The Arab British Centre and Starch Foundation Showcase Lebanese Design During London Fashion Week 2016

13 January '16


London, 14 January 2016

‘Blueprint Beirut’

Lebanon showcase at International Fashion Showcase 2016

Dates: 19 – 23 February 2016

Opening Hours: 10.00 – 18.00 Daily

Address: West Wing Galleries, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA

Admission: free; pre-registration advised via Biletto

The Arab British Centre in partnership with Starch Foundation is pleased to present ‘Blueprint Beirut’ as part of Fashion Utopias, the British Council and British Fashion Council’s International Fashion Showcase 2016 in association with London Fashion Week.

‘Fashion Utopias’ is the fifth edition of the annual International Fashion Showcase (IFS) and forms a key part of London Fashion Week’s public-facing programme which celebrates the universal relevance of fashion in contemporary culture. This year marks Lebanon’s first participation with ‘Blueprint Beirut’, an exhibition of eight emerging designers from the Starch Foundation programme.

Curated by Tala Hajjar, Starch Co-Founder and Fashion Entrepreneur, and designed by Starch Architect Elie Metni, the exhibition will unveil new pieces by Margarita Abi-Hanna, Joe Arida, Mira Hayek, Timi Hayek, Rayya Morcos, Nour Najem, Sevag Dilsizian and Bashar Assaf. The fashion items will be displayed inside Metni’s interpretation of a deconstructed architectural blueprint of a traditional Lebanese home. By re-imagining a familiar place where rituals of the past inspire present-day life, the exhibition reflects Lebanese fashion’s journey to a future still grounded in Mediterranean heritage.

“The fashion industry in Lebanon is growing exponentially every year. We are witnessing an emergence of new blood that is steering away from conventional and predictable fashion to something that is confident and bold. Yet many designers make reference to our heritage and artisanal work and this can be seen in the shapes of Rayya Morcos’ work and craftsmanship of Nour Najem’s pieces” says Tala Hajjar.

Reflecting on the significance of representing the Arab world at IFS, Amani Hassan, Programme Director of the Arab British Centre, adds:

“It is important to highlight Lebanon’s international contribution to the fashion industry and the creative and cultural economies. As a cultural organisation whose mandate is to improve the British public’s understanding of the Arab World, we couldn’t think of a better opportunity than London Fashion Week to give audiences in the UK a chance to experience the strength and diversity of design from Lebanon.”

Niamh Tuft, Programme Manager for IFS 2016 at the British Council, comments further:

“We’re extremely excited to welcome Lebanon to the International Fashion Showcase for the first time.  The Showcase provides a valuable platform for young designers from all over the world to share design culture from their own countries; and its repeated success as an integral part of the London Fashion Week schedule demonstrates the growing appetite for internationalisation in the UK fashion industry.This is a wonderful opportunity for UK audiences to gain a greater understanding of Lebanese culture and fashion through their most exciting young talents and to forge new business and creative opportunities for British designers and institutions.”

Blueprint Beirut is supported by the British Council.

‘Blueprint Beirut’ will be open daily at the West Wing Galleries, Somerset House as part of ‘Fashion Utopias’ from the 19 – 23 February 2016. For more information please visit:

For press inquiries and images, please contact Rosa Pérez, Communications and Events Officer:, Tel: +44(0)2078321310

Image: Designed by Timi Hayek © Cynthia Merhej

Notes for editors:

About The Arab British Centre

The Arab British Centre is an award-winning, non-political, non-religious, independent, UK registered charity which works to improve the British public’s understanding of the Arab world.

The Arab British Centre organises and promotes arts and cultural events related to the Arab world from its central London premises and runs a number of initiatives in partnership with leading UK and international institutions. The Arab British Centre was named co-winner of the prestigious UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture 2012 for the ‘various activities and events organised, within and outside the Centre, to promote a better understanding of the Arab culture and foster intercultural dialogue.

Since it was founded in 1977, the centre has housed and subsidised other like-minded organisations involved in Arab-British relations. The Arab British Centre currently supports; Banipal, Caspian Arts Foundation, the Centre for Transnational Development and Collaboration (CDTC), the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), Friends of Edward Said Conservatory, Ibraaz, and Zaytoun.

About Starch

THE CONCEPT: Founded by Rabih Kayrouz, TalaHajjar and in collaboration with Solidѐre, STARCH is a non-profit organization that helps launch Lebanese emerging designers. STARCH is an annual program and a rotation of debut collections where emerging designers and an architect are selected each year. The designers are guided through the process of developing their collections, as well as promoting them (communication, marketing, branding and press). These collections are then presented for a period of one year at the STARCH boutique. Throughout their one-year at STARCH, the designers also get the chance to participate in design related workshops, seminars and collaborations.

THE BOUTIQUE: the Starch boutique changes annually its interior which is rethought by the selected Starchitect of the year. Starch boutique is located in SaifiVillage, Downtown Beirut, and offered by Solidere.

