When we found out that designer Brooke Gregson was on her way to Beirut, Lebanon for a trunk show at Macle Jewel, we were delighted when she agreed to keep a journal of her trip so that we could travel with her vicariously. Below is a first-hand account of Brooke’s travels to this culturally rich city, and her interactions with its warm and welcoming people.
Brooke Gregson: I was lucky enough to visit Beirut for a trunk show of my jewelry and see the city through the eyes of my most gracious host, Selim Mouzannar, the owner of Macle Jewel in the Achrafieh district of Beirut. From the moment I landed I was overwhelmed by the genuine warmth and hospitality and joie de vivre of the people I met. My first stop was a delicious lunch at the restaurant ‘Meat the Fish‘ in the Achrafieh district, which feels like an affluent Parisienne style of Beirut. This district, which is a few miles from the sea, feels like a perfect mesh of old and new and European with Middle Eastern influences.
Beirut is a city that is rich in culture and extreme in the juxtaposition of old and new buildings. Downtown Beirut is near the sea with luxury shops such as Hermes, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. The waterfront area has modern condos, some worth millions, much like any waterfront city in the world. The Achrafieh district is a mixture of old characterful French style small buildings (many of which are being torn down, unfortunately) next to new construction and bombed out buildings. Beirut feels like a city on the move with so much building work going on.
Standing out from the rest of the area in Achrafieh is Selim’s new store, Macle Jewel, which was like walking into an Art gallery with curated fine jewellery. He also managed to add some beautiful Lebanese touches like the local colorful tiles covering part of the showroom. The focal point of the store is a striking copper mobile created and designed by Annick Tapernoux who also has her collection represented in the store. Other designers in the store each have their own unique approach to the craft such as Deszo by Sara Beltran, Lito, Polly Wales and Charlotte Chesnais.
At the trunk show I met so many amazing people of all different ages; the people were as eclectic as the jewellery that Macle represents. The most exciting start to the day was when an older couple appreciated one of my pieces that reminded them of their Egyptian heritage – a couple in their 80s, theirs was a truly romantic love story. They went home with a special Tanzanite necklace. I also met the dynamic fashion and lifestyle blogger Dyma Demirdjian, who travels between Paris, London and Beirut.
Although most of my time was spent taking part in the opening event for the store, I did manage to sneak away to see the spectacular Mim Museum, showcasing the most beautiful raw gemstones I have ever seen. Pascale, the manager of Macle, also recommended that I pop in to Orient 499, which carries accessories and furnishing made mainly by local Lebanese designers.
I had a truly memorable trip and I would definitely visit Beirut again!