Georges Hobeika is one of the most successful haute couture designers in the world. His couture art reflects creativity, femininity, glamour, detail richness and craftsmanship at its highest level. At every haute couture show, he unveils sophisticated, elegant and refined looks fit for a princess.
The Lebanese designer studied civil engineering at university in Beirut, with a focus on architecture, but upon his graduation joined his mother’s boutique atelier putting his sketching abilities to good use. In 1994, he spent a year in Paris, interning with several fashion houses, including Chanel, before returning to Beirut to start his own small atelier with the support of his mother and a few skilled seamstresses.
In 2001 Hobeika started presenting his collections in Paris, however this Spring 2017 couture season marked a very special milestone, as he was included on the calendar as an invited member rather than an invited guest. Establishing his atelier in Lebanon, Hobeika has achieved an impressive career, A-list celebrities have worn his couture gowns, and he has gone on to expand his house to encompass four fashion lines, including cocktail and daywear.
Building an international brand as a Middle Eastern designer is no easy feat, yet it is something that Hobeika has succeeded with. A master of beautiful embroidery and embellishments, the designer combines decadence with a refined elegance to create his exquisite gowns. Here he lets us into his world of design, sharing his thoughtful, artistic inspirations, and the proud moment that he was officially included on the Haute Couture calendar.
Can you tell us about how your interest in fashion began, and what inspired you to become a fashion designer?
My interest began when my mother, who had owned her own atelier in Beirut, requested my assistance in helping her manage the demand of her increasing clientele, during the time I was studying civil engineering at university. My interaction with those clients, from drawing to tailoring their dresses, inspired me to become a full-time fashion designer.
Many years ago, you left Beirut for Paris to pursue internships at prestigious fashion houses. Was your goal to become a local fashion designer in Beirut or to start an international career?
My goal had always been to pursue a fashion design career that would ultimately gain international acclaim and recognition.
You also did an internship at the prestigious Chanel ateliers. How did that equip you to start your own couturier?
My internship at Chanel provided me with exceptional knowledge of both the Parisian and international fashion industries, as well as priceless knowledge about how a successful fashion house is organised and managed.
Do you enjoy the freedom of running your own brand?
I enjoy the freedom so much, especially that I have decided to grow my brand slowly, rather than quickly. That decision has allowed me to expand organically while remaining the sole shareholder of Georges Hobeika.
Why have you chosen to keep your atelier in Lebanon?
I work best when I feel at home and when I am surrounded by my family and friends. I also have developed a team of people in my atelier who I trust and can rely on. I have everything I need to succeed, while still enjoying the luxury of living in the country I love.
One unique aspect of your atelier is that you produce all garments in it and do not use outside workshops or factories. Why is this important to you?
I have always been committed to authenticity, both in my profession and in my relationships. When clients buy my brand, I want them to know that they indeed are wearing ‘Georges Hobeika,’ and not the product of a mass production factory.
Haute couture is your passion, why have you always been so passionate about the highest class of fashion design?
At heart, I am an artist. I’m passionate about Haute Couture because it is a craft that combines numerous artistic disciplines, further enhanced by the fact that this art is displayed on living bodies.
How do you find the differences between designing ready to wear pieces with couture?
Though both collections are conceptualised and designed in the Georges Hobeika studio, the couture collection is prepared, tailored, and finished in the GH artisanal workshop. This collection’s craftsmanship is deemed the highest quality. Every Georges Hobeika Couture piece is designed with unique precision, and hundreds of hours of work. Our Ready-to-Wear collection is of exceptionally factory-crafted quality, and is produced in our private industrial workshop.
How involved do you get in the design process, beyond the sketching and concepts?
I’m involved in every facet of the process actually, including the embroidery design and creation, the core tailoring, and the quality control.
What do you look to for inspiration when you are designing, and do you have a muse?
I find most of my inspiration in nature and various artwork, and every woman is my preferred muse.
Tell us about how your brand has grown and transformed over the years?
It is quite difficult to summarise the growth and evolution of my brand in one paragraph, but I can say that after many years of dedication, starting from the 1st show I presented in Beirut in 1999, I was able to progressively expand my brand and make its first big move to Paris in 2001. Initially, this was the most significant advancement the brand made towards achieving international recognition. The opening of my showroom in Paris was then coupled with pursuing a presence on major international red carpets, while at the same time expanding my points of sale. The transformation of my brand was solidified when I became an official Guest Member of the Chambre de la Syndicale at the beginning of this year.
You must have felt an immense amount of pride when this Haute Couture season marked the first time that he was included on the calendar as an invited member. Can you tell us about how much this meant to you?
Of course! This had been my dream, since I designed my first collection. To be affirmed by the most revered fashion industry organisation in the world as a true Haute Couture designer is the highest professional accolade I could ever receive.
Has this milestone moment changed how you prepared for the show and created the collection?
No, it hasn’t. I have always conducted my work and business at the highest standard. The only difference now is that more of the world will see my creations.
How do you predict this achievement could change things for the brand?
Certainly, it will bring us more attention from major fashion press, which will result in more couture clientele, international points of sale and celebrity red carpet placements.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this current couture collection?
This collection is inspired by the creators of myths that colour both ancient and modern Asian civilisation. The dragon, the fan, and the flower each have a special place at the origin of the great Chinese dynasties. These mythical motifs also pay homage to nature’s beneficence, echoing a beautiful softness that evidences the feminine temperament.
What drives you to continue creating new and inspired designs?
My love for fashion design and for the female silhouette.
Finally, what can we look forward to and expect in the future from you?
The only thing that I know for sure is more expansion of the brand.
By Eliza Scarborough