Since we last met at the end of 2018, Ingie Chalhoub has been a busy woman. So in mid-2019, we meet to discuss her latest ventures and what we can expect to see from her in the coming months.
Since the time we last chatted to the designer, not only did she finish and present her fall/winter 2019 collection for INGIE Paris, but she’s also been working on a special edition capsule collection for Ramadan and planning her spring/summer 2020 collection. All of this is alongside managing the brands she looks after in the region, as well as her recent appointment as part of the leadership circle for UNICEF with the mission to support and help refugee children in The Middle East.
On the occasion of our interview, Chalhoub was excited to present her fall/winter 2019 collection for INGIE Paris, which was inspired by Cleopatra. Ingie Chalhoub travelled to Egypt and was taken aback by the history and beauty of the ancient Egyptians. This soon became the starting point for her latest pieces. The collection is a reflection of East meets West combining the two worlds that are very important to Chalhoub and bringing them into the modern day, for the woman of now. We met to discuss her latest ventures and what we can expect to see from her in the coming months.
What have you been up to since we last met last year?
I have been working a lot on this collection. We went to Egypt with the First Lady Entissar Mohameed Amer and it was a very interesting trip. Of course, I was born in Egypt so it was interesting for me to combine that culture with the European and the Lebanese culture. The collection is based on a modern Cleopatra, I was so inspired by her. There’s lots of gold, there’s leather. Sometimes it’s very glamorous, it’s still romantic but with a twist. So I’ve been very busy with that. Also on a humanitarian level, I got invited to be part of the leadership circle of UNICEF. So since January, I have been working on that. This is something very close to my heart. And with that and all the other brands, I represent I have a lot of things happening!
What can you tell us about the work you are doing with UNICEF?
You know in this region we need to have a real circle in charge of these kinds of activities. Raising money is very important but that is not the only thing. We have to create awareness, we have to promote to others and also look to ourselves to see how we can leave an impact and how we can grab opportunities to take these children out of their conditions and help them to be part of our lives. It’s an ongoing thing. We have a lot of activities going on throughout the whole year, but one of the most important ones is when we go into the field on a trip that we will take with some prominent people from the leadership circle.
We are going to be travelling to Jordan to a refugee camp. It’s going to be heart-breaking, but it’s going to create awareness and we also need to look at how we can find ways to get those children out of these conditions and find their place in society. It’s very hard to educate them and give them the skills they need. To raise awareness is one thing but for me, it’s not enough, the goal is to really get inspired for other activities. I want to do something that has an impact on our society.
What can you tell us about the collection you presented in Paris for fall/winter 2019?
More and more I want to make a difference and highlight the link between the East and the West. This is my culture and I want to embrace these two cultures together and I believe this is unique. Being unique is really to have nostalgia about the past but still have a glamorous twist of modernity. This is very important for me because this is how the woman of today lives. She has to live in today’s world, not in the past. For me, it’s very important to get that twist. I’m feeling that I’m more and more sure of what I want and how I want to translate that.
Are there any particular fabrics that you’re enjoying working with at the moment?
I’ve always done prints, you can see this in all my collections, but this time I wanted to work more on embroideries. Embroideries in an oriental way but at the same time a modern way. I also tried lace as knitwear. We used velvety threads and we made knitwear in a very special way. We also worked a lot on the cuts and having more daywear. Daywear that is more casual but at the same time chic and elegant. I wanted pieces that you can mix and match. There is a whole rock ‘n’ roll look with the boots and the leather. There are a pair of boots that are leggings and then go down into boots. You can’t see this from far away but up close you will see the details. This was a playful way of creating something unique that’s never been done before. I had a lot of joy creating this collection. Working with accessories, putting gold accessories with a beautiful gown, going all the way crazy with accessories. It was really fun and was great to imagine what Cleopatra would have been like today.
Do you have a favourite piece?
They’re all my favourites! It’s so hard to select. One thing I have to say is I was very proud to have a very good casting of models this time. I worked very hard to pick the right models. The girl who opened my show also opened the Dior show. She was amazing. So if I had to pick one look it would be that first look. It represents the whole story of the 21st century Cleopatra, modern contemporary with all the embroideries. It tells the whole story of the collection.
What can you tell us about the kaftans you have created for Ramadan this year?
This Ramadan, I have created a few styles that are really strong. We’re going to have to surprise you a little bit but we wanted to have something really special this time. You’ll see glitter, personalised things, dresses. It will be a special capsule.
How does designing a Ramadan collection differ from creating your main line?
I immerse myself completely when I’m designing a collection. So for me, it’s like putting myself into that mood, living it from the inside, not from the outside. When you’re creative you have to go all the way out and then come back in and bring everything together. At the beginning, you have to think very wide and then come back to the essence of your idea.
Why is it important for you to create a Ramadan collection?
My heart is in the Middle East! I believe so much in the Middle East. That’s why I wanted my flagship store to be in Dubai.
What can we expect to see from INGIE Paris for the rest of 2019?
That’s a big challenge! Every time I finish a collection I ask myself ‘what else can we do?’ I’m in the middle of doing another collection and I have lots of new ideas. I can’t share everything yet but you will see soon!
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice what would it be?
I was very shy when I was young. I was not assertive enough. So I would tell myself to be more assertive, and more sure of myself and go all the way without hesitating. I think this is something that happens when you’re very young and when you reach maturity you realise how you want to be. I understand this now.
If you weren’t a fashion designer what would it be?
Painting, or doing pottery. Something still creative. I also found myself being very good at organising events. Maybe because there is this creation part of it. I think I would have also liked to work in interior design. I enjoy re-decorating my houses so much!
What do you say ‘no’ to?
I say ‘no’ to things that are fake and untrue. I don’t like people who put on a façade. I feel like you have to be genuine and I like to be with genuine people. I don’t want to waste time being with fake people. I like to be myself and like being around positive people. I’ve seen myself being dragged into negative situations and I didn’t like it. So I like to be surrounded by people that bring out positivity.
How would you like the world to remember you?
I would like the world to remember me as a person who had an impact and influenced the path of others. I do feel very lucky sometimes when people tell me that I changed their path and inspired them.
Describe INGIE Paris in one phrase.