Lebanon’s financial collapse hits where it hurts - women’s beauty

Lebanon’s financial collapse hits where it hurts - women’s beauty
Plastic surgery in Lebanon is still priced in US dollars, just as they were before the collapse of the national currency. (AFP)
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Updated 21 April 2021

Lebanon’s financial collapse hits where it hurts - women’s beauty

Lebanon’s financial collapse hits where it hurts - women’s beauty
  • Currency reaches new low against dollar on the black market, hitting LBP15,000

BEIRUT: The face mask, used as a measure against the spread of COVID-19, has forced Lebanese women to change their beauty and make-up habits.

The array of cosmetics that were usually worn have been stripped back to merely mascara because socializing is out and social distancing is in.

But the beauty regimes of Lebanese women have been affected by the country’s financial crisis as much as the global health crisis.

Lebanon’s cosmetic and plastic surgery sectors, which are leaders in the Middle East region, are also feeling the pinch.

Dr. Elie Abdel Hak, who is head of the Lebanese Society of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgery, said the sector had experienced a decline.

“Reconstructive surgeries make up no more than 4 percent of our work, while the largest percentage is for cosmetic surgeries for women looking for perfection,” he told Arab News.

Medical centers and cosmetic doctors are scattered across Lebanon and are not confined to Beirut. Specialisms include plastic surgery, non-surgical plastic surgery and reconstructive surgery.

The internet is loaded with addresses of beauty centers in Lebanon offering packages for cosmetic surgery with accommodation, even tourism and entertainment programs.

“There are 104 plastic surgeons in Lebanon, 50 percent of whom have branches outside Lebanon, specifically in Gulf countries,” said Abdel Hak. No doctors had quit Lebanon, he added, they were just moving between home and their clinics abroad. “This helps them continue to pump fresh money into their work in Lebanon.”

Plastic surgery in Lebanon is still priced in US dollars, just as they were before the collapse of the national currency. While other medical disciplines have reduced their profit rates to keep up with people’s living conditions, some cosmetic doctors are still charging their clients in dollars.

“Pharmacies do not sell botox injections or filler substances, there are intermediaries between the importer and the doctor,” said pharmacist Samer Sobra, who owns a business on upscale Verdun Street.

He noted an ease in demand for the creams used after filler injections. They were being imported in smaller quantities than usual as they were excluded from state support.

HIGHLIGHT

The array of cosmetics that were usually worn have been stripped back to merely mascara because socializing is out and social distancing is in.

“This means that these small cosmetic touches that take place in medical clinics have receded. The price of some post-botox or filler creams have risen from LBP6,000 ($4) to LBP60,000 due to the collapse of the national currency. Some creams that used to cost LBP300,000, are now priced at more than LBP1 million.”

Some women who had not been affected by the financial situation were following their doctors abroad for cosmetic procedures, according to Sobra.

The price of a nose job in Lebanon ranges from $2,000 to $3,000, while liposuction ranges from $2,500 to $4,000 and the cost of a tummy tuck ranges between $3,000 and $8,000.

Abdel Hak said that, nowadays, his customers first asked him what the dollar rate was. “My answer is always that I am not a money changer. If you want to buy dollars, there is one on the ground floor.”

Lebanon’s currency reached a new low against the dollar on the black market, hitting LBP15,000.

Its fall has led to soaring prices. A nose job now costs LBP25 million, a sum that many people cannot secure unless they are paid in dollars.

Women often used to resort to bank loans for plastic surgery when the dollar exchange rate was only LBP1,505, with some banks even making attractive offers in recent years for such loans.

Alice Abdul Karim Samaha, a drug distributor for import companies, said the demand for cosmetic medical supplies had been relatively low due to high prices and the migration of doctors.

“The price of a needle of filler is $250. Some cosmetic doctors reduced their prices, deciding to sell a filler needle for LBP2 million, instead of LBP3 million, and LBP125,000 according to the black market price. The doctors decided to reduce their profits so that they don’t lose customers.”

Samaha said it was “very expensive” now for a woman to appear attractive and beautiful. “This is no longer limited to the cost of plastic surgery, but also the prices of hair dyes and nail polish have become extortionate.”

But Abdel Hak believed that women would never stop searching for ways to improve their beauty.

