DUBAI: Titled “From Where Do We Start Again?” Beirut-born designer Cynthia Merhej’s latest offering for her womenswear label Renaissance Renaissance follows a period of introspection after the trials faced by her native city brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic crisis and the two explosions in August last year.
The designer recently made fashion history after being announced as one of 20 semifinalists for the LVMH Prize 2021, making her the first Arab woman to be shortlisted as a semifinalist for the French award. Now, she’s unveiled her Spring 2022 line and it is a work of perseverance in the face of many a trial.
While Beirut is known for its capacity for reinvention — legend has it that the city has been rebuilt from ashes seven times — Merhej states that resilience, the word so often associated with Lebanese people, was beginning to paralyze her.
“I felt like instead of trying to accept my new situation and circumstance, I was trying to recreate what I had in Beirut but in Paris,” said Merhej, who decamped to the French capital alone in the midst of a pandemic after the tragic blast that took nearly 200 lives and injured more than 6,000 in the Lebanese capital on Aug. 4, 2020.
“I had to stop and really take stock of what was happening and come to terms with the fact that I had gone through so many things this year in order to find a new way of working that would make sense,” she told Arab News.
This realization manifested itself in the brand’s Spring 2022 collection, a beautifully tailored lineup of garments pushing the idea of juxtaposition while serving as a sartorial testament to Merhej’s craftsmanship and skill.
Much like her previous collections, the new offering aims to challenge the perception of femininity, by offering flouncy bubble skirts, rosey tulle tops with ribbons on the sleeves and red, drapey gowns with shoulder cut-outs contrasted with pinstripe separates and black jersey dresses with sharp white collars.
“This collection is more studied and cohesive, with a specific woman in mind,” said Merhej, who hails from multiple generations of designers.
“I really believe in the symbolism of colors and how certain colors can represent a spiritual duality,” explained the designer about why she chose her color palette.