Three questions with Rayya Morcos, Lebanese fashion designer, winner of regional International Woolmark Prize
Q. What inspired you to be a fashion designer? What were the challenges you faced while achieving your dream?
A. I don’t consider myself a fashion designer. I’m a dreamer and a builder; it so happens that I express myself with fabric, among other things, and most of these constructions happen around the human body because it fascinates me. I have always been surrounded with fashion, art, sculpture, engineering and construction, so what I do is just an extension of my background and surroundings. The challenges are many, but I would say being a young woman and gaining credibility by not being labelled as ‘daddy’s girl having fun with fashion and shopping before getting married’ stereotype of the region was the hardest challenge. Finding the right people that you can trust and count on to work with and deliver quality on time, finding the sources and resources, the clients, the projects are all daily challenges that I have learnt to tame and control.
Q. Has the crisis facing Lebanon’s neighbours in any way affected the fashion industry in your nation?
A. Very much so, but that doesn’t mean we give up. I come from a country of struggles that has fallen and gotten back on its feet so many times that we’ve become life warriors with a thick skin. We never give up.
Q. Little is known about fashion designers of the Middle East, yet Lebanon has produced top couture names including Zuhair Murad and Elie Saab. What is the reason behind this? How does Beirut (especially) support fashion?
A. The Middle East is known for its artisans and craftsmanship. We work on embroideries and hand works of all sorts. In Lebanon, we’re a salad bowl of so many communities and each one specialiseds in some craft: from the Armenians to the Druze and the Palestinians to people in Saida or Tripoli or Baalbeck. There is so much to explore. Plus, we’re survivors. So we teach ourselves skills and professions to stay afloat and that is an advantage!