Even though Lebanon has undergone one of the toughest years in recent history, admitting defeat is not in the dictionary of the Lebanese people. A number of the country’s most acclaimed designers are still left reeling from the havoc wreaked by the August 4 explosion in Beirut as they struggle to rebuild amongst decimated neighborhoods and precariously balanced livelihoods. Although Elie Saab‘s storied atelier and family home in the Lebanese capital both lay in ruins, the Lebanese couturier will not be deterred from rising up once again. In an interview with Reuters yesterday, Saab revealed the fighting spirit ingrained in not only him but also all Lebanese, even in the wake of unspeakable tragedy.
“We must go on … It does not become us as Lebanese to give up,” said Saab. “That is the doable part. But the biggest loss is the people you can’t bring back.”
The haute couture designer himself had a harrowing experience when his main office and headquarters filled with 200 staff members—including his son—was damaged in the blast. “I saw my son covered in blood, I could not believe it. I said okay, he is wounded, but it was okay, it was just cuts to his head and arms,” Saab revealed in the interview. “But it was 15 minutes that felt like two days long. It was not just because it is a father and son thing, it was because we all work together, like one family under one roof.” His home, located a few hundred meters from the port origin of the explosion, was also destroyed.
The widespread destruction currently enveloping Beirut reminds Saab of Lebanon’s civil war—an “unnecessary” reminder of a tragic past. “It was the same smell, the same dust, the broken glass. Honestly, we did not want to relive this and it was not necessary,” he said. “This is a huge setback but we have to be like Beirut—every time dusting itself off and returning to the way it was.” Equipped with that persistence in mind and passion at heart, Saab and his team are planning to resume operations this week to still be ready for Paris’ couture week in September.
Earlier this month, Saab’s eponymous label also shared a poignant video message on Instagram, praying for the victims and instilling hope in the survivors. “Praying for Lebanon, for the victims and the families affected by this devastating tragedy,” reads the post caption. “Beirut will remain our greatest source of inspiration and the resilience of its people will continue to strengthen our common thread. We will stand united and support one another to overcome this crisis.”
While the long road towards recovery still lies ahead, the people of Lebanon will face it as they always do: With unwavering tenacity, unquestionable courage, and unshakeable optimism for a brighter future.