It’s easy to lose hope in a time where the fashion industry is at fault with even more contradictions than ever, following two years of revelations and promises to rewrite an outdated system. But then there’s Eric Ritter, a French-Lebanese pioneer in the ethical fashion industry in the Middle East who, instead of contemplating what a sustainable world can look like, makes it his actual life’s work.
Eric launched Emergency Room in 2018, creating a label that focuses on unique up-cycled pieces, and is dedicated to the development of ethical and environmentally-friendly production processes. Born in Beirut but made in Tripoli, the label sources its fabric, dead stock, and second hand materials from the souks that dictate each collection. The market in the largest city in northern Lebanon is the source of everything Emergency Room, where the team scours for locally available items before considering importing anything from abroad.
Miilkiina met Eric in Beirut before the collection came into fruition, and his team captured the making of the 35 looks behind Neverland. We get intimate with the founder for an exclusive guide into his process, and a deep-dive of his first live runway show in Dubai.
The show, which took place in Dubai Design District as part of Arab Fashion Week was narrated by the designer himself. Eric spoke to the audience about the brand’s story, what they’ve been going through in Lebanon, and how the collection came about. “You see this top? It’s made out of old printed t-shirts. And the pants with it? Yeah, those are printed bedsheets,” explains Eric.
He referenced the last few years for his country, which have been a turbulent period as it witnesses one of its worst economic crises in its history, resisting government corruption, and rebuilding from a devastating explosion that rocked the capital in August 2020. Today priorities have shifted, and daily life is a form of survival mode. Yet despite a loss of control, creatives are still working to preserve the creative community they’ve worked so hard to build, whether it’s within Lebanon or abroad. Through countless exchanges with our Lebanese community, it’s been expressed that creativity is imperative, even in crisis.
Many of the models who walked the show were those who left the country, that Eric decided to reunite on the runway. “Through this collection we aimed to capture the essence and the energy of any conversation that was happening in Beirut at the moment. The socio-economic crisis, the truly slow post-pandemic remission, and most importantly, the deafening “Should-I-Stay-Or-Should-I-Go?” inhabiting the minds of every Lebanese. As a matter of fact, most of our friends actually ended up leaving, a lot of them are actually sitting here among you- but we stayed there,” explains Eric.
It was as personal as it could get, an experience that invited you to be part of something. Which in today’s purpose-driven fashion landscape, should be the point.
As the show came to a close, the designer took his final bow with his back to the public. A bold printed t-shirt read in Arabic, “Existence is Resistance”. His message is more than just personal. It is a definitive reminder that history is as much defined by the actions individuals take as a response to injustice as anything else.