Raised in Mount Lebanon’s Chouf region – the same village as these women – designer Salim Azzam was surrounded by the esoteric, ethnoreligious Druze community who are characterised by the classic black and white veils that they hand-stitch and wear. Inspired by their dedication to craft, Azzam puts these women at the centre of his brand, relying on their years of experience and expertise to handcraft and embroider his designs and in doing so, breathe new life into an age-old traditional practice.
@muhmdaoun wears the FW21 horses shirt. Photo: @azzamsalim
How did the brand begin?
Salim Azzam is a product of a small remote mountain in Lebanon. A place where time stands still; where people are connected to nature and live a self-sustainable life far away from the hustle and bustle of urbanism. The women of Mount Lebanon are born makers and artisans and take pride in their craft.
We created our brand to channel the skills and creativity of these women, who take pride in their work and whose knowledge is their weapon, and to share their gift with the world. We utilise fashion as a tool to reimagine and revive the skills of artisan communities across different regions in Mount Lebanon.
What is the inspiration behind your design aesthetic?
Our work stems from our rural roots, inspired by the remote, slow, and self-sustainable mountain life, in which I grew up in. We at Salim Azzam make ready-to-wear garments that pay homage to the true humble habits of the locals of Mount Lebanon. Clean-cut tailoring inspired by the local white and black attires with interactive embroidery work adorning each piece.
What role do the women who make the garments play in the brand?
Community is at the heart of what we do. The embroiderers are the beating heart of Salim Azzam. Each woman who joins the team brings her story, stitch, and dreams. Salim Azzam is just the channel through which these dreams become reality. Today, we employ 60 local embroiderers in our atelier. Our work celebrates traditional crafts in an effort to revive techniques that saw a decline in demand due to fashion’s embrace of fast-paced advanced machinery and technology, which in turn left these types of hand skills by the wayside.
Our mission is to provide a space that constantly and continuously creates ethical employment opportunities that are inherently sustainable.
How does the Druze culture influence your brand?
Growing up in Mount Lebanon, it was impossible not to notice the white veil – the customary dress of the Druze women. The way it frames gentle hands, highlights dark, determined eyes. How it conceals yet reveals so much, holding centuries of culture in its humble simplicity. From the dawn of time, we’ve told our stories in black and white. You’ll see it in our white veils and black sherwel.
As such, white is our baseline fabric. Pure, authentic, brilliant, and communal: just like the women who help create Salim Azzam are at their core. Our cuts are inspired by the Druze silhouettes, simple, humble, yet powerful.
Moe wears the “Al Maghib” shirt from the SS22 collection, “A New Land”. Photo: @azzamsalim
What are your plans for the future?
While reconciling fashion’s relationship with artisans in the very essence of what we do, we want to create more opportunities, favouring genuine co-creation with the women we work with. The more we grow, we want to allow more women to join the team and take part in the continuity of the craft. In the long run, we see the future of Salim Azzam educating and mentoring the next generation on the rare and delicate craft.
Follow Salim Azzam on Instagram for more information.