Hands Up: Elie Saab

July 6, 2022

The hand creating haloes

Two hours of electricity per day. What does it mean to supervise a collection of haute couture in a country whose economic health has collapsed; where public services, from health to education, no longer respond? The voice is soft, the gesture assured. She caresses the dresses as if they were embroidered waves, misty butterflies flying away in the warm air of a late afternoon. There, a sheath dress made with 300,000 organza petals sewn one-by-one in three layers suggests the night that is coming, this golden hour turned into a dress with 60,000 embroidered sequins.

Courtesy of Laurence Benaïm

The spidery sparkles, the splashes of crystalline beads, again sewn one-by-one (rather than delivered in rolls); such high standards obey this maxim: “Even if the context becomes harsh, in order to move forward, we must continue to dream. The most important thing is to work for this beauty, with joy”. For Pia Salem, who has worked alongside Elie Saab for 17 years, the requirement is first and foremost a tactile story. Daughter of tanners born in Beirut – the hand descending from hands – she is director of haute couture collections and wedding dresses. This is his first interview: “The embroidery must be rich, elegant, and soft, to give the impression that the woman who wears the dress is almost haloed. She explains: “We try to play on the contrast between the shiny and the matte, to integrate several techniques within an embroidery, like the braiding of velvet. We can spend eight months developing this one.” Under the sequins as under the scales of organza, the silk tulle is invisible… The model puts on the dress, the sun melts into the water, a rose gold twilight on the Mediterranean.

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