Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

Backstage exclusive: Elie Saab interview at Paris Fashion Week

Elie Saab’s spring show at Paris Fashion Week lived up to the Lebanese couturier’s reputation for romantic ready-to-wear. We caught up with him following his presentation of plunging, floral and foliate gowns.
Lebanese designer Elie Saab. Yoan Valat / EPA
Lebanese designer Elie Saab. Yoan Valat / EPA

Elie Saab’s spring show at Paris Fashion Week lived up to the Lebanese couturier’s reputation for romantic ready-to-wear.

Following the presentation of Saab’s plunging, floral and foliate gowns, we caught up with him for an interview backstage.

Your SS16 collection remained true to the codes of the maison, with plenty of diaphanous silhouettes, florals and lace. However, is it also fair to say that many pieces signaled a new direction for Elie Saab?

Yes, it is true. The code of my collections will always remain the same. I’m just choosing to present them in a different way this season. I never want to shock my clients, but with every collection, there is a new message. Because I don’t want to ever intentionally surprise the people who follow me, I prefer to make the changes subtle. And this time, because it’s a summer collection, yes, I have presented something of a “new woman” of the house.

Who is the woman you have in mind?

A woman who might choose to wear Elie Saab pieces from the morning, throughout the whole day and through to the evening. I believe that smart women today desire to build a wardrobes with many, varied pieces. A capsule collection that is easily mixed-and-matched, for example. Therefore, this collection retains a sense of liberty – a certain freedom – that’s why it contains many separates. The collection represents a young woman who is cool and has a certain nonchalance of style.

Where do you find continued inspiration?

Well, I see it every day, in every woman. It’s all around me. I believe strongly in the individual characteristics of women and draw inspiration from that.

So you have many muses?

Yes, a lot [laughs]. They are all running around in my mind, but will remain secret forever. Who knows? Maybe, you’re a new one. Honestly, you can’t work in this industry if you don’t have muses, past and present. So much of a collection is based upon the personaity of a woman, that it will always play out in a collection.

Your brand is very much a family business, with your wife and son involved. How does that work in practice?

Yes, it’s not really just a fashion affair but it is a family affair. My son, my brother and yes, my wife are involved, but I don’t work with the mindset of it purely being a “family business”. Over the years we’ve begun to build in a different way, it’s a serious international entity.

How greatly do Middle East clients factor in your success?

I have the absolute, utmost respect for them. The Lebanese and Middle Eastern clients were the first ones to believe in me and what Elie Saab as a label started as. They remain, to this day, very, very important. Today, any woman can come to me and love what I do, but in theearly days when I first started, it was a very different story. Therefore, I owe my success to those original clients.

Any more boutiques in the UAE and across the wider region?

Yes, for sure – it’s being planned.

What about plans to further develop the accessories line of the business?

Yes, it will come in time and this collection saw the debut our new “31 bag” and I believe it will have the same success of its predecessors, perhaps more.

What’s the biggest challenge for you as a designer? What keeps you awake at night?

To be better tomorrow [laughs]. No, honestly it’s my biggest challenge, for sure.

Describe an average day in your life?

It’s tough [laughs]. No, really, believe me. This business is not glamorous at all. I wake up around 7am, I’m in the office by 9am and I’ll work until around 9pm – every day. But I’m happy, I won’t complain. I’m genuinely delighted that my hobby is my work, it is so very important. Thank goodness the business has been such a success.

When not working, how do you relax?

Truly, the best times for me, and when I really relax, is with my family. As soon as I’m finished work, I just want to spend as much time as I possibly can with them. We have wonderful lunches or dinners together.

Do you like to do the cooking?

I do! And it’s Lebanese food I adore, of course.


Updated: October 10, 2015 04:00 AM