“Women during the lockdown were depressed. The more they look in the mirror, the gloomier they are. Resorting to aesthetic corrections helps lift their spirits. The cheapest and the most sought-after option now is botox injections. Our profession has been affected by the economic crisis. When a person has a headache, he goes to the doctor, but botox is not a medical necessity and in this sense our work has declined but not stopped. Our career will go through a period of stagnation in the medium term, but will recover later because women are demanding and the face mask does not prevent them from beautifying themselves.”

He said that plastic surgeons and doctors were currently “living on their laurels” with their savings held in banks. They were waiting for developments to make a decision - and leaving Lebanon may be one of these decisions.

But he stressed that Beirut would remain the best medical hub in the region because of its scientific history, diverse culture and high levels of experience.

The sector used to attract clients from across Europe and nowhere could replace Lebanon, he said.

“In light of the crisis, Arab women are still coming to us. Money provides advanced technologies but does not provide expertise. Turkey tried and did not continue.”


Major luxury retailers announce removal of popular brand due to alleged ‘anti-Palestine’ comments

Major luxury retailers announce removal of popular brand due to alleged ‘anti-Palestine’ comments
Cult Gaia is a Los Angeles-based label founded by Jasmin Larian. Instagram
Updated 17 May 2021

Major luxury retailers announce removal of popular brand due to alleged ‘anti-Palestine’ comments

Major luxury retailers announce removal of popular brand due to alleged ‘anti-Palestine’ comments

DUBAI: Harvey Nichols Kuwait announced this week that they will no longer be stocking Cult Gaia products after the Los Angeles-based brand’s founder, Jasmin Larian, made comments on Instagram that were deemed by many on social media to be “anti-Palestine.”

Her post, which she shared with her 28,200 Instagram followers read: “I am seeing so much misinformation on social… One-sided and spreading hate. Please educate yourself on the full story before reposting. I’m praying for everyone on both sides who are a victim of this violence.” She also reposted a photo depicting the words “I support Israel’s right to defend itself.” 

Many in the region perceived her post as taking an anti-Palestine stance and engaging in “bothsidesism,” and urged local department stores and e-tailers to stop selling Cult Gaia products.  

In response to the backlash her post garnered, Larian, who is Iranian-Jewish, later shared: “I realize I am part of the problem by failing to share both sides.” She added, “I also want to be clear that I am in support of the Palestinian people and their rights but not of the leadership that uses them to incite violence and hatred for Israel and Jews. In a perfect world, Israel should be a place for all people and all religions.” However, a number of retailers have already made the decision to remove Cult Gaia from shelves.

Harvey Nichols in Kuwait took to Instagram on Monday to announce their decision to stop stocking the ready-to-wear label. “Our dear followers, due to the current escalation of events, the decision has been made to remove Cult Gaia from Harvey Nichols,” said the statement.

Galleries Lafayette in Doha followed suit, replying to a user calling for the boycott of the brand in an Instagram direct message that they are “in the process of taking the necessary action.”

Ounass, a leading luxury e-tailer in the region, has also stopped selling Cult Gaia products on its online platform as well as Bloomingdales Middle East.

The death toll in Gaza has climbed to a total of 197, including at least 58 children and 34 women, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Since the beginning of the Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip this week, at least 1,235 Palestinians have been injured, with the number expected to rise, the health ministry said.


Meet the Arab fashion brand supporting women through menswear

Meet the Arab fashion brand supporting women through menswear
Updated 17 May 2021

Meet the Arab fashion brand supporting women through menswear

Meet the Arab fashion brand supporting women through menswear

DUBAI: While Arab womenswear designers continue to take the international fashion scene and celebrity red carpets by storm, menswear is still a work in progress. Understanding the need to fill the gap in the market, cousins Abla and Raneen Kawar launched ARAK, creating unique designs for men and also shining a spotlight on Arab culture. 

With sustainability and community at the forefront of the brand’s ethos, ARAK is a social enterprise, empowering local women and preserving their fading culture. Here, the duo discusses their label, fusing fashion with technology, and why showcasing Middle East traditions is so important. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ARAK Studio (@arak.studio)

Tell us about the idea behind ARAK.

We launched ARAK (meaning “I see you”) with the aim to preserve our Arab heritage by using artisanal skills and techniques in the production of our pieces, namely cross stitch embroidery. We grew up in a family that values sustainability and caring for the environment, so it’s important for us to carry out those values. 

Why focus on menswear?

