superchat beirut: dalila barkache

beirut is making headlines once again. the city has bounced back, ridding itself from gloomy, if not dark connotations while adding new superlatives that even inspired the new york times to declare it the top travel destination of 2009. superfuture was in town earlier this year, checking out the obvious sights and glitzy places, but also attempted to dig a little deeper and see what else is there. this superchat with jewellery designer dalila barkache has been long overdue, but here it finally is! we first came across the beiruti creative when she collaborated with comme des garçons to open one of the brand’s iconic guerilla stores in beirut back in 2007. moroccan-born and raised in france, she decided to settle here when she fell in love with the city during a chance visit.

you introduced the comme des garçons guerilla store in lebanon. how did that venture come about? well, i knew about the brand and the guerilla store and liked it. i simply thought it would be a great concept to introduce to beirut. i just contacted comme des garçons and they were also excited to see one of their guerilla stores open up here. ofcourse i had done a little research before and knew it would be a good initiative. i set up the shop with my business partner and fellow jewellery designer selim mouzannar.

how did local shoppers respond to the store? it was a great success. many who came by were already familiar with the comme des garcons because a few stores, like the if boutique stocked the brand. and also, because i had worked at selim mouzannar’s jewellery boutique as a designer, a lot of his customers also came to the store. additionally, it attracted quite a few shoppers from other countries like kuwait and saudi arabia. although we featured men’s and women’s apparel, it were the accessories and perfumes that were most in demand.

what have you been doing after the guerilla store closed? i’ve been designing jewellery but i’ve also worked as a consultant for a other jewellery business here in town. by the way, i’m about to launch my new jewellery collection. next to designing i also work as a fashion stylist and i’ve organized dance parties in cool spots such as the usually women-only ajram beach.

what do you think of the current influx of luxury brands into beirut? well, the lebanese are very trend-conscious. they’re a vivacious bunch who love their food, fashion and good times, and they love to spend! it’s only logical that these brands come to town, especially now that the circumstances are right.

is this city a good place to settle for a designer or artist? yes, i think it’s the perfect city to do so as it offers a good environment. first of all, it’s very easy to set up a business here. there’s a good education system and beirut is a good place from where to organize the marketing of whatever your business or craft is. additionally, the quality of life here is simply amazing.

where do you shop or hang out? the bourj hammoud area is a big fav of mine. it’s an armenian neighbourhood with lots of jewellery shops. i go there for fun or for business because many of the businesses i do consulting for, are located here. as for fashion, there are a few directional stores you shouldn’t miss: plum, boutique 1, one of the if boutiques or the store of designer rabih kairouz. if you're interested in design, you should definitely check out bokja and artisans du liban. for eating out there are many good restaurants to choose from but i usually recommend places like casablanca for french cuisine or fadel for delicious lebanese food.

and what about places outside beirut? i like tripoli a lot, it’s a city in the north of lebanon and has an interesting souk that's worthwhile checking out, there's also a good flea market and ofcourse oscar niemeyer's international fair + exhibition hall. or tangiers in morocco. generally, i like smaller cities which have a human scale, where everything is within a walking distance. places with a personal atmosphere and where you can eat well!

© dalila barkache