A Conversation with Rabih Kayrouz

July 4, 2022

The Marvelous Exploration of Rabih Kayrouz

The pervasive sense of serenity underpinning Rabih Kayrouz’s latest Haute Couture collection reflects his ability to weigh the moment. Utterly emotive, yet a self-described logical thinker, the Lebanese designer’s deliberate approach to haute couture has a reassuring effect that allays fear about the tumult of the times. Approaching rarified craftsmanship with the cool simplicity of ready-to-wear, the uncomplicated nature of his clothing – albeit with occasional deference to voluptuous proportions – follows a few simple principles such as clean lines, flowing silhouettes, and comforting colours.

Fall Winter 2022 is a continuation of what one has come to know of the designer. Speaking about functionality and ease, he renders the collection in a sweet and soft neutral palette, with dashes of sunshine and glimmers of metallic. Sinuous lines take a cue from ribbons – yes, even the inspiration is as simple as the output. Even the effortlessly elegant evening gowns, volumes skimming the frame or generously cocooning the body, possess a straightforward appeal that knowing couture customers value dearly.

“I wanted to, as I always do in my work, explore the world that is between the practicality and the comfort of the ready-to-wear with the dream and the emotion of the couture”,  said Kayrouz over the phone from Paris where he was already receiving eager clients at his showroom ahead of his digital presentation

Courtesy of Rabih Kayrouz

Would you consider yourself an explorer?
I’m a curious person. I’m always happy to discover places. That’s something that I cherish; then I like to explore by trying different things. Life is boring if we’re not reinventing things. The minute we stop working towards what we don’t know, we end our life. This whole life is all about exploration. We’re really lucky to live in this world where there are lots of things to explore as well; in terms of technicalities, in terms of reinventing the way of doing things. Suddenly, we always have new materials and new possibilities so it’s quite interesting. We are lucky to live in a place where everything is available for exploration.

How do you approach the world of haute couture?
The world of couture is unlimited exploration because it’s about human beings. It’s about emotion and handcraft. Our emotions can go far, our skills can go far, and our hands can make marvels. It’s a super beautiful exploration to see how we can go further each time. What’s really great about couture is that we can explore different materials. There are no limits because we are not limited by time and not limited by budget. It’s quite beautiful and I’m lucky to be able to work in this field.

What kind of exploring do you undertake before starting a new collection?
Every collection is a certain state of mind. I don’t start with a mood board. I hate moods. Design is not about a mood. Design is about thinking and it’s totally different because the mood is punctual. The mood can change. In my work, it’s not about changing but about thinking. I try to find where we are this season: if something is happening around us, something happening around the world. What’s good in fashion is that it is a mirror of society; we react to what is around us. If we are in a big crisis, we want to dream, so then the fashion will follow our dreams. Or else we will want something stable. What I wanted to do is to have a mixture of a world which we will dream of, where we want an escape; and at the same time, I wanted the clothes to be very functional, not something unwearable. The skills and the techniques are quite artisanal and time-consuming and the forms are quite,  I wouldn’t say normal, but a little addition to the ordinary.

Did anything surprise you in the making of this collection?
It’s an exploration. If you get to a tunnel then you’re not expecting that you will find something, and then you break a wall and you will just find the beautiful treasure. When we decide on our form, I explore it with the patternmaker and then a drawing can take us elsewhere. When we see it, it’s a beautiful surprise. There are nice surprises when we get to the fabrics because some fabrics react completely differently from what we thought. I’m always amazed like a child. Although I’ve been working for almost 25  years, I’m always amazed when I see something that I drew, in the volume of muslin, and then when I see it in the fabric. 

What components define this collection?
This season I worked on a recycled plastic that we used in some knits and we made lace with this material – a beautiful lace made with recycled plastic. Functionality was something very important: I never want my clothes to look like a gizmo, costume, or masquerade dress. [These are]  things that you can wear all the time. I wanted to keep this functionality in every piece and I wanted everything to look very fluid. 

Courtesy of Rabih Kayrouz
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