The Slow is owned by Lebanese architect Sari Kassouf. It is a minimalist sanctuary that consists of a clean-eating café, flexible workspaces and a carefully selected retail offering. The Slow has carried Saint d’Ici’s perfumes since its opening in 2019. We chatted to Sari to find out what led him to create this beautiful space.
“The Slow is the product of years of travelling and a progressive awakening to living in a more ecologically conscious and sustainable way. The Scandinavian ideal of finding inherent meaning and quality in the products we surround ourselves with was particularly influential. The cultures of the Far East also shifted my consciousness towards being responsible for the impact that I have on the planet.”
Sari wanted to bring together a selection of the most meaningful products he had encountered during his travels into a space that would serve as an antidote to materialism and encourage patrons to slow down. He chose to refurbish an old corner café in the Mar Mikael neighborhood of Beirut.
“Mar Mikael is a melting pot of artists, poets, painters, designers, thinkers, and other creatives, who have all either found a home or set up shop here. It’s a truly special neighborhood, which lends itself to being discovered by getting lost in its narrow streets and tiny alleyways.”
Sari was careful to retain the vernacular of the area and the memories of the previous café in the process.
“We were very conscious of the fact that this is an old building situated in an old neighborhood, which was and still is inhabited and shared by people from all walks of life. We tried to preserve this rich history. A lot of the structural elements still remain and in places left some walls bare with traces of the café’s past life. On the whole we decided to create a very simple space where the furniture would tell the story.”
The interior was designed in collaboration with Copenhagen-based Frama.
“In keeping with the philosophy of the brand, we did not want to over design and end up with something overly-sophisticated, because this would have defeated the whole purpose. We wanted something simple and minimal, which could at the same time be surprising and inviting.”
We asked Sari what led him to choose Saint d’Ici’s fragrances to sit in this beautiful space:
“First, I was really fascinated with the idea of a perfume that is made entirely from botanical ingredients and that produced in limited quantities. The fact that the perfumer was of Lebanese heritage definitely added to the allure of the story. I loved the philosophy behind it and felt that it perfectly aligned with that of the slow. I can’t really describe why I chose them — there was something intoxicating about them, I felt really drawn to the smell. To me it’s a feeling that goes well beyond words.”
Lebanon brings up so many strong scent memories for me. I often wish I could travel there with my organ to blend, as there’s something in the air that seems to amp smells up. It is also a country with a very strong olfactory tradition and one of the biggest consumers of perfumes per capita. I asked Sari which smells define home for him:
“For me, two smells give this place a particular intrigue. The first is the smell of the orange blossom, which this neighborhood had a lot of back in its heyday. This is the smell of the everyday, in a way, which reminds us to stop for a little and bask in the present moment. The second smell is that of the cedar, which transcends over 5,000 years of history. It’s a smell that has intoxicated the conquerors over the years and reminded the inhabitants of the land of their true essence: magnificent, mythical, eternal. Very much like the tree itself.”
The Slow reopens on the 25th of May.