BEIRUT: Dina Khalife’s colorful, fantastical silk scarves are the perfect antidote to the gray skies of a wintry Beirut evening, each one featuring scenes from a magical, fairy-tale land.
A graduate of last year’s Starch class – the organization founded by Rabih Kayrouz that nurtures emerging Lebanese designers – Khalife has, for the past week, been selling her beautiful creations at BIEL’s Afkart fair.
The playful scarves account for the majority of her collection, but she also designs silk shirts and dresses, and recently launched a homeware range, featuring cushion covers, tea towels and coasters.
Each scarf has a story to tell as they feature intricate of drawings in vivid colors. One depicts Eskimo children braving the cold and surrounded by polar bears and penguins, while another tells the story, in Khalife’s words, of “a group of animals who go to an island in Spain and they’re saying goodbye to each other.”
Most of her work is characterized by animals and colors, and the mix between reality and fantasy.
“I like that ... if you look at my stuff you dream a little bit,” she says.
And if it’s possible to imagine a penguin sunbathing, this is one of the characters to have adorned her small jewelry collection.
Drawn by hand and sent to printers in Italy, Khalife only has between one and five copies of each scarf made – which she sells for $190.
Illustration has always been her passion, and the 31-year-old originally studied graphic design at the American University of Beirut, before working in that field for six years. She then obtained a master’s in textile design in Madrid, before she joined Starch.
The program really helped her, Khalife says, and forced her to create her first collection.
“It gave me the courage to do it, because I knew there was a possibility of selling, and I saw how people reacted, and people loved my work,” she says, still modest about the success she has had to date. “I can’t believe that I’m able to continue, and to have taken a stall at Afkart, and to do a home collection. I can’t believe that I’m doing it.
“I’m so happy, when I think six years ago when I was doing graphic design.”
Though she has to send items to Europe to be printed, Khalife says that in general the Lebanese market is supportive of young designers. “This is why I came back to Lebanon, it’s very good here. In Europe it’s impossible, the market is oversaturated.”
Although the economic and security situation in Lebanon are far from ideal, there are still opportunities that don’t exist in Europe, she adds.
In another six years, Khalife, who currently sells her collection online, and at the O’ de Rose boutique in Dubai, hopes to have more points of sale, and maybe even to open her own store alongside her Starch peers of 2011. “I’d love to see some people on the streets wearing my scarves.”
And it’s very hard to imagine how her fantastical creations won’t have found droves of devotees by then.