Inside Exil: A Lebanese Designer Hub Prioritizing Art Over Profit

Exil Collective is a brand that is redefining the way people in Lebanon and the Middle East think about design. The brand was established in 2021 and is based in Beirut. Exile’s primary objective is to use the talents of local artisans with the goal of becoming a sustainable and environmentally responsible business. Exile is also built on a set of rules that encourage designers to think about local feasibility and waste minimization.

Exile proudly manufactures all of its items in Lebanon, collaborating with talented manufacturers and artisans to create objects that are meant to be mass-produced and replicated.

Meet the Founders

Youssef Bassil (Co-Founder): After graduating from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts with a degree in product design, Bassil worked on a number of minor freelancing projects before joining the team of a well-known furniture designer in Lebanon. He is currently one of the top product designers at Exil.

“Being a designer in Lebanon, I believe, is a tremendous challenge but it also has its perks. And, to this day, the obstacles and advantages we have never completely exploited, making Lebanese design products inaccessible to the majority of people.”

Exil Collective.

Tatiana Akl (Co-Founder): Akl co-founded Exil collective with a bachelor’s degree in product design from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts and a master’s degree in fashion studies from Parson’s School of Design – The New School.

She is currently Exile’s top Creative Consultant.

“Lebanon is my inspiration, and I am convinced that the design profession in Beirut has a tremendous possibility to flourish. Beirut has always lifted the bar higher when it came to producing my own things, from drawing first designs to full-scale production.”

Exil Collective.

Kee by Karl Kargodorian & Sacha Samaha

Kee was created by product designer Karel Kargodorian who is able to expertly capture and analyze exquisite details. In addition, she was awarded a scholarship from House of Today on her second year and shows her passion for art by expressing her ideas using a number of ways.

Samaha, on the other hand, is a well-known designer who has always been inspired by her Lebanese identity and culture. She strives to develop unique ideas that reflect her cultural identity and is fascinated by design history.

via Exile

The plain appearance of tissue boxes inspired this side table. ‘Folded’ combines natural materials with simplicity and functionality, given that tissues can be folded and preserved. Kee is considered to be one of Exil’s best selling products this year.

via Exil

How was Exil born?

The idea was born during the Piasa Sale of Lebanese art and design in Paris when Akl met Bassil. The realization came to them when they were reviewing pieces from collections made several years ago by Lebanese designers that had not yet been sold.

As a result, both Akl and Bassil realized that the design scene in Lebanon could no longer continue if it solely focused on producing high-end products that are only accessible to less than one percent of the population. Thus, both decided that it was the right time to take a different approach and develop a design that would be affordable, creating a community of young creators that can gather around and produce unique objects that would be accessible to various people.

via Exil

The Exil Project

With the economic hardships Lebanon is going through, the Exil initiative strives to “help, inspire, and motivate the new generation of designers or even freshly graduates and final year students to continue to develop their concepts into products.”

The goal is to encourage young designers to learn more about the industry in their own country and the Middle Eastern region. A big component of the concept is connecting them with qualified workers and allowing them to seek assistance from the Exile committee board. The committee is made up of well-known designers who have influenced a generation.

It is apparent that Exil is a Lebanese brand that aims to bring together designers from all across the country to translate their creativity into inexpensive and symbolic expressions, transforming the design sector in the region.

WE SAID THIS: It makes us delighted to see companies prioritizing cost and affordability over luxury and profit! Make sure to also check out Destruction And Hope: Renowned Palestinian Chef Merges Art And Humanity For The Love Of Gaza