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.”


Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari

Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari
Updated 14 May 2021

Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari

Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari
  • Banarsi silk was a luxurious hand-woven fabric once made in the city of Khairpur, in Sindh
  • No official data exists on the history of the industry and the stories are told by the weavers themselves

SINDH: At the Banarsi Silk Weavers’ Colony in the city of Khairpur, in Sindh, 47-year-old merchant Zafar Abbas Ansari was waiting, hoping for a few additional orders of silk Banarsi saris as Eid Al-Fitr approached.
The sari is a garment native to South Asia, where a long piece of cloth is wrapped elaborately around the body — usually in cotton or silk — and worn with a matching blouse.
Although the city does not make Banarsi any longer — it is now made in Karachi, more than 400 km away — customers still come to the city to purchase the fabric.
Inside the deserted 70-year-old market — once a bustling place — Zafar’s shop is among the last three Banarsi shops left. His family is one of the 40 weaver families who brought the industry to Khairpur when they migrated from India in 1952.
“It is almost two decades since Khairpur stopped producing Banarsi saris after the industry’s collapse. However, even today, the brand is popular among customers. They keep demanding Khairpur’s brand,” Zafar told Arab News.
In its heyday, Khairpur’s Banarsi sari was synonymous with luxury, with vendors supplying the fabric not only locally but also exporting to Pakistani families living in the UK and other European countries.
Inside Zafar’s shop, unstitched pieces of colorful saris — the blouse, the petticoat and main sari fabric — are displayed. The shop shows off different varieties of saris, including the traditional katan — a plain woven fabric with pure silk threads — chiffon, as well as synthetic fabrics.
“Banarsi sari has distinction and standing,” Zafar said proudly. “It is worn by royal families because of its grace and elegance. In some families it is an essential part of the bridal trousseau.”


The price of a sari depends upon its type. The most expensive sari fabric available in the Khairpur market currently is worth Rs45,000 ($300) a piece
Khairpur’s Banarsi Silk Weavers’ Colony is named after the city of Banaras in India (now Varanasi) because of the silk weavers who migrated from there.
There are no official records, and the story of the garment comes from the weavers themselves. They say the history of the Banaras sari industry in Khairpur is linked with Ghulam Saddiquah Begum — the wife of Khairpur state’s then ruler, Mir Ali Murad Khan Talpur of the Talpur dynasty.
Saddiquah Begum herself came from Bahawalpur state, and in 1949, the weavers said, during a visit to India’s Hyderabad Deccan, she offered Mohammed Yusuf Ansari — a sari trader from Banaras — the chance to start manufacturing in Khairpur.
She is said to have offered her state’s support for the establishment of the manufacturing units required.
In 1952, about 40 families of the Ansari clan migrated from Banaras to Khairpur and sari manufacturing began on handlooms. Later, the saris were exported to other countries.
Arab News could not independently verify this information.
According to Anjum Sajjad Ansari, grandson of Muhammad Yusuf Ansari and a representative of the Banarsi Silk Weavers’ Association Khairpur, at its peak there were 400 handlooms in Khairpur. Today, not a single handloom remains.
“At Khairpur’s Banarsi Silk Weavers Colony today there are 16 houses of traditional weavers. However only three are involved in this business of selling Karachi-made fabric,” Anjum said.
Like elsewhere, the Banarsi brand was associated with pure silk thread work. Initially, Khairpur used silk imported from China, but later the silk came from Punjab’s Changa Manga as Pakistan developed hatching silkworms and silk fiber producing factories.
The whole family engaged in the manufacturing process, including silk weaving, dyeing, warping, and reeling. It took between two to three days’ work to complete a single sari.
The silk weaving industry was thriving into the 1960s.
“In 1965, Pakistan’s President Ayub Khan visited and gave incentives and subsidies that boosted the industry,” said Anjum.
“However, in the later years successive governments paid little heed to this industry, and manufacturing units were shifted to Karachi by 2000,” he said.
For Anjum, there is still a chance to revive the past glory of Khairpur.
“We have given proposals to the government at different forums. But nothing has been done yet. The Banarsi sari has become a trademark for Khairpur,” he said.
“Khairpur’s distinction was to produce only handmade silk fabric, unlike other areas where machines are involved. If the government is sincere, factories could be re-established and skilled laborers could be recalled once more from Karachi.”


