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Men’s jewelry exhibition revisits masculinity
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BEIRUT: Visualize your wardrobe for a moment. Is it piled precariously high with a bright assortment of clothes, jackets and trousers competing for hanger space, flamboyant garments bought on a whim tucked away – unworn – at the back? Or do the doors swing open to reveal 10 identical shirts hung neatly in a line? If it’s the latter, at least according to Simone Kosremelli – art director at Dehab Jewellery Gallery – you’re probably a man.

“Men, they all wear the same – the same shoes, shirts, the same pants.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted to be a man,” she confesses, “too boring.”

And so, Kosremelli elected to try to spice up men’s style. Her boutique, tucked away off Pasteur Street in Gemmayzeh, is currently exhibiting a series of jewelry-cum-art pieces aptly titled “Just for Men.” A disparate ensemble of 12 artists, architects and graphic designers came together under that banner to produce a collection that is elegant and unusual – hoping to challenge traditional ideas of how men should look, and have fun while they’re at it.

Unless you earn a living strutting down a catwalk, looking good doesn’t have to be a serious business. Indeed, at “Just for Men,” it is often little more than a game.

Nada Zeineh, an architect by trade, has created a series of brooches with five detachable gold stars, each embedded with a single diamond. The stars are designed as gifts to be built up one at a time, until “eventually, inshallah, you will have a five-star man,” Kosremelli says with a grin. “It’s not about being materialistic, but adding a sense of humor to their lives.”

Zeineh’s brooches have been popular among women shopping not just to wind their partners up, but also for themselves, reflecting one of the collection’s undeniably ambitious aims – to take a punch at the formidable, solid figure of contemporary manliness.

“Men are becoming too homogenous, many don’t wear jewelry because there is a taboo, but you can subtly play with those stereotypes,” Kosremelli says. “One of the best ways is just to laugh.”

Like art, jewelry can create a dialogue. If nothing else, the eye-catching pieces are certainly conversation-starters, a way perhaps to touch on topics ever present, but hard to articulate. Samer al-Ameen, for example, has designed silver bracelets with moveable letters so you can write a word to express your mood on a given day. Ameen’s vision, Kosremelli explains, was to pull Facebook’s relationship statuses into our 3-D, living and breathing world. The bracelets – hung loosely on beer bottles in the boutique’s display cabinet – can show silently whether you are single or taken on a night out.

While such jewelry has a broad appeal, Wafa Twal has created pieces that are distinctly Lebanese. Her misbahas – Middle Eastern beads, traditionally used for prayer – are made from large onyx and white turquoise stones and have a Cedar tree crafted from tiny mosaics on a central piece.

“They are like the misbaha revisited,” says Kosremelli. “Now young men in Lebanon don’t use them ... They feel it’s passé. We are trying to revisit old concepts of jewelry and make them wearable again.”

Indeed pieces by Spockodesign, called “Not Quite Jewellery,” have taken the idea of the misbaha and re-sculpted it entirely to form a series of funky objects to play with. Platinum spinning tops create a welcome distraction for computer-weary eyes, while four-pronged spokes plated in gold and silver provide something to fiddle with at the bar instead of absentmindedly peeling the label off your Almaza bottle.

“It’s simple, non-pretentious games. We are saying come and play.”

“My intention [in this project] was not to copy whatever comes from abroad. I know the Lebanese love their labels, Gucci and Chanel [and] to look Western somehow. That’s what I’m fighting in my art and in my jewelry.”

With such an architectural pedigree – Kosremelli herself and five of her designers hail from its background – it is perhaps unsurprising that the jewelry is more thought provoking than merely a way of jazzing up the way men look.

“The appeal of making jewelry,” Kosremelli reflects, “is that you can pass it from one generation to another, from father to son. It is like a house in a way, it stays in the family. But while [buildings] are tied to the land, jewelry is fluid, Lebanon can move with you.”

The “Just for Men” collection is on display at Dehab Jewellery Gallery until July 14. All items are available to buy. For more information call: 01563236

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 27, 2012, on page 2.
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