Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad dazzle in Paris with magical, contemplative collections

Saab conjured a fairytale world of bridal queens, shimmering foliage, and deep, dark shadows. 

Paris Haute Couture Week 2024 concluded on June 27, but Arab designers sure have made an indelible mark with their unique visions and impeccable creations that will echo even beyond what is arguably this year’s most prestigious fashion event.

The POST gives you the highlights of the collections by talented designers from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Elie Saab: A masterclass in magic and splendor

The Lebanese couturier again transported his guests—including Avril Lavigne and Ellie Goulding—from Paris’ Musee des Arts Decoratifs into a realm of magic and splendor, as per Thomas Adamson of the Associated Press. With silks and velvet front and center, Saab conjured a fairytale world of bridal queens, shimmering foliage, and deep, dark shadows. 

(Above and below) Models wear Elie Saab’s creations for his Fall-Winter 2024-2025 collection. Photos from the Associated Press

The designer’s fall collection came with “dramatic flair, strikingly at midnight, enveloping the audience in a welcome dark mood,” as described in an article on The Washington Post. Models in black leather opera gloves and graphic bands of black satin strutted the catwalk first and set the tone for what turned out to be a mesmerizing show.

Men’s couture capes, a staple of Saab’s theme since fall 2022, were embroidered with sequins and gleaming threads, resembling “silver foliage kissed by morning dew.” Saab’s breathtaking men’s couture line continues to add depth to his brand, catering to a market segment that goes for visibility and attention. Moreover, with his creations, the fashion world had another peek at couture for men, which is a growing phenomenon.

In the women’s display, which made up most of the collection, organza whooshes swirled upward from the waist in a feat of artistry. As the show progressed, the color palette softened, while floor-length silhouettes dazzled with their gemstone hues. The ornate textures served to highlight Saab’s singular craftsmanship.

The ornate textures of Saab’s creations are breathtaking.

While Saab’s designs may not always break the mold in innovation or surprise, as per Adamson, the firm commitment to his signature style ensures that his creations remain timeless. And his A-list clientele is a testament to the red carpet-ready appeal of his works.

Zuhair Murad: A philosophical, contemplative mood

In a departure from his usual romantic vibe, Paris Haute Couture Week 2024 found Zuhair Murad in a contemplative mood, Vogue reports, but still with his exquisite craftsmanship on full display.

Also of Lebanese origin, Murad is known for giving in to the “temptations of over-embellishment,” but for his Fall 2024 couture, he shared that he was thinking about women relative to their days, weeks, and years. With this, he sought to come up with an edgier, rawer kind of beauty, resulting in a collection that was dominated by cool tones, featuring blacks, silvers, and maroons, coming together in a dramatic and sophisticated aesthetic.

“Going deeper is very new,” said the designer minutes before the show, as quoted in the same Vogue article. “I’m used to immersing collections in nature or culture, but now I felt it was more pertinent to delve into a woman’s character, and what she lives every day.” 

With this, one can observe the interplay of school and friends, young love and expectations, emotions and reactions in his creations. “Sometimes she’s serene, sometimes she’s emotional, sometimes she’s a little crazy—but she’s passionate about her life and she wants to enjoy it. That’s the woman I want to talk about with this collection,” Murad explained.

“I’m used to immersing collections in nature or culture, but now I felt it was more pertinent to delve into a woman’s character, and what she lives every day,” Murad said of his collection.

With his pivot toward a more philosophical collection, Murad’s creations revealed a broader and deeper range. His pieces are about transforming and elevating past trials and tribulations into a collection that provokes thought even long after the show. 

Beyond Saab and Murad: Georges Hobeika, Ashi Studio make their own mark

Other labels from the MENA region that impressed guests were Georges Hobeika and Ashi Studio. Beirut-born label Maison Georges Hobeika wowed the audience on day one of the Paris Haute Couture Week 2024 with a collection that put the spotlight on the designer’s intricate beadwork and structured designs.

A strapless look by Georges Hobeika for his fall couture 2024. Photo: Georges Hobeika/Instagram

Hobeika’s collection featured a diverse color palette, ranging from neutral shades to vibrant hues and soft pastels, predominantly purple, blue, pink, orange, green, and yellow. Some garments are heavily embroidered, with others in softer, daintier materials such as crepe, chiffon, and satin.

Hobeika’s show was attended by an audience with a stellar A-list guest list that includes Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing, German influencer Leonie Hanne, Egyptian actress Ghada Abdelrazek, and Egyptian-Russian actress Nelly Karim, the Arab News reports

Ashi Studio is known for its geometric designs and near architectural aesthetic. Photos: Gorunway.com

Ashi Studio, meanwhile, made history in 2023 as the first Arabian Gulf-based label to grace the Paris Haute Couture Week runway, according to Grazie Magazine. Founded by Saudi Arabian designer Mohammed Ashi in Beirut in 2006, the studio is known for its geometric designs and near architectural aesthetic. Ashi spent his early years mastering his craft in the US working for international couture houses before settling in Paris, where he opened his studio in 2018.

While he has shown on the sidelines of the haute couture week, this is the first time he’s been included in the official roster of the event

Saudi Arabian designer Mohammed Ashi made his debut on the official roster of Paris Haute Couture Week with his label Ashi Studio. All photos: AFP

With a reputation for pushing the boundaries of couture, Ashi’s collection blended avant-garde designs with intricate craftsmanship, making it one of the most memorable shows of the week. He has also already dressed a stellar roster of celebrities, including Queen Rania of Jordan, Beyonce, Penelope Cruz, Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor, and Lady Gaga.

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