A Woman with Purpose: Monette Chaya

A Woman with Purpose: Monette Chaya

Role models matter, particularly for women. They inspire, motivate and encourage other women to grow. Monette Chaya is one such role model we are proud to honor as a Woman with Purpose. She represents the idea that anything is possible by taking risks and following your own dreams.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Monette Chaya always had a love for fashion. It was not until the birth of her third child that she recognized her professional aspirations beyond raising her children. In 1969 she opened Patchwork, a multi brand fashion store. Monette was one of the first women in Beirut to have her own boutique, during a time when most women were not working. She quickly had the most coveted French, Italian and American designers by her side.

The Lebanon civil war in 1975 forced her and her family to emigrate to Montreal, Canada. Despite being in a foreign country, Monette quickly stand on her own feet again and built up a successful boutique before returning to Beirut in 1994. Today, she still dresses the most elegant ladies in Lebanon and across the Arab countries. Monette shares how she remains hopeful and confident in challenging times, as well as insights on her very own role model who inspired her to chase her dream.

- What are you working on at the moment?

I am busy restructuring myself and reviewing my projects. I have 19 employees and am still paying salaries, rents, taxes. Unfortunately, the boutique is closed 90% of the time since the collapse of our banking systems last year and the funds to pay for our merchandise have been blocked. The blast in August 2020 made it even worse. We never faced such a situation before. But there are glimpses of hope.

- Where do you find hope in these challenging times while rebuilding your own business and the city?

I find hope and strength in my family who always stood behind me and believed in me. And I am very lucky to be surrounded by great friends; Vitamin F (Family & Friends) is very precious.

Being a positive person, I always keep hoping and trying to help people around me to regain their smile and believe in the future. I feel it is my duty to help rebuild my country and my own business. And when I see the courage and commitment of young people, who left their universities and schools to clean the broken glasses and stones, to help the poor and elderly people, I know, we all have to take our part in this movement, we just cannot stop.

- Resilience is printed in the Lebanese DNA. Could you describe it in your own words? And what can we all learn from it?

Life has always been a struggle in my country. We had no other choice. Lebanese are survivors. I cannot remember one year passing normally since the beginning of the civil war in 1975. But what I learned in all these years is that collaboration, loyalty and empathy are the most essential qualities in human relationships and society.

- Your proudest achievement?

I am quite proud of having been the 1st women member of the Chamber of Commerce in Lebanon. I was among the very few women, at that time, especially in our region of the world, who was working, was independent, traveled and assumed responsibilities. Regardless of the civil war, I managed to build up my business and open eight stores.

- Did you have any role models that encouraged and guided you on your way?

I just always followed the example of my grandmother who was the first woman to travel alone to New York in 1879. She opened a boutique in Brooklyn without speaking a single word of English. She was fearless.

- If you could share a message with your younger self, what would you say?

Have no regrets, always fulfill your dreams. Have faith in yourself. Be daring, entrepreneurial, and don’t be afraid of failure. You do not have to be too hard on yourself. My life should encourage other women to follow their hearts as I have done with fashion. I was not supposed to work in fashion, but fashion is in my DNA.

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