Zuhair Murad presents his latest Haute Couture collection and discusses his passion for what he does and what love means to him
Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad spent his whole life dreaming of fashion. From the age of ten, he began sketching designs of dresses and he and everyone around him knew from a very young age that he was destined to be a designer.
After studying fashion in Paris, Murad moved back to his home country, Lebanon, where he opened his Beirut atelier in 1997. Two years later in 1999, he took things global as he made his first catwalk appearance in Rome. The designer has spent the last two decades carefully building his brand and carving out a niche for his highly feminine, glamorous and detailed Haute Couture designs.
Today he has two boutiques, one in Beirut and one in Paris and he has gained international recognition for his Haute Couture collections which are presented in Paris twice a year as part of Haute Couture week. He has developed a huge celebrity following from the likes of Jennifer Lopez to Halle Berry to Blake Lively and many more iconic women who have been seen wearing his designs on the red carpet.
Last month Murad presented his Spring/Summer 2020 Haute Couture collection “Féminines Sacrées”. Inspired by ancient Egypt and the queens who left their mark in history, Murad sent models down the runway taking on the form of goddesses adorned with capes, golden thread, crystals and iridescent fabrics. Evening gowns and cocktail dresses were adorned with brocard, silk tulle, silk muslin, lurex, and Duchess satin, creating a sense of elegance. The colour palette of turquoise, vermilion, opaline, cyan and eglantine pink created a luminous sense of luxury.
In one of his first interviews after the show, Zuhair Murad talks to A&E about his latest Haute Couture collection and the inspirations behind his passion for design.
What do you love most about being a designer?
To me, being a designer is a lifestyle and not a job or hobby. It’s what drives me to wake up in the morning, and what I look forward to the most during my day.
What does love mean to you?
Love to me means faithfulness, passion, and loyalty. It’s the acceptance of a person as they are, with all their faults and their flaws, no matter what.
What can you tell us about you Spring 2020 Haute Couture collection?
The collection was mainly inspired by Egyptian Goddesses and Queens. From Nefertiti, a symbol of beauty to Berenice, the bearer of victory, to Isis, a representation of life and magic and even Iset, holder of the throne, and many more. These Goddesses were a perfect inspiration because they resonate with the Zuhair Murad woman: a strong yet soft, beautiful woman, full of life, magic and triumph.
Are there any particular techniques you worked with this season that you can tell us about?
Yes, since the collection was inspired by Egyptian Queens and Goddesses, a lot of the techniques aroused from Egyptian methods. For instance, the draping was notably inspired by the Egyptian “Shenti” . The collars were made in “Wesekh” style. We used nets in dresses to create fishnet effects. Straps were made wide and crossed at the bust. Similarly, sunray pleats were used as a reference to the Sun God.
How important is it to you to preserve traditional crafts and techniques when it comes to garment design and production?
It is very important for me to respect and preserve traditional crafts and techniques, especially in the world of Haute Couture. Couture is all about having meticulous know-how, about the delicate petite mains, and the savoir fair so maintaining and using traditional techniques is essential to the design of the garments.
What do you think women are looking for in Haute Couture today? Do you think it’s changed?
I believe that when couture first began, pieces were made to be extravagant, and what women wanted from couture was mainly the fairytale aspect it was associated with. This dream-like feature made the women feel beautiful and it made them stand out. Haute Couture was a world of its own. Nowadays, we are noticing a younger crowd gradually moving their interest to couture, and so less of that “extravagance” is looked-for. Women, indeed, still want to stand out and feel beautiful, but they don’t necessarily want that extravagant aspect of a fairytale, they actually want to feel young. And they want that combined with the skilful “know-how” and the uniqueness and exclusivity of couture.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a designer today?
I believe the biggest challenge today is to stand out, in a saturated industry while still maintaining your brand’s DNA. There are so many designers out there creating beautiful pieces but it’s very important for any designer to not lose their personal touch while trying to be unique.
What are your thoughts on how Arab designers are becoming more and more visible in the fashion world?
I’m very happy to see Arab designers beginning to become global successes. And of course, it’s a proud moment for the Arab world to gain increased visibility in the fashion industry, and have designers raise awareness of the region. I’m all for upcoming designers achieving their dreams, whether they from the Arab world or not, everyone deserves a chance at making their aspiration come true.
What would you say is your biggest achievement so far?
The fact that I was able to achieve my life long dream of founding a successful business as a fashion designer. To be able to wake up every day and be reminded that hard work really does pay off.
What would you still like to achieve that you haven’t had the chance to do yet?
I have many dreams I still aspire to achieve and the fashion industry is very broad in this sense. There are no limits to it and so there is much more I would like to do!
Is there anyone you would like to dress that you haven’t dressed yet?
There will definitely always be more women I would like to dress because every woman is beautiful in her own way and has her own personality. There are so many beautiful women out there, and I would like to reach as many as I can, but I don’t particularly have one specific person in mind.
How does your heritage and upbringing influence what you do today?
I come from Lebanon, and for me, the country’s people, culture, traditions, and various other factors have affected my vision and my designs. Lebanon’s nature and landscape and its different shades and colours throughout the diverse seasons and different times of year have been a big cradle of inspiration to me. The cities are so lively, animated and vibrant – yet the rural areas are so calm, peaceful, and graceful. This juxtaposition has really served as a backbone within the inspirations of my designs. Strong yet romantic, calm yet powerful, modern yet cosmopolitan.
What does luxury mean to you?
Unique design, high quality, defined know-how, enhanced value and extraordinary experience. You cannot compromise on any of these.
What can you tell us about your approach to design – do you have any specific methods or processes that are unique to you?
I definitely prefer working with a team to working alone. Teamwork is actually a very important aspect for me. I also feel like I achieve more when I am under pressure.
We have heard rumours of plans to expand to beauty products and fragrance – can you tell us anything about that?
As I’ve mentioned, the fashion industry is a limitless field. There is so much more I would like to explore within it and fragrance is certainly one of the many aspects I would potentially like to develop.
What is the professional motto you live by?
To always be organised. To me, organisation is key.
Who is the Zuhair Murad woman in three words?
She is contemporary, sexy, and sophisticated.
What’s your new year’s resolution for 2020?
I’d like to work under less stress. It’s something that I’m really focusing on because nothing is more important than your wellbeing.