Wednesday, June 8, 2011

When Beirut Met Jaipur…

An intriguing pop-up store brings the world to Beirut’s doorstep

Beginning June 30th Beirut, arguably one of the Middle East’s most cosmopolitan cities, will host a unique retail experiment meant to bridge cultures through art, design and fashion.

BEIRUT LOVES JAIPUR is the first in a series of pop-up stores showcasing a particular city’s design sensibilities. To be sure, the Levantine capital is no stranger to the “guerilla store” concept. Back in 2008 Comme des Garçons opened a temporary boutique within an old home in the city’s hip Ashrafieh district. Its success pointed to a hunger in the Middle East for retail concepts that think outside the box.

BEIRUT LOVES JAIPUR is the brainchild of two friends; Nour Sabbagh Chahal and Nur Kaoukji. Like many Lebanese of their generation, the two friends have studied, worked and lived abroad. Much of those polyglot experiences inform their work and view of the world around them.

Chahal is a young photographer/art director who divides her time between Beirut and Paris, where she’s worked with the likes of Harper’s Bazaar and Vanessa Bruno. It was through meeting designers, artists and creative individuals from around the globe, which first gave Chahal the idea of creating a space to expose this inspiring world to Beiruties.

Kaoukji also comes with an impressive resume. After graduating from the London College of Fashion, she snagged a coveted position as an assistant to Munnu Kasliwal at Jaipur’s legendary Gem Palace (responsible for concocting the whimsical baubles for Alexander McQueens 2008 Fall collection). The experience exposed Nur to the intricate handiwork of Indian workshops, and prompted her to launch her own clothing label (titled Noon) which makes use of India’s rich textiles and printing techniques. Today she lives between Jaipur and Beirut.

Together, the two friends have pulled their resources and connections to create a unique retail environment they describe as a “travel trunk filled with inspiring treasures.” Beirut’s world savy residents, as well as the throngs of tourists who descend on the city during the summer, can expect an eclectic mix of contemporary Indian design. These include translucent hand-blown glass candlesticks in jewel tones, Bollywood posters, and printed T-dresses from Noon.

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