Catwalk star Gigi Hadid celebrates ‘World Keffiyeh Day’ in honor of signature Arab print

Catwalk star Gigi Hadid celebrates ‘World Keffiyeh Day’ in honor of signature Arab print
Gigi Hadid is the daughter of Dutch model Yolanda Hadid and US-Palestinian real estate developer Mohamed Hadid. File/AFP
Updated 12 May 2021

Catwalk star Gigi Hadid celebrates ‘World Keffiyeh Day’ in honor of signature Arab print

Catwalk star Gigi Hadid celebrates ‘World Keffiyeh Day’ in honor of signature Arab print

DUBAI: Gigi Hadid decided to celebrate her Palestinian roots this week. The half-Arab model took to her Instagram Stories to embrace “World Keffiyeh Day,” an initiative launched by the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, on May 11, 2016, in an effort to shed light on the ongoing Palestine-Israel conflict. 

The premise of the unofficial event is to show solidarity with Palestinians by donning the checkered black-and-white scarf around the neck or head.

In honor of the annual day, the catwalk star posted a throwback photo of herself wearing a keffiyeh-style top from Chanel’s 2015 cruise collection, which was staged in Dubai. 

The 26-year-old posted a throwback of herself wearing a keffiyeh-style top designed by Chanel. Instagram

“It’s #worldkeffiyehday,” wrote Hadid, alongside the Palestinian flag and red heart emojis.

She also reposted an infographic highlighting the significance of the keffiyeh patterns. 

“Thank you @GiGiHadid for participating in World Keffiyeh Day and raising your voice,” wrote the initative on its official Twitter account.

The 26-year-old is the daughter of Dutch model and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Yolanda Hadid and US-Palestinian real estate developer Mohammed Hadid, whose family fled to Lebanon from Palestine as refugees in 1948.

The model occasionally takes to social media to speak about her paternal Palestinian heritage and celebrate her Arab roots.

“I’m as Palestinian as I am Dutch. Just because I have blonde hair, I still carry the value of my ancestors and I appreciate and respect that,” she previously said during a promotional campaign for Reebok in Sydney.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

Gigi and her younger sister Bella also often use their platforms to voice their support for Palestinian people by sharing posts explaining the rising tensions in the region.

“You will not erase Palestine,” read one of the illustrations that Gigi shared on her Instagram stories following the Al-Aqsa Mosque attack this week.

Gigi posted a picture of her father’s US passport on Instagram.

She also shared a photograph of her father’s long-expired US passport, which states his birthplace as Palestine. Bella had previously shared the same picture last year, but Instagram had taken it down. After the model publicly criticized the platform for its move, Instagram eventually apologized to Bella and restored her post.

Other celebrities to voice their support for Palestine include British-Albanian pop star Dua Lipa, Algerian model Younes Bendjima, singer The Weeknd and “Avengers” star Mark Ruffalo. 


Model Imaan Hammam donates to causes close to heart

Model Imaan Hammam donates to causes close to heart
Imaan Hammam donated to three important causes. Instagram
Updated 12 May 2021

Model Imaan Hammam donates to causes close to heart

Model Imaan Hammam donates to causes close to heart

DUBAI: Moroccan-Egyptian-Dutch model Imaan Hammam made donations to three causes as Ramadan came to an end.

Writing on Instagram, she said: “It’s so important to remember to give back and support the communities and people who need it.”

Among the initiatives the 24-year-old donated to was Preemptive Love, a non-profit organization that helps with emergency relief on the frontlines of conflict and supports displaced communities by selling refugee-made goods.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

Hammam also revealed that she donated funds to Islamic Relief USA and Muslims of the World to “give humanitarian aid to Palestine, sustain clean water and sanitation, feed orphans in Yemen and Afghanistan, and provide support and relief for refugees.”

She added: “I’m so happy to lend my platform to bring awareness to the humanitarian crisis happening throughout Islamic states.”


