George Azzi and Assaad Osta began their couture house in Beirut after meeting during an internship at the Elie Saab’s design studio. The two were hired by the legendary couturier as assistant designers and their common interest in mid-century inspirations and vintage saw them develop a close bond which led to them setting up their own couture house in 2010.
The two pride themselves on being experts in fabric manipulation to give rise to structured, swirly volumes and contoured silhouettes. They are known for experimenting with non-conventional materials and creating unique and eclectic pieces for the modern women.
In spring 2019 Azzi and Osta launched a ready-to-wear line that reinterprets the codes of the house in a new way. Their newest collection; Villa Valentina will debut this spring. The collection is inspired by the sun-drenched moments experienced during a Mediterranean summer holiday. Daywear features carefree shapes and styles – tailored separates, capri pants, short suits and shirtdresses with geometric cut-out details and guipure lace.
Billowy dresses and wrap front blouses with exaggerated bell sleeves capture the light and give a relaxed feeling. A colour palette of crisp white and soft pastel tones are offset by the vibrant shades of lemon, green purple, blue, coral and pink. Pieces are finished with applique 3D embroidery featuring poppies, lavender, oral bouquets and water droplets.
As the collection launches, A&E talks to George Azzi and Assaad Osta to discuss their move into ready-to-wear, balancing that with their core Haute Couture business and the plans for the future of the house.
What does 2020 have in store for Azzi and Osta?
In 2020 we will celebrate ten years of Azzi & Osta. This is a milestone we are proud of and look forward to translating this into our upcoming collections in the form of celebrations. We are looking to grow our ready-to-wear network further into more cities worldwide and expand our Haute Couture outreach, experimenting into new designs, new fabrics and new techniques.
We are seeing a lot of colour in the Villa Valentina ready-to-wear collection, what can you tell us about your choice of colour palette?
Villa Valentina was inspired by the French and Italian Rivieras in the sixties, so the colour palette was taken from the scenery, the sun rays, the water ripples and the mood of this destination.
You were inspired by a summer getaway – do you think this feeling of escapism is something people want from fashion?
We think escapism is a feeling that comes with imagination and that is something we enjoy the most when we design. People want to feel the story, live the moment and see things through the eyes of the designer. For sure, escapism is one of the ideas that delivers that feeling.
How does designing ready-to-wear differ from your experiences creating couture pieces?
With our ready-to-wear collections, we start with design and delve into market influences. With Haute Couture, we can design in a way that is as abstract as we want and then customise and adapt these pieces according to our clients’ needs. With ready-to-wear, the designs have to be appealing, wearable and catered to each market. They need to make an impression at first glance and I think these are main factors that differentiate Couture from Ready-to-wear for us.
What was your thought process when deciding to create a ready-to-wear collection?
We wanted to translate the Azzi and Osta DNA into a more fluid, softened approach falling right into the woman’s everyday scene, where clients can own more than one Azzi and Osta look per season, wear them often, style them in different ways etc. From daywear, to cocktails to effortless evening wear, we wanted to reach a wider international audience, one that would appreciate the DNA of the brand.
What makes this collection an Azzi and Osta collection?
For the Villa Valentina collection we translated our volumes into ripple ruffles to mimic the water. This can be seen in most of the looks. We created our signature applique embroidery into lavender branches, poppies and flower gardens depicting the flowery south and we used fabric manipulation with lace. We also experimented with volumes with silk faille. From the initial design to the final outcome the collection represents the true codes of the Azzi and Osta DNA.
How do you manage your time designing both collections?
We’d like to think that we manage! We have a dedicated team who share our values and everyone is working in a very hands-on way to make things happen. We are very involved in all aspects and we work with tight schedules and pre-planning.
What do you both love most about what you do?
The end result.
How important do you think it is to love what you do?
Creativity and passion require love as the main ingredient.
What’s the biggest challenge you face with the brand right now?
The fashion world is challenging in general but the most recent challenge is the fast growth that the brand has experienced. This requires a fast reaction to everything. It’s a challenge we enjoy though!
What is something you haven’t yet achieved with the brand that you still want to do?
As short term goals, would say we working towards being part of the Chambre Syndicale de Haute Couture. We would like to have fashion shows on the fashion week calendar and own Azzi & Osta standalone stores.
What is the one thing you love to do in life to escape?
Assaad: Visiting Museums.
Who or what inspires you the most?
Art and history.
Who is the Azzi & Osta woman today and how do you want her to feel when she is wearing your designs?
She is a woman who is iconic in her essence and someone who has achieved greatly. A role model and a woman that makes humanity proud. It can be in her daily life, in her career or through the people she meets. She is a lover of luxury, a curator, but also a minimalist who enjoys her individuality, values her heritage and embraces her future. She is a woman with a voice, one that illuminates a room with her words as well as her elegance.
You’ve dressed a lot of iconic women recently – Is there anyone you would love to see wearing your designs that you haven’t had the chance to dress yet?
We have been lucky to dress a lot of the icons we imagined to dress. We would love to dress a leading female icon like Amal Clooney.
Talk us through a day in your lives.
We wake up, exercise, then heading to our headquarters. We have meetings with the pattern making team and the atelier team before getting updates on our calendar. We then have one-to-one time together to discuss embroideries, new themes, fabrics and designs and then the day just flows. At night we go out to dinners with friends, or back home to zone out where possible.
What is the professional motto you live by?
Stay true to your DNA.
Where would you like to see yourselves by the end of the year?
In our new headquarters, and in more stores worldwide.
Where would you like to see yourselves by the end of the decade?
We would like to have expanded into more lines and have become a lifestyle brand. We would like to have more collaborations, a new international headquarters and standalone stores.
Azzi and Osta in one word?