Lebanese Designer Gets Backlash after Honoring Arab Culture


Neither Emma Boutros nor her brand Poise need an introduction, as she has been building her brand with perfection for the past years and was able to set a huge mark in the fashion industry not only in the middle east but also world wide.

I had the pleasure working with the designer herself and I know how much work she puts into her creative process, I have watched her brand grow through the years and I know  for sure that she is one of the most brilliant rising designers in the region.

It didn’t take much time for big names to take notice of Poise design, big names like Coca Cola who recently collaborated with the designer on their #LOVELIFE campaign which dedicates a limited edition Coca-Cola Light Can as a blank canvas for the designer.

After the can design, Poise and Coca Cola extended the collab to 6 pairs of shoes , a capsule collection under the #LoveLife Campaign. Two of the shoe styles had the brands iconic pattern and the kouffye graphic pattern that the brand has been using for 3 years in every single color combo possible. For the coke collab Poise used white and red since obviously its Coca Cola’s brand signature-colors. Even though the design were astonishing, they still got negative feedback on various social media networks from many Jordanians and palestinians that accused Emma Boutros of disrespecting their culture and shaming their values by using the kouffye print on shoes.

This overreaction from fellow arabs seemed to cause a lot of dilemma to many lebanese who wouldn’t understand the lack of support to  young brilliant individuals who struggle day and night to make it in a region that has known nothing but turmoil in the past decade! This is not the first time lebanese artists get punished for exercising their right of freedom of speech. Indie-pop band Masrou’ Leila had been banned form performing in jordan due to their free thoughts and beliefs that did not reflect the true “values” of the country.

Social media is full of blabla and “he said she said” conversations that fill up some people’s empty time and others’ empty brains. For that reason, Emma Boutros released the following statement on Facebook to clarify the situation:

“I personally strive to ensure that my work is in consideration of the values of the communities in which I operate.
The use of one of our classic prints and distinctive pattern, the Kouffyeh Pattern, generated outrage and was found disrespectful by some.
This print commonly used on my creations depicts a distinctive standard woven checkered pattern that has originated in an ancient Mesopotamian representation of fishing nets.
It is present on a traditional Middle Eastern headdress non-exclusive to either Palestinians or Jordanians, rather common to all Middle Eastern countries… ”

Emma added

“…This graphic pattern however, is not a flag nor does it in any way depict any religious connotation whatsoever.

I as a designer am inspired from people and cultures. In the Arab culture, which I am proudly part of, this is a graphic print that is common to all of us Arabs, thus is used graphically on my designs to celebrate culture; and this in a wide panoply of artistic color combinations…”

As for what Coca Cola had to say:

“We regret that a collaboration with a Lebanese designer has resulted in the promotion of a product which has raised concerns amongst some members of the community. The collaboration in question was limited, and has ended.

The design was intended to showcase the shared pride in an important universal and long-standing symbol of Arabic culture.”

Knowing how much admiration and respect both Lebanese and Jordanians have for each other, we all hope to put this issue behind and celebrate the beauty of fashion and its cause.
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Photo by Patrick Sawaya

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Flavio Fa says:

    enchanting designer, timeless design

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