Dealing with most celebrities and famous people, it's always pretty clear that there's a Them and an Us. It's pretty awesome to know that there are some out there that are genuinely interested in what we mortals have to say. About two months ago I invited you to submit some questions you'd like answered by famous couture designer Elie Saab. It took a while (he's a very busy man as you'll see in a minute) but he kept his word, and here are the answers.
And so to AJV, Gen, Charlotte, Sam and Diva Goddess (I hope to God that's not your real name), and all the other readers who submitted questions via Facebook, Twitter and the like, you now have two degrees of separation between yourself and Beyonce. And Catherine Zeta-Jones. And Rihanna. And just about every hot lady in Hollywood who Elie Saab makes red carpet gowns for. Now ain't that cool? While the questions did go through me, let's not count me as a degree for the purposes of the fun of this exercise.
What was it that opened the doors to high fashion for you? Did you start out producing fashion with a high fashion luxury market in mind, or is it something that happened gradually?
I was born with this passion of creating and making dresses and working in fashion was more my destiny than anything else. I was always surrounded by beautiful women, so the desire to dress them and make them look elegant and stylish was my constant inspiration. My passion then developed into a career and I continued with the custom-making of high-end dresses, which I love doing.
It was hard at first as the fashion industry in Lebanon did not really exist, but I am very proud to have opened the field and created new vocations in my country.
How does your cultural background influence your design palette? [He's from Lebanon, if you hadn't gathered]
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 has been a great asset and an inspiration for me. In general, this is reflected through my choice in fabrics, rich materials, and use of warm colours like sand and other natural tones.
Do you have any advice for young New Zealand fashion designers?
I believe that the most important thing is to create your own identity. Perseverance, hard work and ambition are also very important to be able to overcome obstacles and persist in the fashion field.
Not only does Elie design couture gowns, he also has a ready-to-wear line, and designs footwear and accessories. On top of all that, his latest venture is perfume. This is the first ever fragrance from him. Simply titled Le Parfum, it took the fussy chap 279 trial versions to hit upon the final scent. The result is a rather soft, woody, floral smell, with orange blossom, jasmine, cedar, patchouli and rose honey accord. It's out now and available through Farmers.
You have branched into footwear and accessories, and now perfumes; how different is it designing these from clothing design?
Developing a perfume is another way to bring beauty into a woman's life, the perfume tells the same story as my fashion, and it translates the codes of the couture house into the language of perfumes.
A couture dress is dedicated to only one woman who wishes to be unique for a single moment; it is a dream in its purest form. A perfume is dedicated to the greatest number and can be worn every day.
But one like the other - by their high requirements and quality of materials - are meant to emphasise women's beauty, to make them more attractive, more sensual, put some magic in their lives."
What was your process for defining the essence (perfume) of the Elie Saab woman?
The perfume is the ultimate touch of femininity and elegance that makes a woman feel unique, sure of herself and of the impression she leaves behind.
And finally, should you ever have the chance to wear one: What advice do you have for women wearing your gowns?
Above all, a woman wants to be beautiful - confidence is beauty. You can always tell if a woman is confident about her dress by the way she wears it.
A little heads-up for those on the hunt for wedding gowns - you can in fact buy gowns designed by Elie Saab here in New Zealand. Obviously it's a lower price point than his serious couture pieces - it's from his bridal diffusion line Elie by Elie Saab and it's looked after by Pronovious gowns. As far as I know the only place you can order them is from Brides on Thorndon in Wellington, but there may be more.
If you'd like to see more of Elie Saab, then watch this video interview with him. Not sure why there's a woman with a blocked nose voicing him over, but his words are quite inspiring and you get to see his pieces up close.
Have a great day!