Tuesday July 23rd, 2024
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Cairo-Based Lebanese Label Boshies is all About Love Beyond Borders

“In essence, Boshies is about connecting with communities—the ravers, the dreamers, the lovers, and the nostalgic.”

Ziyad El-Helbawy

Cairo-Based Lebanese Label Boshies is all About Love Beyond Borders

Founded in 2017 amid Lebanon's landscape, Cairo-based label Boshies is the inspired creation of Lebanon’s Elias El Haddad - a man on a mission to replant the roots of Arabic identity for today’s rising generations. El Haddad's journey began in unlikely soil, after years branching abroad in banking's concrete jungle, a health crisis that at 27 years of age stirred his soul's deepest longing.

Feeling a pull to return to Beirut and channel passions left too long untouched, El Haddad aimed to breathe fresh life into the heritage close to his heart. His first planting was a relic as woven into Lebanon's fabric as the cedars that crown its hills - the ‘tarboosh’ - a traditional Arabic fez. Using minimalist silhouettes and intricate threads, El Haddad stylized this symbol anew. When crowdfunding its debut yielded unexpected bounty, he knew a greater design had begun to blossom. 

At the campaign's heart bloomed Boshies' defining emblem - the word 'hob', etched in Arabic. El Haddad envisioned this simple seed might, when shared, fill the divisions that spread throughout the Arab world with the only adhesive it needs; love. Since its launch in Beirut, 'hob' has come to represent Boshies' bloom across borders as a messenger of unity. What started as one man's discovery of self has then flourished into an regionally-acclaimed and immediately recognizable brand. 

Now based in Cairo, Egypt, since December 2023, Boshies has achieved quickfire success, with its signature ‘hob’ emblem often sighted donned by Egypt’s youth roaming its streets. While Boshies is perhaps most recognizable for its signature emblem, El Haddad’s vision goes beyond the fabric of fashion, extending into other mediums of self expression, as evident through his multiple collaborations with other multidisciplinary artists across the region. 

In a virtual exchange with SceneStyled, Boshies Founder and Creative Director Elias El Haddad spoke of his vision for redefining modern Arab fashion with love, culture, tradition and generational unity.

What inspired you to start Boshies, and how did you envision the brand's identity from the beginning?

I wanted my brand to represent something universal and meaningful. Boshies is a Pan-Arab brand, and I envisioned 'love' as its emblem—an international symbol that resonates with everyone. It's deeply personal to me. It's not just a brand I created, it's a story I serve.

My journey to fashion was unconventional. I began in the banking industry and spent several years living in major European cities like Paris, London and Geneva. About five years into that career, I realized I was in the wrong place. At 27, I faced a significant health challenge, which was a turning point for me. It took me another five years to understand that the life I was leading wasn't for me.

In my early 30s, I made a pivotal decision to return to Beirut and stay there. I've always been passionate about clothing and the powerful messages one can convey through fashion. I wanted to create something that could impact societies publicly and reflect our rich culture and identity.

How does Boshies incorporate cultural and modern elements into its designs?

Culture and identity are paramount to me. I aimed to design something modern and affordable that could express our heritage in a way that resonates with today's world. Our aesthetics are very contemporary; we champion Arabic typography to appeal to both Arab Millennials and Gen Z. As Millennials, we are getting older, but we still share so much in common with Gen Z. I saw an opportunity to create affordable clothing that speaks to these younger generations. I wanted to be that bridge.

In the West, we are often portrayed as divided, but our stories connect us. It's our responsibility to show that we are united. It's time for us to take control of our own narratives and share them with the world.

Can you tell us more about the origins of Boshies and how it evolved over time?

Founded in September 2017 in Beirut, Boshies started as more than just a fashion label. While we certainly create garments, we are fundamentally a design studio focused on art. Our clothing is just one medium of expression in our broader artistic vision.

When I returned to Beirut, I felt like an outsider in the fashion scene due to my previous career in banking. I knew nothing about fabrics or pattern making, so I began networking and learning from people in the industry. This journey led me to the ‘tarboush’ - the traditional fez hat. I wondered, why not modernize the ‘tarboush’ and reconnect it with the younger generation?

This idea sparked a deep desire within me to revive the ‘tarboush’ and infuse it with messages of modernity and gender equality. We launched two minimalist lines of the ‘tarboush’, each intricately embroidered. The name 'Boshies' itself is a play on ‘tarboush’, symbolizing our commitment to reimagining tradition.

The ‘hob’ (‘love’) emblem has become a signature for Boshies. How did this idea come about, and what does it represent?

