Elie Saab: Middle Eastern Promise

The Arab world’s most successful designer showcased his Autumn/Winter 2013-2014 Paris Haute Couture collection’s sartorial elegance – every little girl’s dream. Undoubtedly, the 49-year-old Elie Saab has emblazoned his mark on the fashion industry with celebrity clients including Katy Perry, Mila Kunis, Rihanna, Christina Aguilera and Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai. Impressively, Saab had dressed 102 international celebrities by 2010. Additionally, he is an established designer amongst royalty with habitué, including Queen Rania of Jordan, Princess Madeleine of Sweden and Princess Beatrice of York. By – Arnelle Paterson

This collection would not have been made possible without his atelier of 500 seamstresses. The models graced the stage with perfectly sleeked hair and sweeping fringes. Arabs are famed for their expertise with eye makeup application and this was evident with the blend of dark, smoky eye on the outer corners of the eye lid, while iridescent silver lined the tear ducts of the models for added prominence. An absence of elaborate jewellery and flowing hair meant the dresses were the main focus of the show.  The first piece that adorned the runway, worn by statuesque model Catherine McNeil, vividly echoes the burgundy gown worn by actress Halle Berry in 2002 at the Academy Awards. This very dress catapulted Saab into mainstream success overnight.

He explained “I tried to present a collection this time around a royal occasion, but in a very modern way, for a modern princess, who likes to treat her realm in a modern way, and the colours are from precious stones, and from this all the collection is embroidered in a way to show it as though its jewellery.”

A significant aura of royalty seeped through the rich nuances of burgundy, dove, navy blue, turquoise green and metallic silver, which were amongst the Lebanese-born designer’s latest collection. Saab’s style is the perfect fusion of western and eastern culture, with a mixture of conservative hemlines, asymmetric cuts, prom dresses and off-the-shoulder pieces, alongside sensuous deep, plunging neckline that conjures mind stimulation. Despite this, Elie has stayed true to his roots by incorporating the modesty of the Middle Eastern woman within the conservative nature of the majority of his line, replacing bare skin with demure necklines and delicate sheer embroidered organza.

Alanood Al-Sabah, co-founder of Octium Jewellery, expressed this view, saying “Elie Saab understands the way Arab women live now. His creations carry a message of subliminal freedom and luxury. His success is the result of merging the values of the Middle East with the modern standards of the West, to produce a fusion of the two in wearable works of art.” The regal inspired dresses truly are an exhibition of prolific creativity.

Saab’s influences are not only from his high profile customers, but his very own experiences. Saab began in 1982 with 15 employees specialising in bridal wear – wedding dresses and gowns using rich fabrics, lace, detailed embroidery, pearls, crystals and silk threads. All of which I love. This attracted high society women who soon began sporting his designs. His noble designs have such a idiosyncratic quality, because of his use of fabrics such as taffeta and satin paired with lighter fabrics – bridal finesse.

The bridal gown finale wowed the crowd with an impressive train that two models had to hold. With its layers of tulle created into a very impressive fluid train, this was the epitome of unique bridal couture – made to fit unique with hours of beautiful craftsmanship speaking volumes.

With more than 60 retail outlets across the world, including his native Beirut, Paris and London and designs sold in 22 countries, Mr Elie Saab is undoubtedly a success story. The launch of his fragrance, Le Parfum, in 2011, which became a bestseller in the UAE and 15 countries, this man has no intentions of slowing down. Arguably, the contrast between this line and his first haute collection in Paris, July 2003, suggests Saab is ameliorating and I strongly expect him to do so.

He is a bona fide designer: the time, effort and overall finesse shines through his craftsmanship, resulting in apparel that makes women look and feel beautiful and sophisticated – and in this case, like royalty.

Saab has stated “We look to celebrities who represent femininity – in all shapes and sizes. Doing this gives me great satisfaction.”  Well, admiring Elie Saab’s work gives me the greatest visual gratification, not because of my penchant for Arab designers or my part-Syrian heritage, but because his clothes glorify the female anatomy.

Arnelle Paterson

Paterson’s work has appeared on the Spear’s magazine website and she has created her own newsletter for Hounslow Homes. Her grounding is in fashion, current affairs, food, celebrity, the arts, culture and lifestyle.

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