MOJEH sits down for a tête-à-tête with the Lebanese designer reinventing Le Smoking
“I grew up in a family where my mother and grandmother were very stylish and fashion forward,” Racil Chalhoub tells us of her earliest fashion memories.
The 38-year old Lebanese designer has earned her fashion stripes through her eponymous label which successfully puts a modern twist on the classic tuxedo, and offers collections of cool and contemporary tailoring for women.
“My mother took me to a fashion show when I was only 10 years old. I remember walking out and telling her: ‘ This is what I want to do when I grow up’,” she muses.
Another decade or so later, Racil Chalhoub was studying Fashion Design & Marketing at the American Intercontinental University in London, after which she opened a concept store in Beirut. It was here she nurtured and further explored her talent for design – she came up with the concept for her own brand and eventually summoned the courage to move to London and launch RACIL.
“When I had the idea of the Tuxedos, re-inventing them and creating my own world of Le Smoking, I booked myself on a flight to London three days later. I moved back here full time the first week of January 2014, and I had to do everything from the beginning…sorting out my work papers, setting up a company, finding tailors and factories, fabrics, designs and focus on the concept.”
“I worked from home and also Little House (one of the Soho Houses ) for about a year. Then everything just started to mesh together like an organic puzzle.” She explains. Racil finally launched during Paris Fashion Week for Autumn Winter 2015.
Today, Racil is a name synonymous with sleek, sharp tailoring, and the tuxedo which inspired the launch is still always at the heart of the brand’s DNA. “We reinvent it each season and play on colour combinations and fun details to make our pieces special and standout.”
The collections are famed for mixing Saville Row fabrics, such as wool and houndstooth, with Beirut influences and flair – such as gold lame – it’s the “unexpected” that designer Racil Chalhoub loves to express. “Our gold suit definitely was one of our best selling and standout looks this season, it embodies the essence of RACIL. It reminds you to always have a little fun when you get dressed, even in a suit!”
In design and personal style, Racil is also influenced by Bianca jagger in the ‘70s. “Her looks inspires me a lot. I love how fresh and feminine her style is and she can wear a suit like no other,” she muses.
Racil describes her style as quite eclectic and versatile, and she admits to favouring a nicely “pulled together” look. “I don’t shop so much anymore, I buy online, or prefer to go shopping when I’m away or on holiday,” she explains.
“My closet is pretty eclectic I must admit as I love to mix and match. You will find lots of denim, and pieces by Dries Van Noten, Miu Miu, Prada, Alaia, Rebecca De Ravenel, vintage Chanel jackets that my mother gave me, multi coloured cashmere sweaters by the Elder Statesman, shoes by Aquazzura , clutches by Sarah’s bag and Olympia Le Tan.”
The list goes on. Expectedly though, she mirrors her namesake brand’s ideals, too, and considers “a black tuxedo jacket” a wardrobe essential.
For autumn/winter 2019 and spring/summer 2020 RACIL expanded the brand and offering a larger range of dresses, and focusing more on separates so that “everyone can gravitate towards different pieces to create the ultimate wardrobe.” Racil Chalhoub says she is constantly “evolving the brand” and that she pushes herself every season to “allow the collections to evolve in a way that remains true” to their DNA and values.
“I am definitely a workaholic – I am constantly working, even in my sleep,” she laughs. “Having said that, I do believe in trying to keep a healthy balance, that’s why I wake up so early every day so I can have a little ‘me time’.”
“I go for long walks in the park with no phone, and try to escape to detox retreats once or twice a year. I also balance out my days to include healthy eating, going to the gym whilst sticking to deadlines and managing the business,” she explains.
While the ‘to-do’ list is seemingly never ending, Racil’s biggest hurdle in business is also her biggest achievement.
“The highlight will always be the first day I presented/ launched my brand in Paris. March 5th 2015- that is the day that dream became reality,” she tells us. And while she hopes the brand will also continue to grow as they build on expanding the collections, ultimately she admits she’d love to turn RACIL into a global lifestyle brand.
Watch this space…
- Words by Elaine Lloyd-Jones