Updated: Feb 12, 2020
Lebanese designer Elie Saab captures movement in his latest Autumn/Winter collection.
Words: Rini Mukkath
Born in 1964 in Damour, Lebanon, Elie Saab is a self-taught talent. His interest in dressmaking started at the age of nine, when he started designing dresses for his sisters. Soon, he was selling his designs to women in his neighborhood, while still a teenager. In 1982, he opened his first couture atelier in Beirut, managing over a dozen employees, having already mastered the art of dressmaking and its know-how.
The same year, he presented his first show at the Casino du Liban. The young women in the audience were immediately won over, and his reputation for designing extremely feminine and elegant dresses was established. Word spread internationally of this talented young designer, and his client base grew to include members of high society.
Saab continued to develop his fashion standing internationally, by beginning to dress celebrities for red-carpet events. In 1997, Saab was invited to take part in the prestigious Camera Nazionale della Moda —the only non-Italian designer to do so. He continued to show couture collections in Rome for three consecutive years.
The next year, Saab presented his first ready-to-wear collection, at the Milan Fashion Week. Not only was it very well received but was also bought by luxury multi-brand stores around the world, notably in Paris, London, Madrid, Moscow, Los Angeles and Hong Kong.
In 1999, when HRH Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan chose to be dressed in an Elie Saab creation for her Coronation ceremony, his place in the fashion world was cemented. Saab also presented his first haute couture collection in Paris before being invited as a Membre Invité by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in 2002. Every year thereafter he continued to present two couture collections a year in Paris.
In March 2002, Saab was again the couturier of choice when Halle Berry wore one of his designs to receive the Oscar for Best Actress – the first African American actress to have done so - for her performance in Monster’s Ball. The same year, Saab opened his first couture salon in Paris’s prestigious eighth arrondissement, responding to a strong demand from his cosmopolitan and international clientele.
In September 2003, the President of the Lebanese Republic awarded Elie Saab the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Cèdre, as a tribute to his work and creative contributions. In November 2006, Elie Saab was integrated into the Chambre Syndicale’s official Haute Couture calendar, as Membre Correspondant.
Earlier this year, Saab, settled on a new course and expanded the brand’s reach by opening its first US flagship store in New York. This brand new 225sq.m2 store in New York City spreads across two floors on 860 Madison Avenue. The brand makes the natural first step towards growing the business beyond Haute Couture in the North American market, as the Madison Avenue flagship hosts a diversified product selection, featuring ready-to-wear, and a vast and refined collection of accessories.
Take a look at Saab’s Ready-to-Wear Autumn Winter 2017-2018, which he presented at the Grand Palais, and you begin to see how movement is a major theme for the collection. The collection was inspired by Giselle, one of ballet’s most iconic scores. In fact, the collection is pure poetry in motion, and tells the tale of human love crossing into the supernatural realm. An ethereal lightness uplifts form, mood, and movement amid a seasonal return to dark romanticism.
Fabrics such as tulle, organza and silk chiffon add an intoxicating delicacy to the collection; while lace, feathers and embroidered velvet add a textural sensual blend of innocence and melancholy. Light layering abounds. A shadow of mystery stretches across the collection with diaphanous silhouettes for day and night. Mini-dresses are graceful, energetic compositions of clean cuts and gathered volumes in step with Saab’s design repertoire.
Coats and capes – tailored yet dramatic – take flight in movement while pyjama-cut pants, skinny leggings as well as jackets and blazers enter the scène with perfect ease. The lily flower appears on chiffon, guipure, quilted leather and as ultra-light embroidery. Symbolizing the souls of the departed, the lily flower is emblematic of Giselle’s tragic, otherworldly tale of youth, beauty and sentiment.
Muted and cool, as if illuminated by moonlight, the season’s colour palette includes earthen opera and blue abyss. Hues of dawn, soft lily and whisper-light sugar, as if from a maiden’s blushing cheek, are contoured by whisks of midnight black. Accessories are a changing, textural scenography of laser-cut lily motifs, gold studs, Swarovski brilliance and contrasts of suede and fur. Bags such as Le 31 appear animated in theatrical variations, dotted with pearls like drops of morning dew. In a well-tempered choreography between form and freedom, an encompassing darkness and an evanescent light, the mood of the winter season is poetry in motion.