The colors
and stripes
of Mira Hayek
August 29, 2013

Yasmina Hatem

Mira Hayek
As part of an ongoing series, NOW talks to up-and-coming Lebanese designers about their work, their process, and being a part of the industry that has put Lebanon on the world's most revered red-carpets. Cheerleaders from the 1970s; Wes Andersen's The Darjeeling Limited; yellow characters painted by Brazilian graffiti artist duo Os Gemeos - these are the fragments Mira Hayek has used as inspiration for her first three collections. "I always start with a theme," she explains, to pinpoint the shapes, colors, volume, the overall look of the collection.

But first, let's go back to very beginning and properly introduce Mira Hayek, a young Lebanese fashion designer who designs pret-a-porter clothes for women from her Saifi workshop.Hayek studied graphic design at LAU, where she discovered that her favorite
part of doing illustrations was "dressing" the characters she was drawing.

She then went to Milan, one of the world's fashion capitals, to study fashion design at the Istituto Marangoni, followed by a Masters in fashion and textile at the Istituto Europeo di Design. In between the two, she interned at Elie Saab in Lebanon, and Erdem in London. At Saab she worked mostly with the design team, learning sketching and embellishments. At Erdem - a label that was still up-and-coming at the time – she worked in a small team, learning a little bit of everything.
Mood Board
“The experience
of Starch is just amazing,” she says.
“Not only people could find out about me and my work, but I found my identity as a fashion designer.”
It was when she came back to Lebanon that it was time for her to find her own style. So, Hayek spent a couple of years experimenting with designs, and doing some custom-made pieces for the few people who knew about her work. At the same time, she worked as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. In 2011, she applied to the STARCH Foundation –an organization which helps emerging Lebanese designers by not only providing a space for them to sell their clothes, but also by helping them to develop their identity. "The experience of Starch is just amazing," she says. "Not only people could find out about me and my work, but I found my identity as a fashion designer."And so Hayek created her first collection, called Anamorada, for the Fall-
Winter season of that year. The colors, patterns, and shapes were specifically inspired by the little yellow figures in patterned clothing and the odd shapes of Os Gemeos' graffiti. She explains the basis for her collection: "I imagined what the girlfriends of these characters would wear."

Then came her Spring-Summer collection, also showcased at Starch, which was inspired by the 2007 Wes Andersen film based largely in India, The Darjeeling Limited. "I loved everything about the film," she says - "the colors, the scenery, it was all so inspiring!" Many of the visual elements used as patterns on the clothes in this collection were based on Rangoli, a form of Indian folk art.
Mira Hayek Designs
It takes about three months for Hayek to develop a collection. She only designs pieces that she herself would wear, and wear she does, all the time. She plays around with colors, but also with fabric and textures, adding layers of fabric, all by hand, like a sort of patchwork. It's all cut-out from the pattern and then sewn with the help of two seamstresses who work with her at her workshop.

Her third collection, which was her first one post-Starch, was launched in May 2013 at Beirut Designer's Week. It has a sporty feel, and has been largely inspired by vintage cheerleading. "I basically imagined what it would be like for a cheerleader from the 1970s to dress up today," she explains, as she points to a mood board with different pictures of cheerleader outfits.
Mira Hayek
On the walls hang pictures of her designs,
patterns ready to be cut, and notes. Fabrics of every
color sit on top of one another along the sides.
Most of the fabrics she uses she gets from Lebanon, and some she brings in from Istanbul. In her last collection, she created her own by printing a picture of a football field on a simple base. Every part of the process is important, she says, from the sketch, to the pattern, to choice of fabric and the finishing touches.

Her designs aren't sold in shops, but people can come to her workshop to buy the clothes and have custom pieces made. Since August 12, she has also been selling her designs online, via mysouk.com.

"I have all kinds of clients," she says, "mostly in their 20s and 30s, lots of new moms… I've even designed for kids, which is definitely something I'd like to look more into." But really making a dent in the market is not that easy, she explains, as most people want to go buy pret-a-porter from the big brands they already know. "There is a lot of talent in fashion in Lebanon, but it is very hard to break through."

There need to be more events and exhibitions that put the focus on designers, like Fashion
Forward in Dubai and Artheum in Beirut, which did the Beirut Fashion Expo in June. "That was really a great event because they gave each designer a space that they could do whatever they wanted with. Not just hang the clothes and show them, but actually transform the space too. I called my installation Balls on Walls."

In her workshop, where the light peers through a large window, Mira Hayek sits at her desk facing the two seamstresses who are cutting fabric. On the walls hang pictures of her designs, patterns ready to be cut, and notes. Fabrics of every color sit on top of one another along the sides. There is a sewing room and a fitting room, where all the ready-to-wear clothes are presented on racks. The workshop, like the designer's clothes, reflects her positive, playful vibes.

Her dream is to create ready-to-wear collections to be sold around the world. "I also would love to dress a performer, like an artist on stage! My ultimate fashion icon is singer Roisin Murphy, and dressing her would be a dream come true!"
Mira Hayek at work on one of her designs.
(photo courtesy of Mira Hayek)
Mood board inspiration for the 2013 collection. (photo courtesy of Mira Hayek) Some of Mira's designs. (photo courtesy of Mira Hayek) The work in progress. (photo courtesy of Mira Hayek)