Middle East based design duo George Azzi and Asaad Osta are gaining momentum not just in the region but globally since their first couture presentation in Paris earlier this year.
If there’s one Middle East fashion house to watch in 2018 it’s Azzi and Osta. Lebanese born design duo George Azzi and Asaad Osta first met while studying fashion design at ESMOD Beyrouth. Both were recognised for their talent when presenting their graduation collections with Azzi receiving the Prize of The President of The Jury Mr. Elie Saab and Osta was awarded the Prize of The Jury.
After this recognition both designers went on to become Assistant Designers at the Elie Saab Couture House. Being trained by Elie Saab himself and working as part of the region’s largest and most successful Couture House.
And what better training for launching their own fashion brand? In 2010 George Azzi and Asaad Osta followed their dream and founded Azzi & Osta. The two quickly developed a distinct signature style, being recognised for their conceptual shapes, unique fabrics and modern ways of presenting their designs.
This July, Azzi & Osta presented their first Couture collection in Paris and received media attention not just from the Middle East but all around the world. In one of their first interviews since the show George Azzi and Asaad Osta reflect on the success and discuss what the future holds for them.
What can you tell us about the A/W 18-19 Couture Collection?
The A/W 18-19 Couture Collection, is inspired by the Last Episode of the Russian Empire, or what is known by the Late Russian Romantic Era. This collection is called Nikolai, in homage to the Last Russian Czar (Nikolai II) whose tragic passing marks the end of the Tsarist Russia. In fact its 100th anniversary fell two weeks after the release of our collection (17th July 2018).
The show had an incredible turnout how was the experience?
It was a very pleasant experience for a first time, the feedback was amazing. We enjoyed it a lot, especially that it was more of a cocktail party, the guests were discovering the collection while enjoying their time, and it was a young and fresh vibe in the magnificent classical and dreamy setting of the Hotel George V.
Talk us through the inspiration for the collection.
The collection was inspired by all the stories, faces, and places of the Russian Romantic Era. Landmarks like the Red Square, The Hermitage, the Bolshoi Theatre. Cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Poets and writers like Pushkin and Tolstoy. Composers like Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky, Ballerinas like Anna Pavlova. Masterpieces like Imperial Faberge Eggs. We were inspired by everything to be honest.
What was the inspiration for the colour palette?
The Palette is whites and pastels, inspired from the mint green and light blue facades of the Russian palaces like the Winter Palace in contrast with the white snow surrounding them. On the other hand, the only strong colour in this collection, the magenta, was inspired by the vibrant St Basil Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square.
The materials are quite unusual, where do you source them?
We love working with crepe and double satin, we buy them in France, Italy and Spain.
The twists and folds and swirls in your designs are very unique – how hands on are you as designers?
We’re fully hands on. From coming up with the ideas, designs, themes, to the actual creation of the pieces. We’re always involved and will always be. It’s what we like to do.
How would you describe your signature style?
Conceptual and structural volumes, somewhat asymmetrical cuts, and fabric manipulation. There’s of course always a touch of embellishments that are all vintage in soul.
For you, what makes a great Couturier?
Talent for a start. But patience and experience as well, his love of proportions, and understanding of the female body. We also believe heavily in listening to the customers, to their needs.
Who is the Azzi & Osta woman?
An elegant, cultured woman who is nostalgic yet modern. She’s young in spirit, fun, and playful but also serious. The contrast is what we love. She’s traditional in a way but with a twist.
How did you come to be working so closely together?
We started working at Elie Saab in 2007, after having graduated from ESMOD, as his Assistant Designers. After a couple of years learning from the master of Haute Couture in the region, we realized how much we love it. So we started taking on freelance projects on the side. And with time, we had more and more clients asking us for designs. So we just took a leap of faith and did it!
Do you see Elie Saab as an inspiration?
Of course! He is an inspiration not only to every Lebanese fashion designer, but also to every Lebanese in general. We truly learned a lot working with him!
How do you divide the functions of the business between the two of you?
Most of the functions are not divided, and the ones that are, got divided naturally, over time. We can’t tell exactly who does what but we both are involved in every aspect of the creative, technical and even the logistical and managerial parts.
Tell us something about each other that makes you laugh and something that annoys you.
George Azzi about Assaad Osta: His sarcasm, but he’s so all over the place.
Assaad Osta about George Azzi: Great sense of humour but stubborn.
Are there any emerging brands you are particularly excited by?
Yes! Delpozo under Josep Font, we love what he does and the brand’s aesthetics.
When will we see you open a store in the UAE; we know you have many fans here!
This is one of our goals that will hopefully come to reality after launching our RTW line. Our RTW line launches this September, so we’ll keep you posted!
How do you think being based in the Middle East has helped your brand?
Azzi & Osta is primarily a Couture House, we think we are lucky to be based in the Middle East, where Couture is mostly appreciated. The Middle East is home to the majority of Couture clients, and Couture is in the DNA of Middle Eastern Culture.
If you could choose anyone to wear your designs who would it be?
What do you see as the future of your brand?
We dream big! We would like to see our brand expand to RTW with boutiques around the world, and become a global brand.
What does luxury mean to you?
Luxury is an experience, to experience the best of the best.