We noticed the visible gap in the market, particularly with Arab menswear brands. So, we wanted to fill that gap by incorporating traditional Levantine embroidery through our designs. As part of our sustainability efforts, we only want to offer consumers garments that are not offered in the market today.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ARAK Studio (@arak.studio)

You say ‘each garment narrates a wider narrative,’ how so?

Each collection we produce has an overarching narrative, which the designs are inspired by, and then each piece has a hidden narrative to tell – the story of the woman who spent endless hours creating it.                                                                                                                                  

Most of your artisans are underprivileged women in Jordan, why was this important to you?    

Part of ARAK’s ethos is female empowerment. We provide the women with jobs and the opportunity to be financially independent and to help them provide for their children, all from the comfort of their own home. It was important to support these women and destigmatize the taboo around women working in traditionally conservative households.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ARAK Studio (@arak.studio)

How does your relationship work with the local NGO in Jordan?

ARAK works with a local NGO based in Amman, for the production and operation of embroidering the pieces in order to ensure quality and consistency. The local NGO launched in October 2020, aiming to help women build sustainable income as well as build their skills professionally. They work with a not-for-profit academy which offers 100 percent free artisanal courses for members in a bid to continue advancing their skills. We offer the women work with fair wages and ethical working conditions.

ARAK’s designs also fuse tech with tradition, tell us more.               

Today’s world is shifting towards being more tech-dependent. So, it was a no brainer that the initial step we would take as a brand was to implement a woven QR code attached to each garment. Our QR code allows purchasing customers to track how to care for their garment, be introduced to who made it, and identify our transparent practices. We hope to integrate more tech-savvy solutions to our brand in the future.   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ARAK Studio (@arak.studio)

What was the inspiration behind your SS21 collection?                     

Re-discovering our country from a new lens, particularly appreciating the little things as well as the beautiful landscapes that we took for granted pre-COVID-19. The designs in this collection, translate the beauty of the Jordanian landscape through embroidery.                              

What’s your opinion on the representation of Middle Eastern talent in the fashion industry?

The region is filled with incredible talent, many that are yet to be discovered. We believe that representation of the Middle East for what it is still has a long way to go to be perceived in the light it deserves. ARAK aims to do that by making sure all our work is supporting local talent, from the production down to the photographers, models and anyone involved in the creative process of our journey.


Miss Universe 2021 contestants dazzle in designs from the Middle East

Miss Universe 2021 contestants dazzle in designs from the Middle East
Demi-Leigh Tebow wearing Michael Cinco at the Miss Universe 2020 finals. Instagram
Updated 17 May 2021

Miss Universe 2021 contestants dazzle in designs from the Middle East

Miss Universe 2021 contestants dazzle in designs from the Middle East

DUBAI:  Filipino couturier Michael Cinco seems to be a favorite when it comes to beauty pageants. Miss Universe fans will recall that the Dubai-based designer created the gowns that Pia Wurtzbach and Iris Mittenaere, who were crowned Miss Universe in 2015 and 2016, respectively, wore to take home the crown.

This year, he was tasked with designing the dresses of some of the contestants, such as Nova Stevens of Canada, for the Miss Universe 2020 finals, which took place on Sunday evening at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, South Florida.

He also designed the dresses that Miss Czech Republic Klara Vavrushkova and Romania’s Bianca Tirsin wore to the preliminaries on May 14.

Miss Czech Republic stunned in a Michael Cinco gown at the preliminaries. Getty Images

Stevens announced the news weeks ago by posting a photo with the renowned designer on Instagram.

 “Boss! Michael Cinco needs no introduction! So grateful to have you as my official gown designer for Miss Universe,” she wrote alongside a heart-eyed emoji.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by NOVA (@thenovastevens)

Stevens wasn’t the only designer to don a frock by the Dubai-based label during the televised Miss Universe 2020 finals.

Demi-Leigh Tebow, who won Miss Universe in 2017, channeled 1930s Hollywood glamour in a gown designed by the Filipino talent during the 69th edition of the pageant in Florida.

Olivia Culpo wore an embellished Zuhair Murad gown to host the Miss Universe 2020 competition. Getty Images

Tebow served as an expert analyst and correspondent during the event which was co-hosted by the Miss Universe 2012 titleholder Olivia Culpo and American actor Mario Lopez.

For the occasion, Culpo chose a design from Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad. The fashion influencer opted for a pink, heavily-embellished gown with a single shoulder from the Arab designer’s Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection.

Couturiers from our neck of the woods had a big night.

