Rima Bohsali, the talented Lebanese designer, well known in the 90’s, decided to make her comeback on the fashion scene through her participation to the event Designers & Brands Fashion Shows. Prestige met her to know more about her comeback.
Can we say that you were born with a needle in hand? The first doll I requested from my parents was a doll with detachable head and arms, then a sewing machine and a sewing case that I keep until today. My mother landed me the scissors that didn’t frighten me, I had my corner at home. At the age of 3 she brought me fabrics that I used to sew, later at 8 years old I accompanied her at Mrs Silva who had a workshop in Beirut and gave courses on the art of couture.
Tell us about your background. I come from a middle class family from Beirut. I studied at Collège Protestant and got married at 16 years old. I gave birth to my son Ahmad at the age of 17. When he went to school, I put my costume back and returned to the official school Fakhreddine. Unfortunately I couldn’t follow university studies during the civil war. My divorce at 24 years old compelled me to go back and live with my parents. At the time the war was fierce, I created a knitting workshop at my place. I supplied women with hooks and wool and taught them how to make knitwear. My beginnings with knitwear encouraged me to go further. I heard about a fashion school in Paris. Thanks to the support of my parents, I registered in the school and followed courses. With a diploma in hand, I returned home where at the time dressmakers were numerous but designers hardly existed, there was a lot of enthusiasm for the field. I began to make dresses for my friends, and through word of mouth the circle got bigger. I remember Viviane Debbas, Hassana Mansour, Wadad Jabbour whom daughter-in-law ordered an embroidered jacket for her engagement. I wanted to make her a new and exceptional design on the theme of Lebanese houses. My brother Rached Bohsali, who is an architect, prepared an exhibition on the theme in a surrealist style, he authorized me to borrow the idea, it was an enormous success. Nazek Hariri ordered for the engagement of her daughter Joumana, an embroidered jacket on the theme of historical Lebanese monuments. I got friends with the Hariri family and they became my principal clients. I had the chance to get acquainted with big Lebanese families and my work just flew with success.
Why did you choose to make your recent comeback? Thanks to my son Ahmad, financial analyst in Saudi Arabia who decided to come back home and encouraged me to go back to work. I always loved to work behind the scenes, for the love of art. I remember those years when I used to sew all the time. On the death of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, I stopped couture to make Ready-to-wear. Two years ago, following an illness, I had to stop work. Couture being my passion, my son advised me to make a comeback in force.
Why didn’t you create your brand before? In the 90’s, I worked for pleasure and did not consider my work as a big enterprise. The last thirty years of my life passed rapidly. I worked without giving to marketing the importance that it deserves. The young generation, those between 25 or 30 years old do not know me. On his return, my son Ahmad made it clear to me that the designers who began after me are more known, «while you have an important background, an artistic path, you should make your comeback in the light.» I participated to the event Designers & Brands Fashion Shows organized by Johnny Fadlallah and made a fashion show with the theme «Timeless, intemporel», creating clothes with eclectic colors, to be introduced to the public that doesn’t know me and be remembered by those who knew me. Interview Conducted by Marcelle Nadim