Rabih Kayrouz has come a long way since fleeing the Lebanese civil war in 1989 at just 16 to study at L’École de La Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne: He’s launched couture and ready-to-wear collections in Paris, become a guest member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture, created a platform for young designers in his native Lebanon and designed a collection for La Redoute.
There’s no doubt he’s accomplished a lot in his decades-long career–and yet many people, even those who follow fashion, still do not know his name. But if Kayrouz has somehow managed to fly under-the-radar so far, that’s not likely to last. This year, he was nominated as a finalist for the ANDAM awards, and, just last week, Kayrouz was decorated as a “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the French government.
The French Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti honored the designer for his contributions to the arts in both Lebanon and France. The award, established in 1957 to recognize eminent artists and writers, as well as figures who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world, is given out three times a year and has been offered to Yohji Yamamoto and Bob Dylan, among other luminaries.
Kayrouz has already caught the eye of the industry–and French government–so, now’s your chance to get to know this Lebanese talent.
Kayrouz grew up watching fashion shows on television while bombs fell throughout his country. He fled to study in Paris and honed his skills at Chanel and Dior before returning to Beirut, which was filled with post-war hope. He began creating wedding dresses for friends and instantly became known for his elegant and ethereal creations. Socialites and royals called in orders. In 2009 the designer established Maison Rabih Kayrouz in Paris, taking over the historic Babylone theater where Beckett famously premiered Waiting for Godot. That same year he showed his first couture collection and was invited as a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture alongside Elie Saab, who is also Lebanese.
In 2012 Kayrouz launched his ready-to-wear label, infusing his architectural collections with the luxury of couture.
“I believe in couture as a means of expression,” the designer told us, flashing his huge luminous smile. “It’s free, it’s about emotion, about dreaming. When I make ready-to-wear, I keep the emotion and dreamy aspect of couture.”
Inspired by the verdant nature of Lebanon and its vivid colors, and by the structured grandeur of Paris, Kayrouz masterfully contrasts pure silhouettes with rich gazars, organzas or chiffons and deep jewel tones. His style is tough yet sensual, flowing yet structured, exuberant yet muted.
As Suzy Menkes put it in the International Herald Tribune, “Kayrouz is an architect in a world of decorators.” Yet what truly drives the designer is his love for women and their mysterious ways. “I’ve always wanted to create for the pleasure of women,” he muses. “I love that clothes can be either protective or seducing, and when women play different roles.”