“It’s just a shop.”
That’s how Nawal Akl describes the phenomenon she unintentionally created, known as Depot-vente Beirut.
Located in a small nook within a hidden alleyway tucked between Mar Mikhael and Jeitawi is a small green gate thatleads to a place where generations merge, creating a universal sense of individuality.
The store is a combination of apartments that expanded more and more as Akl’s collection of vintage clothes grew.
The collection of items that Akl rescues, cleans and mends has become a great source for anyone looking to develop their own style. People come in and style themselves or get help from one of the stylists, most of whom are Akl’s customers who she lets style at her store. Shoppers then do informal photoshoots that Akl posts on her ever-growing Instagram page.
“Second-hand fashion” is the term Akl uses as she explains where her idea came from. She saw beauty in these items and decided to share them.
HOME Magazine met with Akl to get a closer look into the world she’s created.
When did this all start?
“Seven years ago I had a small collection of vintage clothes that I kept growing in my apartment in Mar Mikhael. I would bring my friends over and they would try on the clothes and then they would bring their friends and then it just started. What could I do? People liked it.”
She spoke with a dramatic, remorseful tone as she looked around at the half a dozen people running about, asking for her help every few seconds.
What motivated you in the beginning?
“I want them to look good. Why is it that brands have to dictate what looks good or not? I love it when they start messing around and mixing items together and embracing their inner confidence. They look sexy and they finally know it. So what if they look weird or haughty, they should be proud to be themselves.”
Nowadays, Depot-vente Beirut has amassed a large amount of rare vintage items that are rented out to film and commercial sets.
How would you describe your customers?
“They are like my kids. They make the shop, and they make the style. I am just a shop owner, but they are the fire behind Depot-vente Beirut and every time I look at their photos, I become inspired to open the store the next day. This generation is different. They love with all their hearts and have no biases. They accept others and each other. I couldn’t have done this 30 years ago, people were too full of themselves.”
She answered as she jumped from one person to another helping them decide which items would look good on them. It was like watching a light show. My eyes followed her every move and watched as she gave kind words of encouragement, instilling confidence in people made nervous by the world in which they live.
What’s your process?
“I will show you.”
The very next day, Akl invited me to her HOME in the northern area of Kfarhbab. The house was a physical representation of Akl! All sorts of rooms were filled with different types of clothing organized in bags, folded on beds and shelves, hung from hangers in closets.
In the back of her house were three rooms where the cleaning, mending and sorting of the clothes took place. Her claim of cleanliness stood proven by the amount of time and effort she put into renovating and cleaning the vintage items she collects.
“This generation is different. I couldn’t have done this 30 years ago, people were too full of themselves.”
A conversation with the stylists:
Describe Akl in one word.
“A mother,” answers the elegantly fabulous Mario Ghrayib, who values the “sense of belonging to the place where people come as clients and depart as family.”
“Fireworks,” says Claudia Khachan, known online by her Instagram handle as @SmashingNeedles, who values the sense of “positively obligated selfexpression found at Depot-vente Beirut.”
Why is Depot-vente Beirut important to you?
“It is important because it gives people the chance to discover their own style with pieces of clothing,” states Ghrayib. People were walking in and out, discovering items that they would put on and receive such a boost of confidence that most would walk out wearing the outfit.
“It is filled with unique clothing, unique people and unique vibes. It is full of life and emotions. It truly is a family,” explains Khachan. Every weekend Akl opens up shop to her regulars passing by to say hello, grab a coffee and help out. No customer stays just a customer for too long.
Looking to the future:
As the interview came to an end, I asked the electrical personality that Akl has become known for what she had in plan for the future.
“I don’t know. Every now and then I think about stopping but then I see people use the things I have collected to look good and forget about that idea.”
So, what’s your goal?
“To retire,” she sighed to the sound of her customers laughing. She then rolled her eyes and stood up to help her shop kids with the smile of a loving mother.
When I left Depot-vente Beirut that night, I witnessed people enter and exit with the ease of a child going in and out the front door of their own HOME.
For more info: https://www.instagram.com/depotventebeirut