Elie Saab

20 Jul

By Alana Laverty

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Born in Lebanon in 1964 Saab’s interest in dress-making started at the young age of 9. He was already making clothes for his sisters and began selling clothes to women in his neighbourhood.

The self taught designer opened his couture atelier in 1982 in Beirut at the age of 18. He managed a dozen employees. By now he was already considered a master in the arts of dress-making. After releasing his first collection his reputation as a couturier transcended Beirut’s borders and all of a sudden every woman of high society desired an Elie Saab dress. From Lebanon, across the Middle East and then to the rest of the world Saab was referred to as an 18 year old prodigy.

In 2000 Saab was invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to show in Paris. He was the first Arab to be admitted. He presented a staggering four collections a year, both Haute Couture and Ready-to-wear. Six years later he became a corresponding member.

Elie Saab - Dita Von Teese (2)

In 2007 he set a flagship store in Le Triangle D’Or. Beirut remains his main source of inspiration to date. The atelier in Beirut is still where all the gowns are handmade and passed through the designers hands.

He sells between 400 and 800 couture dresses a year, with a starting price of about $35,000. This is increasing all of the time. He has dabbled in industrial design and has a diffusion wedding-dress line, which is marketed through the Spanish bridal-wear giant Pronovias. He has come out with perfumes also. But couture remains his priority, and that priority is underwritten by a loyal Arab clientele.

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Saab magnifies femininity working with fine material and beautiful embroidery. He uses simple designs, precious resources and intricate detail.

His overtly feminine aesthetic and romantic crystal-encrusted gowns initially attracted princesses, and later, film stars, enamoured with his Middle Eastern detailing and European sensibility. “I was born with this passion of creating and making dresses and was always surrounded by beautiful women, from my sisters to neighbours,” he has said, “so the desire to dress them and make them look elegant was my constant inspiration.

Today, Elie Saab is a truly global empire, with boutiques in Paris, London and Dubai. His clothes are on sale in 22 countries, and he has expanded his business into bags, shoes, fragrance and jewellery

He has sought and achieved success rather than celebrity.

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