Last week saw Lebanon’s designers out in force, participating in the annual Beirut Design Week (BDW). Now in its third year, BDW has made a name for itself in showcasing and engaging the local creative community. The week featured around 87 exhibitions by local designers along with a variety of talks by international and local speakers, as well as workshops on topics ranging from design and business to jewelry and fashion. Networking happy hours, dinners, design-related film screenings and open markets also took place throughout the week.
All these activities provided a platform for both established and emerging Lebanese designers, giving the public the opportunity to learn more about them and appreciate their work as a viable part of the economy — albeit in need of some support. Designers in turn were able to engage with each other, strengthening the network of local artisans.
One of the highlights of BDW was the Newcomers Exhibition — a showcase that exemplifies how BDW has become a springpad for local talent. Last year, Jo Baaklini participated in the Newcomers Exhibition and went on to be part of fashion design incubator Starch’s 2013 lineup of designers. He got then his own catwalk experience during this year’s Fashion Forward event in Dubai. This year, Baaklini returned to BDW with Starch.
Another goal of BDW was the collaboration and sharing of ideas that naturally occur when the design community gets together. “The most beautiful part of Beirut Design Week is the idea of collaboration: meeting new people and knowing more about other designers,” said Emne Mroue, who took part in the Newcomers Exhibition with her Sacoche collection.
Finally, BDW aimed to engage and train designers with talks and workshops throughout the week. This expanded emphasis was a welcome change from 2013’s BDW, which had only one day dedicated to such events.
BDW was organized by the MENA Design and Research Center, a nonprofit organization cofounded by Doreen Toutikian, an interdisciplinary designer and entrepreneur, and Maya Karanouh, CEO of TAGbrands, a branding consultancy.