Picture this: a rebellious princess flees from her palace at the seaside. At dusk, she travels across the desert in a desperate search for a city where she will meet artists, writers, poets – free spirits who will free her from rigid traditions. This is the story that Lebanese designer Cynthia Merhej conceived when she designed the spring collection for Renaissance Renaissance.
You might ask yourself,
Princess, really? For a brand called Renaissance? But this princess is out of European tradition. Instead, she is from Tunisia or Morocco, she is fleeing to places like Cairo, and her path is not guided by European medieval signs, but by Jinns and Arabic symbols (as shown in print, shown here as façades , created by a friend of the designer, inspired by the Arabian desert Myth).
“I want to go back to my roots as a brand, to my narrative roots as a storyteller,” Merhej said via Zoom in Paris , who hosted a talk at home, “I always find it easier to express a very complex idea in a simple way, a simple story,” she added. Complicated ideas? “The brand is about this tension between tradition and wanting to be a free spirit,” said Merhej, who cited her mother and herself as examples of this push and pull, but noted that this dichotomy can also be exist in a person.
Merhej’s spring collection includes the recently launched A category called Atelier, under which she will produce one-of-a-kind pieces. Each garment is made using haute couture techniques in the studio in Beirut. Now that she has established the commercial part of her business, Merhej says, she wants to make sure she continues to push herself in creative ways, while finding ways to nurture Beirut’s devastated fashion industry, which is currently in a state of rebuilding. The pieces are also sustainable because they’re made from slow-moving materials — “they can’t just be self-indulgent, you know?” she said.
The first of these works opens lookbook: a naturally dyed cropped cardigan woven from mohair and tulle yarns by collaborator Lindsey Smith. “The idea was to create these knitwear that looked like they were degrading, the remains of her skirt had fallen apart,” Merhej said of her princess and her arduous journey. The other was hand-layered from lace her mother collected 25 year. The most striking piece in the collection is a reversible coat, as seen in looks 3, 7 and 9. Taffeta on one side and pleated tulle (Merhej’s signature) on the other. The coats have undergone a few experiments like tea dyeing or sun drying, all of which give them the texture and softness of everyday items.
Elsewhere, in ready-to-wear, Merhej has explored her tulle fabrics, most notably a strip made of cotton and covered A tulle skirt, which she also designed as a dress attached to a ribbed-knit top. Other highlights include ankle-length linen skirts (carefully walked in real
and between*)renaissance, reimagined)
, button-up shirts with pleats at the waist (a common focal point in Merhej’s work), and cropped jackets with round kimono sleeves, Returning from last season given its success. As Merhej continues to expand her ready-to-wear collections commercially, she applies the same tailoring cues to more subtle collections.