From familiar faces to new kids on the block, as part of our Haute Couture series MOJEH.com speaks to the designers making waves in the highest form of fashion. In our final instalment, Zuhair Murad.
‘What sets me apart? Well, I can only say it’s a great honour to be considered among the great international couture designers. I can’t speak to what sets me apart, it’s up to the people who follow and wear my designs to define my particular place.’
Born and raised in Lebanon, we can say that Zuhair Murad’s place is now as a renowned designer on the global stage. Whilst the merits of haute couture are hardly defined by a celebrity clientele, if they were then he would surely have much to sing about. His clients include everyone from Beyoncé to Miranda Kerr. With his quintessentially elegant designs – all ornate detailing and billowing sheers – he manages to capture a sense of occasion. It’s no surprise that his designs are a red-carpet favourite. ‘I think women are drawn to my designs because they celebrate the body in a beautiful way. My collections are all about glamour and femininity, along with sensuality and elegance. Women always want to look beautiful. There’s a sense of fantasy in my work because I’ve always dreamt of dressing the iconic stars of old Hollywood. Back then it was all about glamour and romance, which I evoke with the fabrics I use such as lace, chiffon and organza.’
Although an international designer, Murad’s Middle Eastern heritage marks him out as a source of pride in the region. He has managed to draw inspiration from his upbringing whilst developing an aesthetic that entices women the world over. ‘I am a Middle Eastern designer with a European vision, which stems from the cosmopolitan context in which I was raised. This combination of European and Middle Eastern cultures and their rich heritages have nourished my talent and understanding of design. It’s this diverse inspiration that motivates me to create sophisticated and glamorous collections.’
His journey as a designer has taken him from Lebanon to the runways of Rome and Paris, but ultimately home is where the heart is and Murad has never sought to abandon his ties to Beirut in favour of a life under the Parisian clouds. ‘I’ve expanded my company to Paris where we are located in an 800 square metre showroom and atelier on Francois 1er. Our RTW collections are manufactured in Italy, but Beirut is my homeland – I was born there and it is the place I choose to live no matter what, surrounded by my family, my friends and my team. It started from there and it will always be the place where everything starts for me.’
An international business, but also a painstaking one, couture is fashion at its most artisanal and its most artistic. It seems to exist in a sphere apart from commercial realities or the confines of what is traditionally ‘wearable’. More than an aptitude for fashion, a designer who deals in couture must have a love for it that makes the sheer scale of the undertaking worthwhile. ‘The process of creating a gown is not only exciting, but extremely personal for me. It’s a time when I can allow my imagination to take over and I’m able to create pieces that reflect who I am as a designer, and more importantly as an artist. The process begins with the team at my atelier behind closed doors. We let our minds lead. Inspiration, references, fabric samples and treatments – everything is laid on the table. It’s a very long process that can take more than 300 hours of work between creation and production for a single look. Sometimes one spectacular gown can take 1000 hours. In our collections we usually show 45 looks!’
For Murad, he has long since climbed the hurdle of becoming a household name. Success has been a companion for many years, but it is merely the gust that pushes him on in his mission. ‘Couture is a part of my daily life, something I can’t live without. It is a world of its own. It is a place of experimentation and challenge, almost like a playground of creativity with no rules. This exclusive world is also an opportunity for me to show off what I can do and create a fashion fantasy, presenting ideas that truly define my personality and reflect my state of mind. For me, my success is reflected through the testimonials of my customers, assuring me that I’ve succeeded in this artistic mission. I’m very proud and thankful for all the appreciation I get from around the world. It makes me feel so grateful and fulfilled. All these accomplishments boost my will to continue and to surpass myself in trying to come up with new and innovative collections.’