Lebanon 2013 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Elie Saab, Owner of Elie Saab, on the fashion industry in Lebanon and the rise of his brand.

Elie Saab
Elie Saab was born in Beirut in 1964 and gained an interest in dressmaking at an early age. He opened his first couture atelier at the young age of 18. Today, his collections are bought all around the world.

As an icon in the fashion industry worldwide, what is your assessment of the Lebanese fashion industry and how has it evolved?

Fashion has always been very prominent in Lebanon, and the fashion industry is growing fast with strong talents in the country inspired, in a way, by the renowned elegance of Lebanese woman. When I started, I was surrounded by beautiful women, and this was my first drive to dress them and make them look elegant, so my passion developed into a career. Today, I feel happy and proud that I was able to pave the way for other designers and encourage them to venture into this vocation. I believe that Lebanon is ranked among the top producers of haute couture with an increasing demand from the region and worldwide.

How is Lebanon perceived in the region?

Lebanon is known to be the hub of fashion in the Middle East and Lebanese woman are known to be very elegant. They are a point of reference in fashion and style.

What trends are you identifying in the demand for fashion in Lebanon, and what makes the Lebanese consumer unique?

Lebanon has passed through lots of turmoil and was destroyed several times over the years, but this hasn't prevented Beirut remaining the rival of European capitals. This can be understood by analyzing the strong will of the Lebanese and their high perseverance to always be the best despite all the difficulties they might face. The Lebanese have been exposed very often and this has given them an edge to develop a sense of maturity and multi-cultural sensitivity. Having said that, fashion has become an international language and suitable to all cultures and societies; women from all over the world aspire to look beautiful.

“ I really believe in our designers, and I am proud of the talent that exists here in the country. "

What can be done to make Lebanon one of the top fashion hubs in the world?

I really believe in our designers, and I am proud of the talent that exists here in the country; unfortunately, the main drawback is the situation. We need stability in the country to get the best out of people.

What are your plans for 2013 and over the short term?

We are in continuous development, making new openings in different markets, putting more emphasis on our ready-to-wear collection and accessories, and establishing a perfume line. We are working as well on consolidating our corporate platform. on another note, we have recently launched our collaboration with Evian to create a limited edition glass bottle that is a joint celebration of both brands' pursuit of purity in design. By mid-November, an Elie Saab book published by Assouline and written by French writer Janie Samet will be in the market detailing the different stages of the brand and presenting more than 200 archive images.

You designed the interior of the BMW X Series and have worked with MAC cosmetics. How was this process and what other business lines are you looking at working in?

I have already worked on many projects that involve my creations and personal style in fields other than fashion and I am always ready to explore new areas to which I can bring my vision. For any business to be successful, you should have a vision and an entrepreneurial sense.

In what way do you see Beirut as a source of inspiration?

We are the result of our culture and heritage. I'm certainly inspired by my culture and the richness it offers, and having lived in Beirut it has been a great asset and an inspiration for me. In general, this is reflected through my choice in fabrics, rich materials, and the use of warm colors like sand and other natural tones. The sun in Beirut is definitely an emblematic inspiration for me; I even dedicated a collection to it once. When I think of Beirut I also think of the beauty of its natural scenery, the richness of its colors, and its people. I think there is a mood that when one chooses to live in Beirut, it is for better and for worse.