Wednesday 6 June 2012

Bonjour Beirut: Azzi and Osta and the battle against bling!

If the national dress in Singapore is hotpants and t-shirt, Beirut’s is a ball gown!

It’s a nation where one popular saying is ‘borrow money to dress up’, seeing someone dressed up to the nines just to cross the road to the grocery shop is not an uncommon sight. In some places you have to see it to believe your eyes!

It’s no surprise that there are dozens of designers specializing in evening wear and glamorous dresses. From  Elie Saab, to Rabih Kayrouz and Georges Chakra.

While some designers go seriously OTT and bling it like there is no tomorrow, others, namely the new generation, have stuck to a much more modern and stylish approach to glamour – understated elegance.

The perfect example of such designers and probably the forerunners for such style are Georges Azzi and Assaad Osta, whose label Azzi & Osta is gaining popularity and changing people’s views on what is glamorous in Beirut.

A breath-taking bridal creation from Azzi and Osta

Both designers are graduates of S-mode Beirut and have done their internship with none other than Elie Saab himself, the champion of elegant and feminine style. But while they have high regards of Saab’s techniques and timeless style, they have taken a much more understated approach to glamour which is based on vintage silhouettes of the 40s and 50s, of course with a modern twist.

On my recent visit to Beirut, I met with Assaad and Georges at their cozy atelier in downtown Beirut and to say they were busy is an understatement!

Entering the door of the unnamed apartment (it’s way cooler not to have a big sign for designers these days) my eyes started wandering from one dress to another. The colours and fabrics were captivating even on the hanger. Delicate and feminine, these pieces are meant to make the wearer stand out – in a good way.

Assaad Osta and Georges Azzi, smiling to my camera despite
their exhaustion at their charming atelier in Beirut

Lady Gaga meets Audrey Hepburn in this fierce yet elegant dress

Beautiful and understated... love this dress!

 The philosophy is simple. You have to wear the dress instead of let the dress wear you, which is unfortunately a big mistake a lot of women make in places like Lebanon. They go for the extremely loud and over-embellished gowns (yes that’s to attend someone else’s wedding!) and end up looking like mutton dressed as lamb!

The beauty of Azzi & Osta pieces is that they are simple but flattering and they complement the woman instead of drowning her.

A lot of the dresses have no beading or embellishment and are made in beautiful tailoring and detail. The colour of the dress (especially those jewel-toned ones) and the luxurious fabric make it stand out – it is more like going back to the essence of the dress and how making you feel beautiful and comfortable are key.

But again, they don’t go as far as Victoria Beckham in that sense. There are still some very interesting details, sometimes quite Avant-garde and daring which the designers confess that not everybody is a fan of. Although some Kuwaiti fashionistas come just for these!

The choice of fabric and little details are what make Azzi and Osta
creations unique

And beautiful colours!!!

One beautiful dress caught my eye in the atelier, a white structured and strapless dress which envelops the body and makes it look like a blooming flower. I just love how pure yet creative the cut is and the play on a vintage look with a very post-modern form. It is more like a work of sculpture and art really.

Other designs which stood out are the silk figure-hugging dresses in dark and jewel tones which could be a great – and more stylish- alternative to full chiffon gowns. I liked the simplicity of the design and the flattering silhouette which is all what a modern woman needs to love a dress.

The designers gave me a sneak peek at this dress while they were
still stitching it on the mannequin... looks amazing!

Azzi and Osta also experimented with print like this gorgeous little
dress. Love the hint of red in the embroidery!

This statement dress might not be everyone's cup of tea but it apparently
proved popular with a couple of Kuwaiti fashionistas! kudos to them!

 Azzi&Osta work on custom-made pieces most of the time since great fit is key for their designs. Some clients can also do small alterations on the designs which makes the whole thing a very unique one-on-one experience.

Leaving the atelier, I found it even harder to understand the logic of people who buy a ready-made Swarovski-covered dresses for a hefty price tag when they can custom-make one for the same price. The mind boggles.

Simple and elegant... who needs beading and embroidery?

Love the colours of this chic dress...

And a more every day-friendly creation from Azzi and Osta

Nadine Labaki, Lebanon's most celebrated director, attended the Cannes
Film Festival last year in one of Azzi and Osta's gorgeous gowns. Again
it's nice to see the local celebrities going for Lebanese emerging designers
rather than the already world famous Elie Saab.