x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Beirut's architectural gems at Paris Fashion week

The Lebanese designer Dina El Jisr is bringing her jewellery-inspired, highly structured collection to Vendôme Luxury, the trade show that runs alongside Paris Fashion Week.

Dina El Jisr's autumn/winter 2012 collection. Courtesy Dina JSR
Dina El Jisr's autumn/winter 2012 collection. Courtesy Dina JSR

Dina JSR, the eponymous label of Dina El Jisr, will make its Paris debut on Friday with a third collection to follow the autumn/winter 2012-13 line currently available.

If the previous collection is anything to go by, we can expect a series of feminine but structured cocktail dresses that would look right at home in a Dubai soirée, a Beirut party or a London bar.

El Jisr herself, now living in Beirut, grew up in Saudi Arabia before moving to a London boarding school at the age of 17, and attending Central Saint Martins, where she studied for a BA in jewellery design, followed by the Gemmological Institute of America.

It was not until she returned to Lebanon that she found her love for fashion, studying at Esmod.

"With jewellery I felt there was something missing," she says. "In a way, the creativity with jewellery and fashion is similar: you come up with a concept and from that you develop your ideas – the difference is the materials."

But El Jisr hasn't turned her back on the skills she learnt in her studies of jewellery, allowing the discipline to inform her clothing design.

"I try to make it so that there are 'jewellery pieces' on the dresses," she explains. "I mix them together, so they are quite structured."

Don't write her off as yet another embellishment-obsessed sequin peddler, however, because there is not an oversized gemstone or crystal to be seen on these frocks, in spite of her GIA diploma in diamonds and semi-precious gems.

Instead, the shapes are punctuated with origami folds, rigid pleats and thoughtfully placed panels. El Jisr is talking about jewellery in the contemporary sense, where design trumps precious materials, so it's no surprise to find straps made of spiky arches or a dress panelled in a herringbone pattern of stiff silk, like some kind of articulated armour.

This bold approach has something in common with that of the great avant-garde Lebanese designer, Rabih Kayrouz, for whom the nurturing of young talent is a vocation. El Jisr spent 10 months interning with Kayrouz, a superb learning ground for a budding designer, offering her an insight into the design cycle.

It was perhaps this, too, that led her to architecture as a source of inspiration for both her current autumn/winter collection and the spring/summer 2013 line she will present in Paris.

"I love architecture; I'm very inspired by it," she says. "I feel it's very structured, very geometric. For my fall/winter collection, the inspiration was the work of the architect Mario Botta. Several dresses took their inspiration from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art."

For spring/summer, she says, the collection will be fluid and free, but she still cites an architect as the catalyst for the pieces - the Spaniard Santiago Calatrava. Those references are very literal, with everything from ridges to cross-body panelling and pleats, all related to specific buildings by Calatrava.

El Jisr's is a rigorous approach to design, learnt at one of the world's top fashion colleges, and if her approach to business is half as thoughtful, Beirut could be introducing to Paris a new generation of its famous fashion talent.