Alongside the revival of the ‘tarboush’, I initiated a crowdfunding campaign. By then, I had already designed the ‘hob’ (‘love’) emblem, drawing the word in a way that complemented our vision. We launched this emblem with the ‘tarboush’ and raised over $30,000. We held an exhibition to share the story of the ‘tarboush’ and our journey.

Choosing the word ‘hob’ (love) as our emblem was deliberate. Every culture needs a product of soft power—something that conveys its essence beyond political or economic influence. In the USA, for instance, their soft power is evident in their culture, cuisine, and entertainment. Lebanon, on the other hand, has lacked a clear symbol of soft power.

I wanted ‘love’ to be Lebanon’s soft power. Just as Egypt has its pyramids and rich history, I envisioned ‘love’ as our intangible asset. Love can be a unifying force across the Arab world, an ambassador of peace, empathy, and togetherness. Our slogan, ‘Towards Love’, speaks to this vision. Today, more than ever, humanity needs love.

How do Boshies’ collections embody this vision of love and unity?

Arabic artwork is our forte, and we strive to elevate love as our guiding principle. We aim to build a Pan-Arab online community that embodies love and unity, transcending differences. The ‘hob’ emblem carries a profound message—one that celebrates life and questions modern love in all its forms.

In essence, Boshies is about connecting with communities—the ravers, the dreamers, the lovers, and the nostalgic. Our collections reflect this ethos; Love Life, Slang Couture, Electro Edge, and Dreamscape Chronicles. 

Regarding our Dreamscape Chronicles Collection, it’s about the dreams we have during the day—the ones that drive our passions and shape our future. Similarly, our Smiley Digital Retro line uses the smiley face to symbolize how mistakes can lead to positive outcomes, encapsulating a philosophy of optimism and resilience.

Boshies recently expanded to Cairo. What prompted this move, and what does it mean for the brand’s future?

Our expansion to Egypt in 2023 was a strategic move. We create products in Arabic, we champion the Arabic language, and we aim to spread our influence across the Arab world, from Morocco to Saudi Arabia. We chose Egypt for three main reasons.

First, culturally, Lebanese and Egyptians are incredibly close. Beirut and Cairo have always been cultural leaders in the Arab world, driving arts, movies and fashion. This cultural proximity made Egypt a natural choice. Second, the market in Egypt is vast. With its large population, the potential for reaching a broad audience is immense.

Third, Egypt offers incredible production capabilities. While Lebanon is known for haute couture, producing affordable premium products in large quantities is challenging. In Egypt, we can achieve this, allowing us to compete with international brands effectively.

Who are Boshies' target customers, and how do they connect with the brand?

Our target customers include both the young and the young at heart. An example of the latter is the iconic Egyptian actress Youssra. I remember hosting a pop-up event at a boutique in Zamalek. The boutique owner informed me that Youssra would be visiting, so I eagerly waited for a few hours. Unfortunately, I had to leave for a meeting before she arrived. Later, the owner sent me a photo of Youssra wearing one of our ‘hob’ t-shirts. It was a moment of pride to see our message of love embraced by someone so influential.

That’s such a fun story! Do you have any other memorable moments you’d like to share?

Another memorable experience happened at the Pyramids. I was preparing to take a photo and decided to change into a ‘hob’ t-shirt right there. As I started to undress, a policeman approached me and said, ‘You can't undress here!’ But as soon as he saw the ‘hob’ emblem on the t-shirt, he smiled and said, ‘Oh, you can wear that. That’s fun!’ It was incredible to see how our message of love could transcend even the strictest settings and bring a smile to people’s faces.  

You mentioned earlier that Boshies is fundamentally a design studio focused on art, what other projects of Boshies would you like to highlight?

One project I'm particularly proud of is our collaboration with Design Kultur in 2022, where we utilized 3D robotics to sculpturally render our star product ‘hobb‘ into a luxury furniture piece. In February 2024, we were thrilled to participate in ‘Red’, an art exhibition curated by Art Shelter Space in Alexandria. The exhibition was a vibrant celebration of love through art, and we showcased our iconic ‘hob T-shirt’ with a dynamic display, featuring a prominent ‘hob' print on a wall.

During Cairo Design Week 2024, we had the pleasure of collaborating with graffiti artist Kairo Lumumba from Egypt to blend streetwear and street art. Together, we transformed our booth with Kairo's bold lines, creating a striking backdrop. Our ‘hob’ T-shirt, showcased prominently on the center wall, perfectly complemented his unique style.

What is the future vision for Boshies, and how do you see it evolving?

Our vision is to elevate love as our ambassador. We want to build a Pan-Arab online community that embodies love, peace, empathy and togetherness. Arabic artwork is at the heart of our designs, and our slogan, ‘Towards Love’, reflects the belief that today, humanity needs love more than ever.


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