Monday, 15 July 2013

Close To Perfection VII: Elie Saab Haute Couture - Autumn/Winter 2013-2014


Image courtesy of: Cosas | Una Revista Internacional

I was born with this passion of creating and making dresses and was always surrounded by beautiful women, from my sisters to neighbours, so the desire to dress them and make them look elegant was my constant inspiration.”

In terms of sheer extravagance, nothing on Earth compares with the no-expense-spared extravaganza that is Paris Haute Couture Week, a biannual convergence of media, expectation and craftsmanship at its highest pinnacle. At its best, it is a spectacle like no other in the world, a sartorial display—ranging from the cerebral to the sublime—staged to impress. At its simplest, it is the relentless pursuit of perfection. It is no less than the juncture at which commerce and art intersect.

Presented in the arcaded hall of le Palais Brongniart, 28 Place de la Bourse—situated in the Vivienne neighbourhood between the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre Museum—on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 3rd, Elie Saab—the self-taught, Paris/Beirut-based Lebanese designer whose Beirut-based five-storey building, opened in 2005, comprises the designer's atelier and workshops, offices, an haute couture showroom as well as  a prêt-à-porter boutique, (his French atelier is located at 1 Rond Point des Champs Elysées), boasts five-hundred seamstresses, the largest couture atelier in the world (in comparison with Christian Dior's, one of France's preeminent couture Houses, which employs one-hundred-and-twenty)—showed forty-eight pieces (three of which were the finale's duplicate strapless bridesmaids dresses) in his latest haute couture collection for autumn-winter 2013, an evening collection “devoted... to the cocktail and post cocktail hour(Quote: Armstrong, L., Telegraph, 2013). Reportedly inspired by the gem stones typically found in a royal crown—jewel tones of ruby red, sapphire blue, emerald green and silvery-white diamonds—the show was sectioned according to monochromatic colour schemes, beginning with ruby-red and progressing into the other jewel tones of the collection. (Sources: Palais Brongniart, undated; Elie Saab, undated; Armstrong, L., Telegraph, July 3, 2013)


Image courtesy of: Elie Saab

It has been said that M. Saab prefers to “lavish his attentions and significant resources not on his shapes but on his embroideries and beadwork” and that is evidently true in his latest presentation  (Quote: Phelps, N.,, 2013). Still, it is a collection more remarkable for its arresting embellishments (embroideries and beadwork)—from the simple to the ornate, nearly every one of this forty-eight-piece collection was embellished—rather than for innovative cuts or silhouettes which tended towards the conventional: M. Saab profusely scattered crystals and sequins “on practically every inch of silk, mousseline and lace he could get his needle on(Quote: WWD, 2013). While he showed symmetrically-cut ensembles, there were some one-shoulder, asymmetrical pieces as well, including a one-shoulder beaded-bodice jumpsuit.

For his finale, M. Saab sent out a bride—accompanied by her three bridesmaids who carried her lengthy beaded-tulle veil—in a heavily-beaded gown “fashioned from layer upon layer of tulle sumptuously embroidered with [smokey] quartz, crystal, and glitter, and a veil to match(Quote: Phelps, N.,, 2013). The dress, however lavish, appeared to be so cumbersome that the bride-model's attempt to elegantly negotiate the length of the runway may have been valiant but it was an effort without much success. As Lisa Armstrong pointed out in her report for The Telegraph, the wedding gown was “so OTT [‘over the top’] its model was forced to adopt a strange rolling gait that made her look like a huge sparkly tractor(Telegraph, 2013).
(Sources: Elie Saab, July 3, 2013; Phelps, N.,, July 3, 2013; WWD, July 3, 2013; Armstrong, L., Telegraph, July 3, 2013)

Elie Saab's sketches of costumes for Dita Von Teese's appearance at Paris's Crazy Horse ~ February 1-15, 2009
(The burlesque strip-tease artist collaborated with M. Saab on costumes for her Crazy Horse cabaret show)
Elie Saab fitting Dita Von Teese for one of her costumes
The above four images are courtesy of: Pocket Venus

Although he had shown collections in his native Beirut, Lebanon—(he was born in the coastal village of Damour, situated south of Beirut)—since the age of eighteen, his interest in dressmaking began when he was only nine years old and his first clientele were his sisters. In 1982, when he was eighteen years of age, he opened his first couture atelier in Beirut, catering to neighbourhood women and to the city's society ladies (his first fashion show, held at the Casino du Liban, was a well-received début).

