Lebanese fashion sector must develop locally and adapt to tech transformations
Endeavor Lebanon, an organization leading the High-Impact Entrepreneurship movement globally, and Beirut Digital District (BDD), a smart hub for the digital creative community, held the IGNITE Fashion and Design Chapter for the first time, in collaboration with the Starch Foundation, and with the support of The Luxury Fund. The event sought to support the local fashion and design community, by linking established mentors with founders of fashion and design brands to identify challenges and ways to overcome them.
“There is a pool of emerging talent that requires the right support to scale. Providing them with the right tools and proper mentorship is key. Today, technology is disrupting the fashion and luxury industry and this represents a great opportunity for fashion designers on one hand as they need to leverage this technology to grow; and technology players on the other hand to develop this technology,” commented Christina Chehade, Managing Director of Endeavor Lebanon.
Speaking of the role of BDD in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, Mouhamad Rabah, CEO of BDD, shared: “The area we are in right now has been neglected for so many years after the war, and so, we wanted to transform it and take it into the digital era where like-minded people can connect together, grow and help each other grow. This year, and for the first time, we wanted to shed light on the fashion industry that is being disrupted and bring fashion / technology entrepreneurs together to see how we can allow the ecosystem to thrive,” he added.
The IGNITE Fashion & Design Chapter is one of many events organized by Beirut Digital District and Endeavor Lebanon to strengthen entrepreneurial bonds in the ecosystem. IGNITE creates an open space to connect entrepreneurs and enable them to interact with business experts and larger businesses to learn from them. Taking the stage were reputable names in the world of fashion and design, sharing their experience with the full house of attendees.
To help transform the fashion industry, mentors spoke about fashion, tech, design, and scalable companies in the same fields and the key challenges entrepreneurs might encounter on the road to growth. Sharing his success story, renowned designer Rabih Kayrouz, Founder of Maison Rabih Kayrouz, indicated that there is a shift that the entire fashion and design community can work towards. “Creativity is so important and this is where it all starts. We need to encourage designers to be authentic and to tell their own story. Designers need to be mentored, then we can move into creating factories in Lebanon and developing the industry from a production standpoint.”
Delphine Edde, Co-Founder of Diwanee, shared her reflections on the fashion industry. “In the past 10 years, I have definitely witnessed an evolution in the expertise, creativity and drive of our fashion scene, and we have a few successful examples that we are proud of. That is not enough though to build an industry and create value for Lebanon. Other countries have ecosystems to support the designers and help them grow. We would need such infrastructures. However, no one is backing this industry locally,” she commented.
With regards to digital disruptions that are impacting various industries, Edward Sabbagh, Managing Director – Middle East at Farfetch, shared his experience in terms of the understanding of online and offline. “The two worlds need to merge seamlessly and the traditional retail world needs to develop. Online luxury e-commerce is only 10% of where the last transaction happens, and is expected to grow to 25% by 2025. This growth will predominantly come from online channels. What retailers can do is move from a transactional space to a more experiential one.”
Gonçalo Cruz, Co-founder of Platforme, shared his inspiring tale and forecasted the future of the fashion industry. “We need to identify and mix non-obvious fields to create more value,” said Cruz, adding that, “The tech and fashion industries will develop in three waves. First, it will be through E-Commerce, second, we will move into the sphere of ‘made-to-order’ and optimizing industrial manufacturing and lastly, importing the data of the consumer in a simple manner. By combining different elements, you create more value.”
The IGNITE chapters seek to identify local market challenges and tackle them through mentoring, discussions and research. The next IGNITE chapter will be held in early 2019.