US actress, mogul Jessica Alba shows off Arab labels in New York

Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)
Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)
Updated 11 May 2021

US actress, mogul Jessica Alba shows off Arab labels in New York

Jessica Alba showed off a pair of earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: US actress and business mogul Jessica Alba showed off a pair of dainty heels by Lebanese designer Andrea Wazen and accessories by part-Arab jewelry designer Ana Khouri while out and about in New York last week.

The actress — who is also the co-founder of the billion-dollar home care business The Honest Company — was in New York to visit NASDAQ headquarters for the IPO of her company.

Later, she was spotted walking in Manhattan and even appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” wearing a pair of dainty rose-colored mules by Wazen.

Alba showed off the Denver mesh mules in pink, which feature a translucent upper, thin ankle strap and elegant pointed toe shape. The heels complemented a dark sage green bag by Celine and a greige trench coat-and-sheath dress combination.

The entrepreneur and actress wore a pair of pink heels by Andrea Wazen. (Getty Images)

Wazen isn’t the only Arab designer Alba flaunted while out and about in New York. She attended the IPO of her company wearing chunky gold statement earrings by Lebanese-Brazilian fine jeweler Ana Khouri. 

New York-based Khouri has seen her pieces worn by everyone from Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron to Karlie Kloss and Alicia Vikander.

Wazen is also no stranger to celebrity fans, and has seen her designs sported by the likes of actress Gabrielle Union-Wade, model Ashley Graham, Katy Perry, Kylie Jenner and Jennifer Lopez during her “It’s My Party World Tour” in 2019.

The shoe designer is fresh off a win at the Footwear News (FN) Achievement Awards in December, nabbing the Emerging Talent prize.

“What a feeling… I cannot explain the joy and satisfaction I am feeling,” she wrote at the time, before thanking Michael Atmore, chief brand officer and the director of the event, for recognizing her as this year’s emerging talent, stylist Jill Jacobs for presenting her with the award and her team, who she said she couldn’t have “accomplished any of this” without.

“Last but not least, I would like to dedicate this award to my beautiful city, my source of inspiration and my home Beirut,” she wrote.


Startup of the Week: Alia’s Touch; Combination of classic, modern clothing design

Startup of the Week: Alia’s Touch; Combination of classic, modern clothing design
Updated 11 May 2021

Startup of the Week: Alia’s Touch; Combination of classic, modern clothing design

Startup of the Week: Alia’s Touch; Combination of classic, modern clothing design

JEDDAH: Alia Al-Zubaidi’s passion for design led her into becoming an interior designer. But it was her love of fashion that prompted the setting up of her own business, Alia’s Touch.

Her popular twist on the tie-dye technique has seen her incorporating the design into dresses, abayas, and other personalized, hand-painted items of clothing.

The entrepreneur started out producing custom-made pieces for her customers, but as the process developed, she began selling her designs to stores.

“I particularly like printing my designs on the fabric itself. I buy fabrics from different places such as India, Pakistan, Dubai, and the UK. I source a variety of fabrics from around the world and add my unique touch.
It is my work and my hobby,” she said.

Al-Zubaidi described her style of clothes as “classic-modern” and the paint for her recent tie-dyed designs was imported from India.

“Tie-dyed clothes were not a common fashion in Saudi Arabia, so when I started making them, I was skeptical. However, my customers loved the new designs and wanted to buy them immediately,” she added.

As tie-dye became popular in the Kingdom, Al-Zubaidi noticed other fabrics being sold with the designs printed on them.

“I was hand painting each article of clothing at that time, so each piece was different. The challenge I faced at the beginning of my business was finding outlets to sell my products. Any concept stores, or bazaars were extremely expensive.”

The designer draws her inspiration from many sources including the traditional jalabia (a full-length loose dress commonly worn by Saudi women) and produces trendy prints and patterns for younger people.

Although preferring prints, she is not afraid to experiment with embroidery, laces, and different designs.

“I think the biggest thing that designers struggle with is the high cost of making these clothes. There are limited outlets where they can be sold, and the competition is extremely tough,” she said.

Further details on Instagram @alias_touch