But Elie Saab catapulted to overnight fame in 2002 when, as the first Middle Eastern designer to dress an Oscar winner, actress Halle Berry attended the 2002 ceremony—and tearfully accepted her Oscar statuette for Best Actress for her 2001 movie, “Monster's Ball”—in the now-famous, strategically embroidered burgundy Saab gown; the actress wore another Saab creation (this one form the designer's Spring/Summer 2003 Haute Couture collection)—a one-shoulder, asymmetrical gold-coloured gown—the following year for the 2003 ceremony. (The Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, now more simply known as Mode à Paris, had previously invited M. Saab to present in Paris in 2000—he has the distinction of being the first Arab to be admitted to the Syndicale—where he began showing the four traditional annual collections of haute couture and prêt-à-porter lines, becoming a membre correspondant six years later, in 2006—the highest honour the organization bestows on non-French designers.) Since then, Elie Saab has become a fixture on red-carpet events with clients ranging from A-list ‘Hollywood royalty’ and pop-music ‘princesses’ to real-life royalty:  Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Helen Mirren, Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Beyoncé Knowles, Dita Von Teese, and Jordan's Queen Rania—who wore Elie Saab to her coronation—have all donned his creations. (Sources: Elie Saab | Vogue Australia, undated; Elie Saab, undated; King, S., Saab Story, Vanity Fair, October 8, 2011)

Constructing couture
Above left: “A heavily beaded dress awaits completion on a client’s Stockman.” ~ Steve King
Above right: “Mr. Saab will often draw directly onto dressmakers’ dummies or onto fabric, bypassing the pattern stage—these Stockmen show his guidelines and partially embroidered fabric swatches.” ~ Steve King
 The above two images & quotes are courtesy of: Saab Story | Vanity Fair
(The above two photos are by Tinko Czetwertynski)

The designer in his atelier
Above left image, courtesy of: Fashionspam: The daily dose of life | Above right image, courtesy of: Via Montenapoleone
Bottom image, courtesy of: CrossBreeding by Isaac Estévez
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.” ~ Alanood Al-Sabah
The bridal gown ~ Autumn/Winter 2013-2014 Haute Couture
The above two images are courtesy of: SHOWstudio
 My personality resembles my designs to a large extent. I am in sync with myself and I am transparent, just like my designs.”

Indeed, viewing his latest couture collection, set, as it is, against a red-lit background with models strutting on a high-gloss red floor—an allusive reference to such red-carpet events as movie premieres and award ceremonies to come perhaps?—there is a clear indication that the aim of the collection seems to be made-to-measure for Hollywood stars (and Saudi princesses).
Elie Saab's ultra-feminine designs—as well-known for their draping, plunging necklines and mile-high slits as they are for their splendid embellishments—are currently sold in twenty-two countries and the designer has flagship boutiques in Paris—opened in 2007—London as well as Dubai. Aside from his prêt-à-porter and haute couture collections, the Elie Saab brand has expanded over the years and now encompasses accessories (handbags, shoes and jewellery); as of 2011, an eponymous fragrance, Elie Saab: Le Parfum (composed of orange blossom, jasmine, honey rose), has also been incorporated into the brand.

Beadwork details ~ (Look 1) & (Look 43)
Close-up of the beaded & crystal-encrusted bridal veil
(Elie Saab Autumn/Winter 2013-2014 Haute Couture Collection)
Above left image, courtesy of: Rebelle Fleur | Above right image, courtesy of: killerqueen
Bottom image, courtesy of: We Hear It

The above forty-seven images are courtesy of: Vogue Australia
 (For extensive backstage photos before the show, please visit: L'Express)

Video courtesy of: ElieSaabChannel ~ YouTube
Image courtesy of: Fashion Industry Network
I’m not working to be a legend, or to be like Fairuz. The people choose to let you be a legend; you can’t decide to be a legend.
I’m so proud if people say that I present a good image of my country. The statement, ‘Lebanese designer, Elie Saab,’
for me, this is enough.”