Rabiya Mateo, who represented the Philippines wore two glamorous creations by Dubai-based Amato for the preliminary show and for the finals.

Miss Philippines Rabiya Mateo wore a gown designed by Amato at the 2020 Miss Universe prelimenary show. Supplied

In March 2021, it was announced that the annual competition would be returning with a live broadcast after a number of safety precautions were put in place.

 Twenty-six-year-old Andrea Meza from Mexico was crowned Miss Universe 2020, while Miss Brazil, Julia Gama, was the runner-up and Miss Peru, Janick Maceta Del Castillo, secured third place.


Miss Philippines stuns in gown by Dubai-based designer on Miss Universe stage

Miss Philippines stuns in gown by Dubai-based designer on Miss Universe stage
The 24-year-old beauty queen wore a yellow, gem-encrusted Amato gown. Supplied
Updated 16 May 2021

Miss Philippines stuns in gown by Dubai-based designer on Miss Universe stage

Miss Philippines stuns in gown by Dubai-based designer on Miss Universe stage

DUBAI: Filipino model and beauty pageant titleholder Rabiya Mateo represented the Philippines at the Miss Universe 2020 Preliminary Show on Friday wearing a creation by Dubai-based couture house Amato. 

The beauty queen strutted down the runway wearing a single-shoulder, yellow gown that was hand-embroidered with thousands of tiny Swarovski crystals that shone even brighter underneath the stage lights. 

The caped tulle dress, which was inspired by the radiance of the Philippine sun which symbolizes positivity and optimism, marked Amato’s debut on a Miss Universe stage.

The gown was inspired by the radiance of the Philippine sun. Supplied

Mateo’s choice of color was not lost on pageant fans, who pointed out that the two previous Filipina Miss Universe winners wore the other colors of the Philippine flag when they won. Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach wore royal blue while Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray opted for red.

The 69th Miss Universe pageant finals will be held in Florida on May 16. Furne One, the Filipino designer behind Amato, is designing the gown which Mateo will wear during the finals.

Mateo will wear Amato during the Miss Universe pageant finals held on May 16. Supplied

“This is just the start of a more fruitful partnership with the Miss Universe organization,” said Josh Yugen, the CEO of the PR company that represents Amato. “We are excited to see more creations of the talented Furne One in the Miss Universe stage, and we can’t wait to see Rabiya slay the runway with another creation of Furne. I'm sure she's gonna make all the Filipinos proud,” he added.

If the 24-year-old wins, she will become the fifth woman from the Philippines to take home the prestigious crown.

 


Part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid joins rally in New York

Part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid joins rally in New York
Bella Hadid is no stranger to speaking out about Palestine. File/AFP
Updated 16 May 2021

Part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid joins rally in New York

Part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid joins rally in New York

DUBAI: Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across the world on Saturday to protest the Israeli airstrike attacks on Palestinians living in Gaza. Demonstrations took place across the Middle East, Europe, Canada, Australia and the US, with thousands of protestors marching on the streets with pro-Palestine signs. Some celebrities and influencers even decided to take part in the demonstrations, including part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

The 24-year-old catwalk is the daughter of real estate developer Mohamed Hadid, whose family fled Palestine as refugees in 1948. She joined a crowd of protesters in New York on Saturday who took to the streets of Bay Ridge for a demonstration.

The outspoken model wore a keffiyeh — a scarf with the traditional Palestinian print — around her head and shoulders and a face mask and waved a large Palestinian flag as she marched along with thousands of others.

Hadid took to Instagram to share images from the Free Palestine demonstration that had a turnout of nearly 2,000 protestors, according to reports.

“The way my heart feels... to be around this many beautiful, smart, respectful, loving, kind and generous Palestinians all in one place... it feels whole! We are a rare breed!” Hadid wrote alongside a series of images from the protests.

“It’s free Palestine til Palestine is free! P.S. The Palestinian drip is real (sic),” added Hadid, who memorably attended a Free Palestine rally in London back in 2016.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

Earlier in the day, the model shared a throwback photo of her paternal grandparents’ wedding day, along with an image of her father as a boy next to his seven siblings and mom — after whom she was given her middle name Khair — noting how they “were taken out of their homes in Palestine in 1948, becoming refugees in Syria, then Lebanon, then Tunisia.”

“I love my family, I love my heritage, I love Palestine. I will stand strong to keep their hope for a better land in my heart. A better world for our people and the people around them. They can never erase our history. History is history!” she captioned the Instagram post.