Raised in Beirut and trained in Paris, Rabih Kayrouz elevates eastern aesthetics with the precision of French tailoring. Rabih talks to us about his love for simple, elegant and poetic designs over a delicious Lebanese lunch.
RK: I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was 12. I never thought why, I just wanted to and this attitude applies to everything I do. Everything happens in an organic way for me. At the age of 17, I decided to come to Paris to study fashion design. I was very fortunate to have such supportive parents. At that time, for a family who ran a bakery business, it was a very brave thing to encourage their son to pursue his design dreams.
RK: Now I can’t see myself anywhere else but Paris, though Beirut remains my origin and my family. In 1995, I finished my studies and went back to Beirut. In 1997, I established my fashion/ couture company. It was the time when Beirut began to emerge and recover from the civil war. There was a beautiful energy of creativity, many people like me returned from Paris, architects, artists, designers, we formed a beautiful community.
RK: Since the very beginning of my career, I've been obsessed with doing simple design. My philosophy is to respect the woman’s body. Not to embellish, that’s my way to talk about the oriental aesthetics, which is about the luxury way of living, playing and using all our senses; to see, touch, smell, etc. The whole “gold dripping” approach to me is a bad interpretation of luxury. When you have beautiful skin, you don't need to put on make-up.
RK: I love the way a woman moves in her abaya or kimono. It’s about how the clothes sit on your shoulders. In my language, we have a saying “she has shoulders” meaning “she has elegance”. Clothes hang differently on different women. Women give life to the clothes, and in return, the clothes should give freedom and a sense of security to women.
RK: I would describe my way of cutting as to “envelope” the body, to embrace the woman body. I only use the best materials, mostly natural fabrics like linens, cottons and silks. But I also use the best polyester, which is made in japan, because sometimes, the best polyester is better than mediocre silks. Doesn't matter what fabric it is, it has to be well woven with the right weight. Because I like simple shapes and designs, it’s important to use the best fabrics, because you can’t hide. All the clothes are made here in my atelier in Paris.
RK: I do four collections a year, two main collections: fall/winter and spring’ summer” and I see the two collections in between as “preludes” of the two main collections. I also do private couture, meaning, clients come to me and have meetings, I will then design unique pieces for them exclusively. To me, that’s proper luxury.
Interview by Lucienne Leung-Davies
Photography by Filep Motwary