Dear BH friends and fam,
This is is not just another Beirut-fundraiser. There are several important points we needed to make before earning your support. So please bear with the long read, as there was no other way to it.
As tens of thousands of others in Beirut, our small business took a big toll on the 4th of August 2020.
Within seconds, our recently renovated showroom (USD 12,000 - October 2019) as well as our success story since 2013, were shattered to pieces and countless are the damages that the retailed merchandise of 35+ designers suffered, including clothing, silver jewelry, footwear, leather works and bags, accessories, etc.
01 HUB, 35 INDEPENDENT & VULNERABLE DESIGNERS.
Boutique Hub. which had been a 7-year old success story of self-taught designer / self-made entrepreneure Cynthia Chamat Debbané (34), had been the home to up to 40+ local niche and independent fashion designers too, making Boutique Hub. the biggest physical showroom for Lebanese fashion talent in Lebanon.
What set the designer retail platform apart is the fact Boutique Hub. had always chosen to retail, curate and/or incubate local talents who benefited from no financial back-up, and prioritized their potential in innovation, as well as the sure quality and the costly ethics of their work.
We mixed the work of established designers with that of emerging ones who could benefit from the acceleration process.
On the day of the blast, our Beirut showroom retailed 35 designers’ some 1,500 pieces, 30% of which were on visible display and will need repair to be sellable again (laundry, silver polish, leather polish, re-stitching, or even total compensation for total loss).
Fortunately, the rest of the merchandise was stocked in drawers and cupboards and was spared.
As for infrastructural damages, they were mainly big securit windows, interior glass and some fixable tech-related ones.
04 AUGUST 2020: THE FINAL KNOCKOUT.
To say the least? The Beirut blast was a major knockout to every single one of us in the Boutique Hub. collective of 35+ designers and their 100+ artisans.
Here is why.
THE UNPRECEDENTED 6-DIMENSIONAL LEBANESE CRISIS (Oct. 2019 - Today)
Besides being one of the biggest humanitarian disasters in the world, the Beirut blast didn’t come as a single event, it came as a culmination of a series of ever-challenging realities since October 2019 when everything in Lebanon started to collapse, be it from:
- repeated closure due to social unrest
- banks’ increasingly severe capital control
- a shooting inflation due to a Lira value depreciation by 6 times v/s the USD in an economy where everything is imported
- covid-19 mobilization and restriction on businesses during limited opening periods
- repeated total lockdowns for months
STANDING STILL, AGAINST ALL ODDS.
Yet, all through this ‘definitely worst socio-economic crisis Lebanon has ever known’, the Boutique Hub. management team was determined to stand still, whatever the cost.
Besides cutting expenses to a maximum possible, while sparing employees the crisis impact for as long as possible (July 2020), Cynthia and her brother Bechara, both actively managing partners, had been working double -for zero compensation- since November 2019 to keep things running, and secure an income for the collective of 40+ designers and their artisans which counted on Boutique Hub. as a main or sole source of income.
FASHION REVOLUTION ALL THE WAY.
As part of our strict commitment to slow and sustainable fashion -Cynthia also being 1 of 7 global ambassadors in 2018 for Fashion Revolution (think ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ global campaign)- the Boutique Hub. management decided to organize its own independent fundraiser to make sure the most independent and vulnerable yet most promising local design talent, and communities at large, benefit from the platform's relief efforts, because said vulnerability comes specifically from their ethical production practices and limited profit margins.
Even a disaster of this magnitude could not succeed at making us compromise on the only things we had left, which are the values and ethics we had so long advocated for as a slow and sustainable fashion retail hub and incubating platform.
WORK RECOGNITION AND LEGACY.
Boutique Hub. as a management was always low profile, although our work ethics and activism made local and international headlines and impact several times (CNBC’s The Profit, The Daily Star, British Council Arts, Fashion Revolution, London College of Fashion x Beirut Design Week, YourMiddleEast.com, Jdeed Magazine, Fashion Republik, etc.).
DEFINITELY REBUILDING. BUT SHIFTING OUR BUSINESS MODEL ONLINE.
After the blast, we do not feel safe rebuilding in Beirut yet.
At least, not in the near future.
We believe the size of the ‘mushroom’ was proportional to what is at stake in Lebanon, and the catastrophe is not totally behind us yet.
We will be shifting the showroom to a small physical safe space outside of Beirut and will be operating and managing our online shop from there.
Here’s what we’re planning and how your donations will help us rebound as a collective.
Your donations will be used to pay:
- for the rental of our current in-house atelier (our Urban Sense label) which has been affected to the storage of Boutique Hub. interior design and merchandise instead, since the blast) and monthly charges
- for the repair of the damaged merchandise to make it sellable again
- for the compensation to the designers for the total loss incurred in their respective stock retailed at Boutique Hub.
- for a minimum compensation to the management team to be able to continue running the business.
- for the eventual hiring of an employee who was supposed to join on August 06 to help manage the eStore.
- for the setup and advertising strategy of our eStore (we had already paid for it - but it needs further development to counter the challenges of inflation and catering to local and international markets and pricing strategies in parallel)
- for the content development of our innovative eStore (photography including material and props rental, innovative fitting technology to minimize returns and exchanges)
- packaging suitable for shipping (charged in bulk and USD or LBP at the 6 times more expensive black market rate)
- producing a small in-house collection (Boutique Hub. relied mainly on Cynthia’s label Urban Sense as a 50% source of income.)
- for the online settlements in USD or EURO of the much needed softwares for our workflow which had been disrupted due to the weekly 25$ online transaction allowance only (Dropbox, G Suite, Teamviewer, GRIDS POS system, web hosting & domain renewal fees, PrestaShop add ons, etc.)
DONATIONS WITHDRAWAL: OVERCOMING THE FAILING LOCAL BANKING SYSTEM BARRIER.
Because of the banking system’s collapse in Lebanon, which has held our hard-earned money and working capital hostage since October 2019, we do not trust our local banks and will not risk transferring the donations over a time span to a bank in Beirut.
Because local banks keep outsmarting us as local depositors, unilaterally changing their obligation to release fresh money, your donations will safely reach Serine -our partner-‘s personal bank account in Europe, who will in turn transfer the raised fresh money to Bechara (managing partner)’s local bank account ONLY AFTER making sure his bank in Beirut releases it as is.
So final withdrawals in Beirut will be punctual to make sure we receive the totality of the raised amount.
Our bank as a company currently does not release 100% of the fresh money received and no local bank is opening new accounts, let alone fresh money accounts.
After 7 years of being one of the main destinations for ethical fashion design in Beirut, we hope for our collective to be able to rebound, at least online, as fast as possible until we find it safe to reopen a proper showroom and maintain the same standards and ethics and values you have been used to as our supporters.
EVERY SUPPORT COUNTS. SPREADING THE WORD TOO.
Any donation can be of great support in such dire times, to a whole creative and artisanal community.
If you cannot donate, please help us spread the word, maybe someone else within your reach can.
Thank you for walking this crucial mile with us,
We shall not disappoint.
For a list of designers part of our community, please visit @boutique.hub.beirut on Instagram.
Discover all of the designers’ talent and work there and follow them too.
We all may be broken, but we have no choice but to rise again.
The Boutique Hub. fam