approach,” stated the designer. “When individuals have a look at the garments, they could assume that they’re not very radical on account of our notion of what radical is. However if you take my garments and show them in outlets in Beirut, they’re actually the alternative of the whole lot that’s discovered there,” she added.
Merhej has some extent. When one thinks of basic Lebanese designs, one can’t assist however consider the glamorous pink carpet robes and lovely couture creations that come out of Beirut season after season.
“It was really actually laborious to get recognition within the Center East,” stated Merhej. “I needed to actually go outdoors the area to search out individuals that may perceive what I’m doing,” she added, noting her relocation to Paris following the tragic Beirut explosion on Aug. 4.
Because of her laborious work, Merhej’s designs are actually being acknowledged. Final week, she made trend historical past after being introduced as one in every of 20 semi-finalists for the LVMH Prize 2021, making her the first-ever Arab lady to be shortlisted as a semi-finalist for the award.
“It’s already unimaginable we even obtained to the semi-finals,” stated Merhej. “It will likely be much more unimaginable if we get to the finals, however I feel even simply to get up to now is fairly wonderful.”
Her Lebanese label has additionally elicited a optimistic response for its robust dedication to sustainability.
Merhej’s most up-to-date fall 2021 ready-to-wear assortment, for instance, options fewer appears, moral manufacturing and an entire absence of buttons and zippers, which frequently find yourself within the trash even after a garment is recycled.
“I used to be raised to strategy trend ethically since earlier than I even knew that sustainability was a time period,” stated Merhej. Her sustainable strategy to trend was additional inspired by her father, an engineer, whose classes taught her the significance of manufacturing one thing to the very best high quality in order that it lasts over time.
“I feel probably the most sustainable factor you are able to do is design issues with numerous consideration. You must guarantee that what you’re designing really has a objective, that it’s stunning, and it’s one thing individuals need to hold and want — and that you just’re utilizing moral circumstances to provide it,” Merhej stated.
“All the things round me is consistently being destroyed on this nation,” she added. “I’m making an attempt to make one thing that’s going to be actually stunning and that stands the check of time for the ladies that encourage me.”