Lebanese designer Elie Saab has long been a leading name in haute couture in the Middle East, where his romantic, crystal-encrusted gowns attracted princesses to his Beirut atelier, opened in 1982 when he was just 18 years old. His ready-to-wear line, which launched in 1998 in Milan, heralds the same feminine aesthetic as his couture dresses, with brightly colored silks, chiffons, pearl beading, and embroidered lace. With their Middle Eastern detailing and European sensibility, Saab gowns are also at home on the Hollywood red carpet. Halle Berry famously wore one of Saab’s designs to pick up her Academy Award for Monster Ball in 2002. Many other celebrities have been seen wearing his designs including Rachel McAdams, Mila Kunis, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Rihanna, and many more. Born in 1964 in Lebanon, Elie Saab is a self-taught fashion designer. His interest in dressmaking started at the young age of nine. Saab spent much of his free time cutting patterns and drawing sketches for his sisters, using his mother’s tablecloths and curtains. The neighbors soon got wind of what he was up to, and by the time he was a teenager he already had a small network of loyal clients. Looking back, Saab says, “I was born with this passion of creating and making dresses and was always surrounded by beautiful women, from sisters to neighbors, so the desire to dress them and make them look elegant was my constant inspiration.” In 1981 he moved to Paris to study fashion, but ended up returning in 1982. That year, at just 18-years-old, Elie Saab opened his Couture Atelier in Beirut, managing over a dozen
employees, he was already a master in the art of dressmaking. In 1997 Saab was the first nonItalian designer to become a member of the Italian Camera Nazionale della Moda, and in 1997, showed his first collection outside Lebanon in Rome. In 1998, he started ready-to-wear in Milan, and in the same year, he held a fashion show in Monaco which was attended by Princess Stéphanie of Monaco. In May 2003, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture invited him to become a member, and he showed his first haute couture collection in Paris in July of 2003. His first readyto-wear collection in Paris was the Spring/Summer 2006 collection, and Paris is now his permanent ready-to-wear runway. Beirut remains Saab’s main source of inspiration. In 2005, he inaugurated a modern fivestory building where the workshops are now located, along with his studio, ready-to-wear boutique and haute couture showroom. The atelier is where all of the haute couture gowns are made and pass through the hands of Elie Saab himself. Elie Saab’s target customer is certainly woman of status. All of his designs are hand made making them very expensive. He only has two shops carrying his haute couture lines. They are in Paris, France, and Beyrouth, Lebanon. His ready-to-wear lines on the other hand, can be found in multiple places in over 30 countries including the United States. Saab’s accessories are more like his haute couture gowns in that they are much harder to come by, they can only be found in Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, France and the United Kingdom. The most accessible item from Elie Saab would be his perfume, which can be found at Nordstrom, Saks, and Neiman Marcus stores across the country.
Saab’s collections are glamorous and sophisticated, fusing a cultural myriad of fashion influences to give a distinctive and modern edge to his designs. His signature elements are definitely his very feminine, flowing gowns. He experiments with the central themes of femininity and romanticism, creating clothing that is cut-to-the-curve, with soft edges and exquisite detail including hand embroidery, beading and the use of luxurious fabrics such as mousseline and silk. He is scrupulous with his intricate detailing. A writer at Women’s Wear Daily stated, “He likes sexy, embroidered gowns. Period. Sequins—the more the better. Flounces, fringes and everything...
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