Domtex, for Domestic Textiles and the love of fabrics

The Domtex building, built between 1947 and 1948 by Édouard Asseily with architect Umberto Turati, remains a symbolic site of Beirut’s golden age. Located at the intersection of rue Hamra and rue Abdelaziz, you can just see it, decorated with its pink color that comes to break the gray of this road that has become even more nostalgic.

The brand’s story began in 1962, when Charlotte Bekhazi Asseily decided to add her personal touch to the family’s textile factory, already making terry and padded towels. Together with her husband Édouard Asseily and their son Georges, leading the business with their head and heart, this woman with character and taste decided to breathe more value into a classic product, which has been refined. or this fashion item. This is how he went on to design models of bath towels, bathrobes and slippers in bold colors and patterns, and opened a workshop and a sales room in the basement of his house, this building that has now been restored and that has been beaten for a long time to the rhythm of Hamra Street. “Lebanese avoid local products,” believes Tony Asseily, his one son, who worked long hours in finance before running the family business. We export to Arab countries and even London… My mother wanted to help, and that’s how the Domtex brand – a small Domestic Textiles – flew, in Lebanon and across the region. So far we have received orders from our customers in Arab countries, daughters and sons of former customers who want embroidered or personal towels and sheets with their name embroidered. »

Domtex in the iconic pink building on Hamra Street, built between 1947 and 1948 by architect Umberto Turati. Photo by Carla Henoud

In his office, like other management rooms, time seems to have stopped in Lebanon’s golden years. On the walls and shelves, photographs, trophies marking the achievements of the brand and the two brothers … In the workshops, a few floors below, the workers – some have been there since the beginning and continue their work patiently. , like bees in their houses. And the store, which has a storefront (like the Sodeco branch, which survived the war), still offers its products in a state that is constantly updated. “During the 1960s, my mother organized mini -shows, presentations of our articles in our stores – the first of which in Hamra was decorated by Michel Harmouch – with models passing between the guest … ”True, the various crises he has had. knows Lebanon and the low-level blows inflicted on the industrial sector during and after the war boosted family growth and efforts. However, the company continues to work with about twenty families and make its classics. “At the industrial level, Lebanon, then and even now, has and still has a lot to offer. It is true that labor is much more expensive than in other areas, but it also has the knowledge that brings an increase in finished products. But to work in the industry, certain responsibilities, such as reliable supply of energy, water, or even specially developed industrial zones have the appropriate infrastructure to receive industries or train technicians or support. financially, fell to other countries.Unfortunately this is not the case in Lebanon where real estate and credit are expensive and the industrialist cannot rely on a reliable supply of electricity or water, and therefore has to invest himself funds to get it.good career in the City of London, became partner of British investment bank Schroders in Lebanon and the Middle East.

During the 1960s, Charlotte Asseily organized mini fashion shows in Domtex boutiques. DR’s photo

The adventure began in 1938

Always attached to the brand for important sentimental reasons, coupled with a kind of loyalty to the country, he says: “It all started in 1938, when my father and his family decided to build a cotton spinning factory.Before that, the family worked in the wholesale market, selling various seeds, raw cotton, coffee and other products.My grandfather and my great -uncles, Constantin and Nagib, began their work in the 19th century.Constantin and his wife Adèle, née Ferneiné, had three sons, Michel, Gabriel and Édouard.Constantin and Adèle left this world in a sad- on day in 1909. She died of a fever acquired at the time of getting pregnant, she was carried away by her emotions, unable to endure her beloved half.Nagib died a few years later, probably s a old age, passing the torch to his sons Alfred, Albert, William and Edmond. “The story goes that my father, his siblings and their cousins ​​sold everything, even their wedding rings, to build this factory! The machines were from the UK,” Asseily said. The War in World II exploded shortly after the factory opened, but that did not prevent success.The Asseily imported cotton from Egypt, circulated it in Lebanon, and exported it to countries in the region and in Pakistan.In the years after the end of the war, the activity of the factory progressed to weaving and dyeing yarn.The factory was built in Jdeidé, when this locality was still a large farm of lemon and orange trees, called National Cotton Spinning.Known for its non-bleached cotton fabrics, it became the largest oil-free company in the Middle East and had about 2,000 people.Recognizing its importance, Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of Presi dente Roosevelt, even visited the factory during his official visit to Lebanon in the 1950s. In the same decade, Édouard Asseily decided to open the cotton wool factory he had built in Chiyah. This factory would remain in operation until the outbreak of the Lebanon War in 1975.

Growing up his sons, Georges went to the University of Leeds, United Kingdom, where he earned a degree in textile engineering (specializing in synthetic fibers) then a postgraduate degree in economics from the London School of Economics . Tony attended Oxford University where he studied economics and then obtained a doctorate in economics from the University of London. “My brother Georges came back to Lebanon with ideas in his head. He started by modernizing the Chiyah factory and added to the production of terry cloth punched with needle blankets and carpets (non-woven) using for the first time Lebanese synthetic fiber, the courtelle ”, he said. .Cutters are equally lighter, but warmer, more practical and easier to hold than wool blankets and most of all less expensive.Carpets are stronger, washable and less expensive.Introduce Georges Asseily also provided fabric padding that would later be used to make Domtex’s bedspreads and anoraks. ”Our products, which are sold primarily for export, are somewhat avoided in the Lebanese market, which relies on many products from the West. That’s when my mother got involved and launched Domtex in 1962, giving shape to terry and padded fabrics, ”Tony Asseily continued.

The Domtex store is still on Hamra Street. Photo by Carla Henoud

The brand was a hit. Her padded dressing gowns and terry bathrobes have become a must for any woman who wants to follow fashion even in her bedroom and bathroom. The towels, made to order, are sold in the largest hotels in Beirut and the Gulf, and dressing gowns and abayas will still be sold at Harrods in London. Infected with the textile virus, Georges Asseily became, at the age of 36, president of the Association of Industrialists of Lebanon. A few months after the start of the Lebanese war, in October 1975, the Chiyah factory was deliberately burned by militiamen and 90% destroyed. Industrial activity has turned to ashes, but the family nonetheless continues to operate Domtex in a raw material that is unfortunately no longer produced in Lebanon, but from Asian and European countries, especially Turkey and Portugal. Just three years ago Tony Asseily succeeded his brother, who lived in London, and from his mother, who died in November 2011. Over time, Georges Asseily, who dreamed big for Lebanon, opened with his wife Alexandra the beautiful silk museum in Bsous. Tony and his wife Youmna have been making their own wine in Bordeaux for over fifteen years, the Château Biac, which has become famous all over the world, especially in the United States. But that’s another (beautiful) story …

The Domtex building, built between 1947 and 1948 by Édouard Asseily with architect Umberto Turati, remains a symbolic site of Beirut’s golden age. Located at the intersection of rue Hamra and rue Abdelaziz, you can just see it, decorated with its pink color that comes to break the gray of this road that has become even more nostalgic. The history of the brand began in 1962, …

Leave a Comment