Resilience and Rebuilding in Beirut
For Scent Creator Hubert Fattal, Lebanon has always been at the heart of his sensory journey. Beirut is the city he calls home. From its oriental charms to its vibrant artisanal spirit, Hubert perceives the city as the ‘epitome of contrasts’. He is captivated by its private gardens, hidden treasures and Mediterranean mountains that ignite a sense of mystery and creativity in him. These elements have come to define the identity of his brand Fragrances Hubert Fattal. It is therefore difficult to fathom the impact that last year’s devastating August explosion in Beirut had on Hubert, both personally and professionally. Like every person living in Beirut, Hubert’s sense of resilience in rebuilding his life in a landscape of fear and uncertainty is truly remarkable.
‘My home is located in the district of Achrafieh, which was severely damaged in the explosion, and this is the part of the city in which I grew up,’ he says. ‘The traditionally lively districts of Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael, with the biggest concentration of historical houses, palaces and architectural mansions of the late 19th century which all got severely damaged. Many of my paintings were scarred, and some of my unique artefacts ruined.’
While the explosion’s physical destruction was cataclysmic and destroyed the major points of sale for Hubert’s brand throughout the city, he also reflects on how it wiped away the essence of his childhood memories in an instant, revealing the reality of a devastated country to the world.
‘I was born in 1970, meaning I have lived through the Lebanese Civil War. Resilience is embedded in our DNA as Lebanese people. Our lives are as scarred as the country, and the downfall is unstoppable. Will the brand survive? Will I stay in Lebanon? I do not know yet,’ he says.
Hubert is now developing a survival strategy for his brand based on exporting his range of fragrances, home fragrances, candleholders and other accessories to more global markets. Navigating this climate of uncertainty has demanded a flexible and resourceful approach. Hubert is determined to see his brand survive in a climate where many other business owners have given up.
Cultivating artistic identity
A decades-long journey of artistic and creative development has led Hubert to this point in his life. Graduating from Parsons School of Design (Paris) with a degree in illustration, and Goldsmith College of Arts (London) with a degree in Fine Arts, he has always pursued drawing, painting, travelling, photographing and creating collages from his various trips.
Hubert went on to specialise in interior design, executing the interior of the Lebanese restaurant Liza in Paris in 2005, as both art director and interior designer. Liza became a landmark for the fashion industry, and a reference in contemporary Lebanese cuisine abroad. His foray into fragrances came later from a period of working in the family business, which owned a company that created colognes and perfumes.
‘I shifted my creativity very naturally to this small entity and realized that a scent or a perfume can be as embracing, intimate and inspiring as an artwork. A perfume could transport souls, as efficiently as an image, a dream, a travel or a souvenir,’ says Hubert.
In 2010 he launched his first two fragrances under the brand Fragrances Hubert Fattal, these scents were Eau de Cèdre and Deep Rose, which remain two of the brand’s most sought-after scents today. Fragrances Hubert Fattal captures a rich tapestry of stories from the artisanal orient of the Mediterranean Sea, specifically the Levant region.
‘I decided to create inspiring notes that make people travel in time, transporting them to a vivid place, in this case the Orient. I wanted to run away from the usual luxurious amber and oud, these overpowering, traditional and heavy scents of the Gulf markets. I yearned to create a fresh, modern, accessible, inspiring and meaningful scent, a travel for the soul, a sort of a message in a bottle,’ he says.
Creativity and human connection
Even amidst the climate of sorrow and uncertainty in Beirut, Hubert and his team continue to inspire those around them with imagination and storytelling at the heart of their approach to scent creation. Rather than seeking to overtly ‘make his mark’ in the world, Hubert reflects on the power of leaving a subtle yet powerful ‘trace’ through the sensory experience, with the capacity to uplift, inspire and transport someone no matter what challenges they are facing in their life. His approach is based on emotional connection and intuition, something that runs deeper than the physical words and actions:
‘For me whether the usage of my creations is on the skin or in the home, I love to believe that I am working with intimacy, your skin, your home, your interior, your soul…’ he says.