Kimabayas, Re/Form collection Interview with Milia M
Diala Aschkar, Art Director at Orient Palms, Paris, France

Kimabayas, Re/Form collection

Interview with Milia M

The three Lebanese designers Milia Maroun (Milia M), Hoda Baroudi and Maria Hibri Nahas (Bokja Design Studio) presented their Re/Form “kimabayas” collection in Paris, a combination of the Japanese kimono and the Arabic abaya. I was very happy to attend. The place, the trendy Lebanese restaurant Liza, was an appropriate backdrop for the 23 unique kimabayas. Milia Maroun answered my questions about this original collection which is intended for both women and men.

Where did the idea of “Kimabaya” come from? And what about the name of the collection “Re / Form”?

Milia Maroun: The origin of the Kimabaya is the “Soi Soie” coat that was commissioned by the Beirut National Museum in 2003. Consequently, a pop up gallery — founded by Maya Parisi in Brussels in 2008 — wanted to exhibit a collection of the coat with a more urban feel, thus the Kimabaya. It’s a reversible coat, a crossing between the kimono and the abaya, that are traditional cloths from Japan and the Middle-East. Since then, the kimabaya became an iconic piece and a best-seller in the Milia M collections. Re/Form, as the name suggest, is a way to initiate a change, to instil a new life in an existing object.

One of the design originalities is the mixing of ancient fabrics with modern ones — a signature of Maria and Huda — evoking different stories and memories but with an urban modernity accentuated by the fluid and minimalistic cut so dear to you. One feels that there is the three of you in this line! How did you work together knowing that it is your first collaboration?

MM: Bokja is an obvious partner in this story. The two parties tell the story of the silk road. Their creations carrying legends with them. Makers of dreams, the perfect combination.

I noticed the high Couture finish and the noble fabrics. Which ones are they?

MM: Noble and natural fabrics like cashmere, silk and wool primarily. There are also mixes of linen and wool or cotton and cachemire.

The 23 kimabayas of the collection are all reversible, an excellent idea that offers the choice of wearing it in a unique tone or in colored patterns. I guess it is something that was appreciated during the collection presentations in Paris and Milan?

MM: Absolutely! This also adds to the urban aspect of the piece, and to the pleasure of fetechizing it at certain moments and normalize it at others.

It was a beautiful surprise to see the photo of Fouad Naim — my relative — pose for you in a kimbaya. And of course Arnaud Lemaire wearing them at Liza. Clearly, your line of kimabayas is to be worn by both women and men. A way to reintroduce this Levantine practice in the urban dress code?

MM: The kimabaya is versatile in all its forms. Its reading can change depending on who wears it, man or woman, and when. It has no limits, but always with the poetry of the Levant.

Where can we find the kimabayas in Lebanon and outside of Lebanon?

MM: At the Milia M boutique in Beirut. At “If” in New York and soon at “ABC” New York and “Ikram” Chicago.