BY: HAL RUBENSTEIN
Elie Saab is never trying to be cool. He doesn’t design hot sneakers for an Instagram moment, nor does he add to his collection a gotta-have-it hoodie. Saab’s goal is far more obvious and far more satisfying because the Lebanese designer has always been driven by the belief that every woman is happiest when she looks spectacularly beautiful.
That’s why it’s no surprise if you spot stars like Angelina Jolie, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez or Beyoncé commanding all cameras on the red carpet, chances are she is wearing one of Saab’s unmistakably sensual, dazzling and often ethereal creations.
Not only do they fit like second skin they awaken a woman’s hidden reservoirs of confidence.
Best of all, clothes as eye-catching as Saab’s cry out for sparkling accessories. The man loves jewelry because it’s one more way to grab the spotlight.
INTERVIEW WITH ELIE SAAB
HR: In an era when many designers are creating clothes that downplay sensuality, Elie Saab holds firm to his standard of beauty. How do you see today’s woman?
ES: Women have never been more confident and feminine, which is why I now feel more inspired by women regardless of either their age or origin. What matters most is a woman’s character, and the outfit she wears should reflect her spirit and the appropriate event she is dressing for.
HR: What sets you apart from other designers?
ES: I don’t look over my shoulder. I trust in my own style and that always begins with working around a woman’s body making sure that the right cut underlines her curves and highlights her femininity. Today I would say my signature silhouette is a combination of elegance and glamour.
HR: Gabriel & Co.’s owners and designers are also proudly Lebanese. In what ways does your Middle Eastern heritage influence your work?
ES: We share a rich culture with respect for an extensive history of extraordinary design. Living in Beirut has been a great asset and an inspiration for me. I think it is reflected in my choice of fabrics, opulent materials and my affinity for warm natural colors, whether it be sand or the vibrancy of gemstones.
HR: Is it harder or easier for you to work with Beirut as your home base than it might be in Paris or New York?
ES: I have never been tempted to move away from Beirut. For me, my choice to stay in the country I love has been one of my greatest advantages because all design should be rooted in emotion and a desire to be part of something special, and I wouldn’t feel as strongly if I lived elsewhere. I travel all the time, but my main operations stays in Beirut.
HR: Though fashion is now global, are there still preferences for different styles in different parts of the world?
ES: Above all, every woman wants to be beautiful; this is the only universal language.
Real style is extremely personal which means it would be wise not to go too far with the sophistication. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes quirkiness is perfect. Your clothing and jewelry style should show you off as unique, like the subtleness of Gabriel pieces.- Elie Saab
HR: What excites you about fashion today? And what worries you?
ES: I am fascinated by the way the Couture is developing. I don’t agree with the current pessimism that Haute Couture is on its way out. I believe that Haute Couture will always exist, in some form or another, evolving and adapting itself to women’s changing lifestyles. I am for A Haute Couture that is modern and offers the woman of today a flexible service, catering to her every need.
HR: What does “glamour” mean today and is it harder to achieve in a world where every venue seems to be more casual?
ES: Glamour combines femininity and elegance. To do that you must never hide a woman’s figure. Today’s casual style is looser with more volume, but a dress must both reflect a woman’s mood, and celebrate her body no matter how casual the style.
HR: Halle Berry, Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie and Beyonce are just a few stars regularly choosing your gowns for the red carpet. How has that carpet changed over the years?
ES: I’ve always considered the red carpet a highly effective and influential catwalk, since real women can picture themselves more easily in a dress worn by a celebrity than a model. What’s even better is that not only have red carpet events increased, but they are filled with a new generation of young actresses and celebrities. Seeing them in my clothes is very exciting.
HR: Naturally, we have accessorized your beautiful clothes with Gabriel jewelry for this photo shoot. Why is jewelry such an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe?
ES: Jewelry can change a look, but when it’s most effective and used wisely, it enhances the dream. Jewelry should act like individual spotlights, highlighting you at your best.
HR: When you accessorize your collection, what kind of jewelry do you think works best for your clothes?
ES: You should always maintain a balance. When the dress is rich and highly embellished then I’ll keep the jewelry simple and understated. But when the dress is simple or has clean lines, then I can play with jewelry. I especially like pearls, a statement diamond necklace or striking earrings to create some drama.
HR: Bridal is an important part of your business as it is with Gabriel. How is today’s bride different than brides of a decade ago?
ES: In every aspect: clothing, jewelry, shoes, flowers, etc. Today’s bride has the ability to choose from a vast selection of styles, shapes, and colors according to her personality and character. In my view, her wedding dress and what she wears with it should set the standard for her. She should appear at the height of her femininity, refinement, and grace.
HR: What are five rules you believe woman should follow when it comes to finding their own style?
ES: I don’t think you need that many. What is essential is for a woman to create her own identity that is true to her character. Real style is extremely personal which means it would be wise not to go too far with the sophistication. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes quirkiness is perfect. Your clothing and jewelry style should show you off as unique, like the subtleness of Gabriel pieces.