The NAME: Chemically, Starch is a WHITE, odourless, SOLID carbohydrate, typically composed of long chains of glucose molecules. It is the MOST BASIC form of all carbohydrates, a PURE substance, which is INSOLUBLE in water. In the textile industry, it is used in the manufacturing of adhesives, paper, and textiles as a HARDENING or BONDING component. The designers behind STARCH possess the same qualities as the substance for which the space is named. They are the component parts, the building blocks and the creative agents of a burgeoning fashion/design industry in Lebanon.

IFS 2016

Launched by the British Council and British Fashion Council in 2012 as part of the Cultural Olympiad, the International Fashion Showcase (IFS) is an annual cultural exhibition of international fashion. Now in its fifth year, IFS is free and open to the general public during London Fashion Week, engaging with an audience of fashion enthusiasts and industry alike. As a key part of London Fashion Week’s public programme each February it aims to highlight and celebrate the universal relevance of fashion in contemporary culture. IFS invites fashion authorities from all over the world, via their embassies and cultural institutes in London, to exhibit their most exciting emerging designers in specially commissioned and curated installations. To date 450 of the most exciting international designers from 60 countries have exhibited in the IFS initiative.

For IFS 2016, the British Council and British Fashion Council will present work by emerging fashion designers from 25 countries in an exhibition at Somerset House curated around the theme of Utopia. In a prize-giving ceremony during London Fashion Week a panel of industry experts, chaired by Sarah Mower MBE, will select a winning Country, Designer and Curator.

About the British Council

The British Council global arts team works with the best of British creative talent to develop innovative, high-quality events and collaborations that link thousands of artists and cultural institutions around the world, drawing them into a closer relationship with the UK.

The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. Our 7000 staff in over 100 countries work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes. We earn over 75% of our annual turnover of nearly £700 million from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for and from partnerships. A UK Government grant provides the remaining 25%. We match every £1 of core public funding with over £3 earned in pursuit of our charitable purpose. 

About the British Fashion Council

The British Fashion Council (BFC) was set up in 1983 to promote British fashion internationally and co-ordinate this promotion through fashion weeks, exhibitions and showcasing events. The BFC now supports designers beginning at college level and extending to talent identification, business support and showcasing schemes to help British designer businesses develop their profiles and business globally and promote British fashion and its influential role in Creative Britain and Creative London. The BFC Colleges Council offers support to students through its MA Scholarship, links with industry through Design Competitions and Graduate Preview Day. Talent identification and business support schemes include the BFC Fashion Film sponsored by River Island; BFC Rock Vault; BFC Headonism sponsored by Wedgwood; BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund; BFC Contemporary sponsored by eBay; NEWGEN sponsored by TOPSHOP and NEWGEN MEN sponsored by TOPMAN. Showcasing initiatives include London Fashion Week, London Collections, LONDON show ROOMS, the BFC/Bazaar Fashion Arts Foundation, International Fashion Showcase and the annual celebration of excellence in the fashion industry: the British Fashion Awards.

About Somerset House

Somerset House is a unique part of the London cultural scene, a historic building within which surprising and original work comes to life. From its 18th century origins, it has been a centre for debate and discussion – an intellectual powerhouse for the nation. Today, Somerset House is a key cultural destination in London in which to experience a broad range of artistic activity, engage with artists, designers and makers and be a part of a major creative forum – an environment that is relaxed, welcoming to all and inspirational to visit while providing a stimulating workplace for the cultural and creative industries. Since its opening in 2000, Somerset House has built up a distinctive outdoor public programme including Skate, concerts, an open-air film season and a diverse range of temporary exhibitions throughout the site focusing on contemporary culture including photography, fashion, architecture and design, with an extensive integrated learning programme. We currently attract over 2.5 million visitors every year.  It is one of the biggest communities of creative organisations in London including The Courtauld Gallery and Institute of Art, King’s College London Cultural Institute and over 100 other creative businesses.

About Utopia 2016

Utopia 2016 is four seasons of activity celebrating the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia. Published in Leuven in December 1516, More’s Utopia presented an imaginative and playful vision of the world as it could be at a time of great change. More’s Utopia is deliberately ambiguous: both “no place” and “good place”, he is clear that many other visions for society are possible. Through a series of exhibitions, events, new commissions, talks and workshops, Utopia 2016 will explore the broad cultural history of the idea of utopia and its relevance to 21st-Century cultural, ecological, and social challenges and opportunities. The year celebrates the pivotal role of the arts and culture in creating spaces where utopian dreams are possible. Throughout Utopia 2016 people from all walks of life will be invited to experiment with new ways we might live, make, work, play and dream.

Utopia 2016 is a collaboration between three neighbours: Somerset House, King’s College London and the Courtauld Institute and Gallery, in partnership with the British Library, the AHRC, and the British Council, will also engage many of the 300 plus creative organisations, artists and makers resident at Somerset House.