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finance & economyMay 17, 2021

The Vanguard: Lebanese brand Renaissance Renaissance picked to join Net-A-Porter's mentorship scheme

This is global recognition for the Beirut fashion label

The Lebanese women’s ready-to-wear label Renaissance Renaissance has been chosen to join the Net-A-Porter's latest The Vanguard Programme.

Chosen from countless emerging fashion brands from across the world, the Beirut label, founded by Cynthia Merhej in 2016, is one of four start-ups to make the cut.

The Net-A-Porter programme began in 2018 in a bid to help hothouse emerging talent.

What is Renaissance Renaissance?

Merhej studied at the Royal College of Art and Central Saint Martins in London, later returning to Beirut to set up her brand. This made her the third generation of women in her family to open their own atelier.

Shaped by growing up in what Merhej describes as a “female-led couture environment”, her work is now focused on exploring ideas of the female form, through proportion and volume.

Mixing masculine codes with feminine touches, Merhej creates pieces that carry a dual identity, such as a short-sleeved shirt given a frilled, tuxedo dress shirt-style front, or a sensual tailored bustier top covered with tight pin tucks.

Skirts come adorned with prairie frilled hems, and maxi dresses are sleeveless and gathered at the hem for a balloon effect.

Unique and intriguing, Merhej offers a new approach to fashion, making her stand out in a crowded market.

What is Net-A-Porter's The Vanguard?

The Vanguard programme was established to give chosen designers a solid footing in the industry. These brands are picked from the global address books of Net-A-Porter's buying teams.

Each iteration of the programme selects four designers to receive help, support and mentorship from experts at the e-commerce company.

The aim is to enable chosen brands to survive long into the future, with access to Net-A-Porter's market insights, as well as marketing support and business development help.

A staggering 53 per cent of fashion brands will fail in the first four years, according to a report by the Statistic Brain Research Institute, so to help counter that, each designer is also granted exclusive space on the Net-A-Porter site, and access to the company's monthly audience of six million users.

This is not the only accolade Merhej has bagged in 2021. In March, she was also announced as being in the final 20 for the annual LVMH fashion prize, and was the only name on that list from the region.

After what feels like years of fashion prizes focusing heavily on established markets such as Europe and America, is it gratifying to see the scope of inclusion widening, and with it, the talents of Lebanon finally garnering some well-deserved attention.