Designer spotlight: Interview with Rabih Kayrouz, the Lebanese designer you need to know
Getting down to details
When was the last time your heart skipped a beat upon first glimpse of an outfit? Just like art, an aspect that sets great designers apart from the rest are the emotions they're capable of igniting. With the sweep of a beautifully draped gown and billow of divinely pleated trousers, this Lebanon-born and Paris-based designer captivates his audience.
Having schooled at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and trained in the ateliers of Christian Dior, Rabih Kayrouz's artful ruching seems almost demi-couture — that, and his painstaking attention to detail that escapes many a ready-to-wear collection these days. Unfazed by fashion's recent uprising of streetwear on the runways, the unyielding classicist speaks to Buro about how people — not trends — inspire him, and the lack of emotion in our day and age.
Tell us about how you developed an interest in clothing design, and the journey towards launching your own label.
I grew up in a small village in the mountains and had loving parents and a doting grandmother. In my family, we always found an occasion to wear our Sunday best, hence my interest and love for clothes. I am attracted by well dressed people be it in real life or in films — beauty and authenticity grew my love for elegance.
When I discovered Paris at a very young age, it was love at first sight. I adopted it as my own and felt at home straight away. My studies were fascinating; making clothes had finally become tangible. In 1992, I came back to Beirut and it was an era of creativity and rebirth — it drives you to go forward. When some friends asked me to design their wedding dresses, I didn't need much convincing — their trust encouraged me to progress and it was just a matter of time before I started my first ready-to-wear collection.
Having lived in both Lebanon and Paris, how have these two places influenced your work?
Beirut is unpredictable and chaotic and Paris is disciplined and professional. Totally contradictory. This contrast pushes me all the time. One just doesn't get bored!
Do you have a muse? The woman that you design for — what is she like?
I am inspired by a woman's attitude: Strong, confident and intelligent. She's smart enough to show her weaknesses which I simply see as contrasts. I am in love with this woman even though I don't know her, what she looks like, or what her dreams are. But, I want to please her and make her feel confident.
What is the message you look to convey to women with your designs?
I like purity, and I like to tell stories with few words. Clothes are like spaces and women have to inhabit them and live in them as she pleases. Fashion and trends are boring, but people are inspiring. I like to believe that my clothes are as pure and essential as uniforms. It's all about the cut as well. Ultimately, my dream is to convey the happiness I had while creating my designs.
Today, we are definitely surrounded by many objects. There is a visual pollution and a consumerism that didn't exist before. There are less emotions. Few things move us.
What do you think is a woman's most underrated asset?
Being at once soft, and yet so tough.
Your ready-to-wear designs recall the elegance of couture creations. Do you see it as an in between?
I prefer to call it collections. My obsession is to make beautiful clothes that a lady wears with pleasure.
Has your time at Christian Dior Couture impacted the way you approach ready-to-wear?
It must have; my ready-to-wear is rigorous and pure, yet complex. One musn't forget that they [Christian Dior Couture] are masters of their field, and they gave me the best technical training one can have.
Being a designer that's less influenced by trends, do you think we're consuming more than we should through fast fashion?
Today, we are definitely surrounded by many objects. There is visual pollution and consumerism that didn't exist before. There are less emotions. Few things move us. We need to concentrate on things that have substance that'll move you.
What do you think makes a woman sexy?
Her effort in trying not to be.