By Paul Cochrane in Beirut
Kelly Rowland wears Basil Soda
The oblong, stone clad exterior of Basil Soda's new fashion house in Beirut oozes style. Inside, the design is minimalist, with graphite-colored tables, sofas and walls while the fashion collection itself is conspicuously absent, a handful of mannequins the only indication you are not in the lobby of some boutique hotel.
The collection itself is hidden behind mirrored cupboards, where on opening, taffeta and raw silk shimmer amid hues of purple, orange, red and sequined cocktail dresses. Attendants show around two Khaleeji ladies, giggling while admiring the dresses and imagining the possibilities presented when wearing such glamorous fashion.
The building is a perfect mix of fashion and interior design. Soda's designs emphasize women's curves, while the interior is linear and clean cut – mirroring the designer's pencil marks and the tailor's scissors - to optimize the fabric on show.
For Basil Soda who, since 2000, has carved out for a niche for himself as one of Lebanon's leading designers in haute couture, the 2009 building is a symbol of a decade of creativity and a lifetime's passion. “If I wasn't a fashion designer, I would've been an architect, for sure,” said Soda.
That the building has turned out the way it is, is down to a fusion of Soda's ideas and interior designer Danny Aoun's abilities. “After working on my house with Danny, it was different doing a work space as I needed a place I could be relaxed in - it's my playground,” he said. “But I knew what I wanted, and he's a good listener and artist.”
The layered building has a workshop on the lower floor, the boutique and a more private area upstairs for meeting customers. The decision to use gray for the custom-made furniture and walls was a reflection of modernity and unity. “It will last longer in terms of trends, unlike black and white. And you can combine gray with any shades of a fashion collection. The choice was also influenced by my liking of the graphite look, as I don't use pens but pencils,” said Soda.
The use of mirrors that encase the front of the wardrobes – but not the sides, allowing for another perspective of the dresses within – reflects a careful blending of artificial and natural light while imposing the vegetation around the Horsh Tabet area of Beirut.
“How many thousands of graphics do we see everyday? I think the eye needs to be more relaxed to see beautiful things,” he said.
But while Soda is a perfectionist, he sees the importance of contrasts and mixing styles, as in his fashion when using raw silk. “To see an unfinished product has a beauty. Raw materials are like a chandelier with rope, and such a mixture gives a new view,” he added.
And while the interior is all straight lines to not detract the eye's attention, Soda carried out a tiny touch that makes all the difference in such a minimalist environment – the tables are gracefully curved, “for some femininity and allure.”