Working with 60 women from the same mountain village from whence he came, in Mount Lebanon’s Chouf region, Salim Azzam hopes to revive and reimagine the ways these crafts are traditionally used.
Lebanese designer Salim Azzam is on a mission to honour authentic embroidery techniques, storytelling and the women behind them by keeping the craft alive within his designs. “With what’s been happening in Lebanon in the last two years, ‘A New Land’ comes from a desire to be in a new place, an unproblematic one,” Salim Azzam tells SceneStyled, referring to his new SS22 collection. While such places often only exist in our minds, the abstract movements of flying and going somewhere else are well encapsulated in Azzam’s designs. Wings, clouds, and birds all being recurring motifs. “I wish I could fly and go anywhere I want.”
Working with 60 women from the same mountain village from whence he came, in Mount Lebanon’s Chouf region, Azzam hopes to revive and reimagine the ways these crafts are traditionally used - commonly as curtains and other home textiles. In ‘A New Land’, each piece is named after an Arabic word that encompasses the sentiment of the collection. ‘Ghasaq’, a hand-embroidered blazer featuring an orange sky, is inspired by the sunset. “We once had a piece called ‘Salma’, who was based on this woman called Señora Salma who used to live in Argentina,” Azzam shares. “One girl bought it for her mother, not knowing the story, because it was her mom’s name too.”
The label is as sustainable as sustainable gets. Not only does it empower local artisans financially and preserve heritage, but the production process stays true to heritage arts and the environment. In fact, Azzam describes his brand as using a couture approach on ready-to-wear pieces, with some of his pieces taking up to a month to create. “My enemy is speed. With fast fashion, these crafts are deemed outdated and put to the side. Artisanship, on the other hand, changes the entire creative process,” Azzam declares. “I grew up surrounded by farmers, people who used nearby resources to make a living. I was raised on living in moderation. I don’t believe in mass production or mass consumption. It was natural, not a marketing strategy.”
Azzam’s commitment to the process eventually landed him a prize in the first edition of Fashion Trust Arabia in 2019, and his designs were later worn by Queen Rania of Jordan. In a world where we see brands producing at a huge scale, consumers are no longer conscious about what they buy. Not truly, not like how our grandmothers would buy their own fabric and oversee every detail in tailoring their dresses. Then there’s Azzam, who upholds that age-old dedication to the craft and to the women who taught him the value in it.