Roni Helou Releases His Film Road To Exi(s)t During The First Edition Of Menswear At Arab Fashion Week

Roni Helou is an emerging designer you need to have in your closet. Known for his deconstructed silhouettes and his commitment to sustainability, the twenty-eight-year-old is based in Beirut, Lebanon, bringing attention to issues that impact humanity and planet earth.

Building a brand is no easy feat. There are many designers out there but Helou is committed to his vision and goals in womenswear and menswear. I first met the designer in Paris during a womenswear ready-to-wear week and the first thing that struck me about him was his kindness and secondly, his knowledge of fashion. As he walked me through his collection it was clear to see his passion and commitment to fashion by making many of his pieces from dead-stocks textiles that go back to Lebanon’s civil war.

His atelier in Beirut suffered damage from the August 4th the explosion last summer but he continues to move upwards and onwards showcasing his designs at events like Uptown Cairo and this past weekend during the Arab Fashion Council’s inaugural Men’s Fashion Week.

“A fashion week dedicated to men allows for the development of fresh and innovative perspectives on menswear design while challenging the classical definition of masculinity in the region,” notes Helou. “Ours is a region that struggles with the perception of genders. Events such as this one help further ideas of diversity, acceptance and respect.” As menswear is expected to grow exponentially in the next 3 years, there are benefits to more menswear designers entering the fashion market. “They create work opportunities for local and regional men who are looking to join the fashion industry. Moreover, the Men’s AFW (Arab Fashion Week) gives the Arab fashion scene a boost, which positively affects the region as a whole.”

Helou’s film coinciding with his latest collection, “Road to Exi(s)t” goes into the pain of 2020 and the pain that the world always seems to find itself in from wars, forest fires, explosions, animal cruelty and the raging pandemic- all issue that the designer chose to highlight. Shot during lockdown in 3 various locations, the film tells the story of a young man watching the news in his living room, who feels numb from the consistency of tragic news that surrounds the world, and he feels unable to escape his downward spiral until he finds himself in nature. It was Helou’s motivation that the film reminds us that perhaps adopting a simpler, greener life may be the antidote of resistance against current systems.

Sticking to a color palette of grays, whites, blacks and soft prints, Helou designed pieces from coats, blazers, shirts and pants in an array of dead-stock fabrics which include poplin, gauze, cotton knit, denim, crinkle and bachette.

Collaborating with producer Ghiya Haidar and directed by Pedro Hasrouny, the film’s first two scenes were shot with an iPhone to highlight the restrictions the world, and Lebanon is currently under with a third lockdown- hinting that humanity must go back to a much simpler life. “I perceive fashion as a communicative platform. Through its large reach, fashion has the ability to influence countless people around the world. My brand is a conscientious one with cherished values and beliefs.

Helou got his first start in fashion by showcasing at Fashion Forward Dubai under the patronage of Haute Couture designer Rabih Kayrouz and the Starch Foundation, after completing design school. He has won various awards from the Boghossian Foundation Fashion Prize and he is the Ready-To-Wear winner of the Fashion Trust Arabia. Showcasing at Paris and Milan fashion weeks and having been featured in the New York Times and British and American Vogue, Helou keeps aiming high.

A humble person with a noticeable smile, Helou muses, “I hope that my participation in Men’s Fashion Week will help promote ideas like sustainability, human rights and animal rights. It’s important to remember that as designers of the region, we have a collective goal of bringing about positive change, which we can only do by working together. An event such as this one is a great way to meet new people, designers and eventual collaborators.

The Men’s AFW benefits the regional market both internally and externally. As more Arab men are involved in discovering and buying from regional brands, they empower the region from within. Externally, foreign markets looking for niche menswear brands might also be interested, which can give the already growing fashion scene of the region a push into new realms.

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