This article is part of an in depth special report on the Lebanese in Brazil. Read more stories as they’re published here, or pick up July’s issue at newsstands in Lebanon.
Fause Haten grew up wrapped in fabrics. His parents emigrated from Lebanon in the 1950s and started a small clothing factory — making basic designs sold in the famous Rua 25 de Marco in São Paulo. “My father was doing jeans and shorts. It was a time when big companies were doing clothes, not doing fashion,” he says.
As a teenager Haten visited Italy and fell in love. Desperate to travel again but without the funds to do so, he asked his father for a sewing machine to make clothes to sale. “So I started not as an artist or a fashion designer but as a merchant — the same as my parents and grandparents.”
Soon, however, he would drift beyond function into fashion. “I started to have my artist veins appearing on those clothes. I have always had a 3-dimensional view of how a dress should look.”
Nowadays he is among the country’s biggest fashion designers; with many of the world’s top models having worn his dresses, including Brazil’s very own Gisele Bündchen. Growth in Brazil was followed by stints as a designer for shows at New York’s and Milan’s fashion weeks.
Yet as Haten became more successful, he became weary of an often materialistic world. In recent years he has sold his fashion business and stepped back, enabling him the space to take up new activities such as acting. He has recently starred in his first play, about the life of Yves Saint Laurent. “I understood that I am a performer so there is no way I will just do one thing any more, I will always do many things together.”
Like many Lebanese–Brazilians, Haten’s Lebanon is an imagined one that bears only a passing resemblance to the state today. For him, his roots are as much about decadence and desert as civil war. “I am Lebanese, that feeling is deep in me — I love opulence, I love colors, I love jewelry, I used to wear a lot of stuff. I recognize in me this Lebanese influence.”
He has never been to Lebanon but has visited other parts of the Middle East and would love to go to Beirut. “In Morocco we rented a car and travelled. I remember when we passed by a desert I was crying for no reason,” he says. “I have a little fear to go to Lebanon as I think it would be very strong for me, there is something there.”