BY HAL RUBENSTEIN
“The Lebanese people are always looking forward, we live for tomorrow and plan for everything to be better and more beautiful, a shared mindset that rings true for Gabriel & Co.” - Elie Saab
I have known Elie Saab since he began sharing his distinct eye for glamour and gift for design almost two decades ago. Never one for strong self-promotion or spotlight seeking, Saab preferred to let his work be his calling card.
The one dress that did turn him into a hot ticket, was seen at the Academy Awards in 2002, Halle Berry startled the world, by not only becoming the first woman of color to win Best Actress, but by spectacularly upstaging every woman in attendance in a daring, and deliriously sexy Saab gown that featured a sheer illusion bodice with strategically placed floral embroidery atop a sumptuous burgundy satin skirt. To this day, when you think of Berry, it is the first dress that pops into your mind.
Almost instantaneously, Saab became a red-carpet favorite with stars as diverse as Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, Elie Fanning, Katy Perry, Emma Stone. Yet, despite his obsession with lush romanticism, Saab has remained soft spoken and humble about the adoration his clothes have received. He will tell you over and over again, that though his design aesthetic has evolved, his mission remains the same as when he started – Saab just want to see women look drop dead gorgeous.
Though his design aesthetic has evolved, his mission remains the same as when he started – Saab just wants to see women look drop dead gorgeous." – Hal Rubenstein
For a designer who views the world through this singularly uplifting lens, 2020 was a traumatic assault on Elie Saab’s celebration of beauty. Besides the global pandemic that we all had to endure, the Lebanese born based couturier saw both his home and atelier destroyed in the devastating chemical blast that killed hundreds and injured thousands in Beirut last August. It is a testament to his passion, skill and heritage that Saab had his workrooms up and running within two weeks of the tragedy, creating the spring collection that we are proud to have photographed that Saab characterized as “a new dawn.”
The Gabriel family emphatically agrees with Ellie Saab who quoted that “The Lebanese people are always looking forward, we live for tomorrow and plan for everything to be better and more beautiful.” a shared mindset that rings true for Gabriel & Co.
Making good on his word, Saab has discarded much of the beading and embroidery that has been his signature to focus on bold, bright, uplifting color in simpler more fluid shapes that contour to the body as a woman moves, making Gabriel’s new focus on more ergonomic, lighter and easier to layer jewelry a great match.
We had such a wonderful time pairing our pieces with this new collection because it offers a fresh way forward, allowing jewelry to become an integral part of a wardrobe rather than using clothes merely as a frame for a series of standout pieces.
As enhancing as the sparklers are that we used in this photo shoot, you can imagine reworking them with almost any piece in your closet, be it elegant or casual, day or night wear. Saab is determined in his belief that beauty makes life better. For all he has gone through, for all we have all gone through, if Elie Saab can create more beauty and desire, so can we.
HR: It’s obvious from your collection that you still believe in the power and magic of dressing up. What are your rules for keeping elegance modern and fresh?
ES: This collection is a kind of a new beginning. After one year of living at home, without seeing our families and friends, this collection “Hymne à la vie » is a glimmer of hope. I designed it thinking of people who want to see each other again, to go out, to start living again.
HR: This season you put a very strong emphasis on bold, intense color. Why did that choice seem right for now?
ES: The collection is inspired by the renewing power of re-emergence and speaks to a femininity that is soft and organic yet, at the same time, daring and adventurous. For Summer 2021 collection, I want to offer a touch of joy by using intense colors. I think joy is what we need this summer.
HR: You have been an arbiter of glamour for almost four decades? What sustains your drive and creativity?
ES: I always say that above all, I design clothes to be worn. I am very much inspired by the women and their experiences I see evolving around me. I need to understand what women are looking for in term of fashion and silhouettes that can be worn from morning to evening, and how best they can use our ELIE SAAB products (perfumes, watches, accessories, etc.). My greatest goal is to make women feel feminine and elegant.
HR: How has your perspective on style and beauty evolved over the years? What do you believe women want right now?
ES: A designer has to constantly adapt to the period we are living in. For me, style remains the same, but a woman’s needs, the way she lives, and her concerns are not the same from one time to another. My perspective of beauty is also constant, because I believe a woman, whatever her age or taste always wants to appear timeless and beautiful. Her closet should always reflect her mood and her personality, but she must feel comfortable and confident in their clothes. You can easily tell if a woman is confident about the way she dresses.
“The most important is to create your own identity, remember that style is extremely personal. As I said, I think the right one should respect your character. The only advice I could give is not overdo sophistication. Sometime less is more.” – Elie Saab
HR: Do you think the carpet will return in the same manner or will it somehow be different?
ES: At the end, it is the celebrity who decides to wear ELIE SAAB on the red carpet; she is the one who takes the final decision depending on how she feels while wearing my creation. I hope red carpets will slowly return to the way it was before the pandemic, but we still have to wait and see how things evolve. We all miss the glamours and the ambiance of red carpets but so far, it is not the same anymore. I remain positive; some important events are already confirmed for the year. It gives motive for the future.
HR: What’s are the key factors a woman should consider when investing in clothes for an important occasion?
ES: The most important is to create your own identity, remember that style is extremely personal. As I said, I think the right one should respect your character. The only advice I could give is not overdo sophistication. Sometime less is more.
HR: How do you like to see your clothes accessorized?
ES: First, I always underline the waist, it gives an incredible feminine touch to the silhouette. I like jewelry to accentuate my designs like Gabriel & Co.'s fine jewelry that gives the right amount of attention, jewelry is essential to the completing a great look.
“I like jewelry to accentuate my designs like Gabriel & Co.'s fine jewelry that gives the right amount of attention, jewelry is essential to the completing a great look." - Elie Saab