BEIRUT: Yasmine Idriss celebrated the launch of her shoe brand Solana at a party in Kalei bar and cafe in Mar Mikhael Thursday as part of Beirut Design Week. Based in New York, Solana combines the comfort of slip-on shoes with bold graphic design. The concept behind the brand is each collection will be based on a different city, with the first collection representing Beirut. The brand joins forces with local artists to create shoes that characterize where they come from, and each collection is accompanied by a short movie about the city and a travel guide for that destination. The shoes are all handmade and produced in Beirut at a family-run factory.
“I started this company about a year and a half ago because of my love for travel, and more specifically, for authentic travel,” Idriss, 24, told The Daily Star.
“By authentic travel, I mean to really submerge yourself in a place’s culture, to dig deep and to go beyond the main attractions.
“So I combined my passion with something I had been working on for a while, which is shoes. We travel the world one country at a time and collaborate with local artists to try to tell the story of that culture.”
Idriss created Solana when she was 23 years old with no prior background in design or fashion. Since she studied entrepreneurship and had traveled extensively in her adult life, she developed her brand to combine her academic experience and her passions. “I had been working on developing an after-party shoe for women in college,” Idriss explained.
“I’ve heard that you should create something that you feel is a need in society, and I saw girls walking outside of bars barefoot with glass on the ground, and I thought, ‘that’s a need.’ So I went on to work in the [shoe] industry for a couple of years.
“I started another company but decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do. So I hit a wall and I thought, ‘okay, what’s my passion?’
“The answer was very easy: travel is my passion. That’s when I combined the two [travel and shoe design] and developed this concept.”The five artists featured at the launch ranged from Lebanese interior designers to illustrators.
Each had entered an online competition Idriss advertised for with posters around the city. Solana’s team narrowed the submissions down to 10, and three winners were chosen by public vote. Solana then chose two more artists to collaborate with the brand. The artists included Lucciana Baradhi, Jad Khoury, Tracy Chahwan, Sarah Adaime and Lynn Atme.
“What attracted me [to Solana] was doing something related to Beirut and its culture,” Atme, a 25-year-old interior designer, told The Daily Star.
“That is something that’s always at the back of my mind: what is our cultural visual identity? I think I had the idea for the pattern on the shoes before the competition happened, so it kind of all came together.”
“Sometimes I design drawings for prints, like t-shirts and tote bags,” illustrator and cartoonist Tracy Chahwan, 25, said.
“There definitely is a challenge with shoes because you have to adapt to the shape of the shoe.”
The launch was also attended by Premier-designate Saad Hariri, the brother-in-law of Idriss’ brother.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 30, 2018, on page 3.
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