Internationally renowned for their one-of-a-kind designs, and dresses featured on red carpets and worn by worldwide celebrities, George Azzi and Assaad Osta’s success story began after their outstanding results at ESMOD, and a very enriching internship at Elie Saab.
Both designers had their interests struck by fashion at a very young age. Their fascination for surrealism, classical music and movies were the grounds of two distinctive styles merged together and complementing one another to create a world of romance. We sat down with the two designers to get a take on their journey, the key to their successful collaboration, their future plans and behind-the-scene moments you didn’t know about Azzi and Osta.
What opportunities drew you to the couture segment?
It actually was a childhood dream for both of us. Later, we grew up and realised what a great opportunity it would be to work in this field, especially in Lebanon and the region. You can be very creative in the couture segment when it comes to volumes and concepts. Of course, at some point, we will expand to ready-to-wear, but couture will always be our number one segment.
Can you tell us about the couture process at Azzi & Osta?
Well there is no specific way. Inspiration could strike from anything, colour, fabric, or texture. We can even get inspired by a topic mentioned by a client, or from watching a movie. The process varies, sometimes we choose a theme first and go from there, and other times we decide on a silhouette and a specific colour and then merge the theme to those choices. Afterwards we focus on the embroidery process, fabrics and so forth. We also take into consideration the market needs and the current trends, but without ever losing our own identity.
Tell us, what is the secret to a successful working relationship? Who is in charge of what?
Well, besides fighting every day? No, on a serious note, we each deal with different tasks, and after 7 years it comes naturally to each one of us which task is best suited. It all started at ESMOD where we went together, and then we became really close friends while interning at Elie Saab. Afterwards, we worked on some freelance projects, and then decided to create a collection, going on to launch the Azzi & Osta brand.
More and more brands are boosting their luxury fashion strategies, how do you feel about this?
What sets us apart is first and foremost our defined identity. You can directly recognise an Azzi & Osta dress by simply looking at it. We also have a very exclusive choice of fabric, mix of colours, embroidery, volumes, and structures. We try our best to be original, and for example, you would never see draping in an Azzi & Osta collection.
What does the Azzi & Osta woman embody?
She’s a working woman. She is modern, yet appreciates tradition and has an emotional connection with the past. She is fun, but also discreet and subtle. She is the perfect combination of classical with a twist.
How difficult was it to launch a couture business, especially being based in Lebanon?
Well the difficulty is mainly because of the political and economic situation. When we first started out, it was smooth, but during the second year things fell apart, which we worked hard to pick back up. It’s an everyday challenge, and you always must come up with new ways to work around the situation.
How do you guarantee exclusivity with your gowns?
We have two ways of insuring exclusivity. First, when a client asks for a custom-made dress, we draw it and design it uniquely for her. Second, if the client decides to choose a design from our collection, we make sure the piece is worn only by her in the country.
Tell us the inspiration behind your latest Spring Summer 2018 collection?
We are big suckers for history! So, the inspiration actually started at the Louvre, in front of Rubens’ painting of Marie de’ Medici’s wedding. Her iconic sleeves were a must-do in our collection, so we decided to modernise and include it. This is why we chose the name Marie de Medici.
What has been the most memorable moment of a famous face wearing one of your designs?
The most recent one, Eva Longoria at the Cannes Film Festival. It was such an amazing experience.
Which markets do you feel will present the biggest opportunities in the coming years?
For couture, definitely the Gulf. We are also thinking that Russia would be a big opportunity. As for ready-to-wear, we think it will be Europe and the United States since we have many clients there.
Tell us more about your future plan to move into ready-to-wear?
AZZI: I personally love ready-to-wear! I would love to create four collections a year!
OSTA: As for me, I’m a bit perplexed, but I’m becoming more and more convinced. It needs a lot of planning and work since it’s a whole different concept. We first need to expand our atelier and our team. Maybe by September 2018 we will launch our first collection. Some things will be simpler versions of couture. So, you’ll definitely see more pants, more jumpsuits, and more shirts.
What is the biggest luxury in your lives?
AZZI: I love travelling!
OSTA: Well… I love shoes!
What is next on Azzi & Osta’s agenda?
We’re planning our events in the UAE and other Gulf countries. We are also working on our next couture collection, and of course, we are hopeful for a show in Paris.
Things you didn’t know about the designer duo:
A surprising secret no one knows about you…
AZZI: I have six cats… and I am a history and geography geek
OSTA: I have a collection of pins
If you were a city or a country…
Favourite corner in Beirut…
AZZI & OSTA: Mar Mkhayel
One thing you can’t live without…
AZZI: My phone
OSTA: TV series
If you could bring one food item to a deserted island, what would it be?
A song on repeat on your iPod…
AZZI: Bad Blood by Taylor Swift
OSTA: The Christmas Album of SIA
Best advice you’ve ever gotten…
AZZI & OSTA: It was from Elie Saab during our internship. He said, ‘you’re working on a dress, not a spaceship, let’s not over complicate it.’
Famous person you would like to take out on a dinner…
AZZI: The late Franca Sozzani
OSTA: Jackie Kennedy
By Dana Mortada