When the chemical explosion hit the city of Beirut’s port on August 4, it destroyed Andrea Wazen’s nearby flagship and offices. The Lebanese designer posted shots on social media of the shop’s ceiling caving in, wires everywhere, the front nameplate torn from the facade, laying on the ground.
“Everything was on the floor. It was like an apocalypse,” Wazen told FN shortly after the event, which killed at least 200 people and injured more than 5,000. “As soon as I walked on the street, I could remember every single day, walking from my office to my store. And suddenly I’m just walking on glass.”
Wazen was already in the middle of sample production on her spring ’21 collection, which she usually shows by appointment during Paris Fashion Week. But the designer decided to quickly pivot, shelving the existing samples and starting from scratch.
The result was a collection inspired by and dedicated to the city of Beirut and all of the architectural legacy that its residents are now working to preserve, even amidst the destruction and debris of the blast. It’s also a season that definitively moves Wazen forward in the designer footwear space, with commercial and celeb-friendly heel options mingling with well-thought-out details that reflect the designer’s recent critical accolades.
“The explosion caused so much damage to our architectural heritage that has been built over 300 years. These Lebanese houses looked over our city and and have been witnesses to so many eras and changes,” Wazen explained in her collection notes. “We need to protect our heritage. This is what gave me the motivation to get up, dust off and start over.”
Wazen, who presented the collection virtually during Paris Fashion Week, using a private showroom website to allow select press and retailers to view the line. With a palette that loosely nods to the red, green and white of the Lebanese flag, the collection includes new styles and updates to existing ones, both showcasing intricately replicated architectural motifs inspired by some of the Beirut historical landmarks that were damaged in the explosion.
For example, Wazen’s Denver heel — a mesh style popular with celeb clients like Kylie Jenner and Hailey Bieber — now comes with a delicate embroidered motif that mimics the outlines of windows in classical Beirut homes. Elsewhere, a more intricate mesh embroidery depicts the windows at Sursock Palace, a Beirut landmark that was severely damaged in the explosion. It was also the home of Lady Cochrane Sursock, a prominent Lebanese philanthropist who died on August 31 after sustaining injuries in the explosion.
Throughout the collection, there are plenty of dressy options that foretell a rebound from pandemic dressing — something Wazen spoke to FN about recently during a designer-focused webinar: “We need to still sell the dream, [people] want to feel good,” Wazen said during the September 30 virtual panel discussion. “They are still buying that one pair [of heels] and waiting for the day to wear it again. I don’t think that will go away.”
One style to look forward to is the Mandaloun, one of the season’s sandal standouts, named after a type of mullioned window that is also prominent in Lebanese architecture, where several lines converge at specific symmetrical points. The sandal features leather straps that are looped and braided around each other, converging to tie at the ankle.
There’s also the Gem sandal, named after the Gemmayze neighborhood, an area in Beirut known for its artistic and culinary innovation that was severely damaged on August 4 due to its direct proximity to the city’s port. Here, Wazen dots the square toe strappy satin sandals with crystal-embellished details depicting the “oeuil de beouf” or “eye of the ox,” architectural openings in Lebanese houses that are intended to let light into dark spaces.