Lebanese designer removes bag made from explosion debris after backlash
A Lebanese accessories brand has come under fire after selling a "Silo" bag made from glass from the 4 August Beirut port blast, forcing it to remove the collection from its website.
The brand, Vanina, which sells handcrafted bags and accessories made in Lebanon, was criticised online, with many claiming that it was an inappropriate way to pay tribute to those impacted by the devastating blast.
"The Silo Bag", as it was named, was part of a collection called "The Light of Beirut", and was intended to pay tribute to the Lebanese captial, which was left reeling by the massive explosion four months ago that killed at least 204 people and left much of the city destroyed.
“Handcrafted with the glass shattered by the 4th of August explosion, this shimmering clutch stands still like the iconic Silos of the port of Beirut that it reminisces,” the description on the website read.
The bag is white and has grooves running down its sides, resembling the grain silo that stood next to the blast site.
The explosion, which also wounded over 6,500 people and left around 300,000 displaced, was caused by a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate which had been stored at a warehouse for over six years.
The highly explosive fertiliser, which was stored without safeguards, was ignited by a fire nearby.
Many social media users shared images of the bag online, condemning it as distasteful.
Though 25 percent of each sale was earmarked for the Beirut Heritage Initiative, a committee attempting to recover and restore the city's damaged heritage, some said that didn't make up for the hundreds made by the company for each bag.
The bag was being sold for $550, which many said was an extortionate price.
Following the backlash, Vanina removed the bag from its website.
In a statement posted on Instagram, the brand apologised and said it had decided to discontinue selling it.
“We heard you. Our intention with The Light of Beirut was to send a message of hope," it said.
"We feel that it has hurt some of you and are sorry if our message was misperceived. We have decided to pull the collection. We send you all love and strength.”
Social media users said the product was “exploitative” and “shameful”.
Earlier this year, the announcement of a new drama series about the Beirut port blast was condemned as insensitive and unprofessional, as people still recover from the explosion.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has repeatedly called for accountability and further investigation into the blast, which has left many homeless even months later.
After four months, no one has been held accountable for the disaster.
Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at HRW, said in a statement that a credible investigation needed to be carried out.
“Only an independent, international investigation will uncover the truth about the blast. The International Support Group for Lebanon should not play along with the Lebanese authorities’ pretence that they are able to conduct their own credible investigation,” she said.
According to HRW, the Lebanese investigation’s lack of independence and transparency has led to a loss of public faith in the process, prompting many victims and their families to call for an international inquiry.