Better for Wear Rabih Kayrouz creates a launching pad for his country’s emerging talent
Lebanon might be the fashion capital of the Middle East but before the Starch Foundation came into existence in 2008, the spotlight was being hogged by Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad and Rabih Kayrouz. Younger, up-and-coming designers were just not getting a chance in a creative industry of cuthroat competition. “I realised that, for almost ten years, there were hardly any designers emerging from Lebanon, and I wondered why that was,” says Rabih Kayrouz. “The answer seemed to be that new designers didn’t have any support. Graduates from all over the world face difficulties upon leaving university but in Europe, they have the means of finding help. Here, they had no idea how to get started and that’s why I decided, with Tala Hajjar [his PR and marketing manager at the time] that something needed to be done.” So, Hajjar and Kayrouz founded the Starch Foundation, as a commitment to developing emerging talent. They then convinced the Beirut Central District real estate development company, Solidere, to offer their NGO a headquarters in the heart of the capital. And ever since, they have been taking on four to six young designers a year and working with them through the full business cycle, from the design process to the catwalk show, to press, marketing and finally retail, with a year-long tenure at their showroom. With now-established names like Krikor Jabotian, Hussein Bazaza,timi Hayek, Bashar Assaf and Rayya Morcos, just a few of the many ready-to-wear designers who have come through their ranks, Starch’s success has been remarkable.