Haute couture has always been steeped in tradition so when designer Rad Hourani was invited to show his first unisex collection, at Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture he not only made history but also changed the way we look at design. Behind Hourani’s sensuous minimal silhouette and mood driven palette is a message that is linked to a form of expression that is free from restraint. His philosophy is not just about aesthetics but a complete lifestyle and a way of being. We speak to Hourani from his home in Paris about the advantages of designing with ultimate freedom.
SAVI KURUPPU Recently you were invited to Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and you made history as the first unisex designer to present a collection. How does that feel?
RAD HOURANI I must say that I think a great deal about myself when designing. Of course, I didn’t create a brand just for my own sake, but I believe that using what I would like to wear as a starting point for the design process is the most truthful and straightforward approach. It allows me to stay focused on my aesthetic and assess my commitment to wearability, functionality and comfort.
I have always been interested in creating something that looks minimal but is complex to make. For me, that is the most challenging part of my work. I also admire the craftsmanship of making something extremely luxurious without it being showy. Attending to complexity and simplicity at the same time is a very long process. It’s all about “savoir faire” which is working with the best of the best in every aspect: fabrics, tailoring, cutting, fitting, proportions, etc. I did my first collection for my personal wardrobe and I had no idea that it would go this far. I like taking risks to make a difference in what we do in life. I like to create my own rules and not follow rules just to be part of an industry or a category. I do what makes sense to me and it always works out very well. Today, I am very proud and honored to be an invited member of haute couture and to be the first unisex designer in history. I never thought that the past five years of doing what I love would bring me to this point.
SK You were once a stylist, how did you make the leap from styling to designing and how has this been an advantage in your career?
RH I have been driven by aesthetics in general since I was a kid and not just in design. I was very aware of how I looked and how I wanted everything to look around me. I didn’t study after high school because, except for art and math class, I never enjoyed school. I was lucky enough to be curious about design, video making and photography. I learned it all by observing when I started scouting for a modeling agency. I ended up working full-time as a stylist at the age of 19. It was a bit like a 5-year training program for what I do today. I moved to Paris at the age of 23 to continue as a stylist but something happened there. When I shopped I never really found what I was looking for. That was when my unisex vision started. I sketched my first collection for my own wardrobe. I believe that looking for the exact thing to wear was the first step toward designing. I was looking for something very specific that did not exist. It was an advantage for me not to be programmed by a school or other conditions as I am my own teacher and I have the freedom to create whatever comes to my mind that fits in my unisex vision. I am the first person to design a high-end unisex collection in the world and that comes from my no-background background. I guess my influences are the gathering of my own personal experiences and observations for so many years, not following something somebody told me to do or think. In that regard, my work became more personal.
SK What motivated you to free yourself of normal conventions such as gender and seasons?
RH The idea arose from a series of questions: who decided that man should dress one way and woman another? Or those of different ages should dress differently? Who imposed these codes? All of my pieces are made to be unisex. Each piece can be worn by any gender or age. It doesn’t make sense to me to limit things and that’s why I took a full year to study male and female bodies to create a canvas that can fit both. I think it’s about the yin and yang in all of us, the negative and positive, the masculine and feminine, the dark and light, the passive and active, the intuitive and logical, the cold and hot, the soft and hard.
SK Why do you think unisex feels so timeless?
RH I’m attached to the notion of purity. By choosing simple, stark lines, I strive to blur gender boundaries. I design from a very virginal point of view. I try to elude classical ready-to-wear rules that made us believe that women and men deserve different approaches. My pieces are timeless and free of gender differentiation. I hope to reach people who do not define themselves primarily as men or women, who go beyond the classic demographic criteria.
SK What are the most important observations of fashion at the moment?
RH Observation is essential for me. There’s no reality or understanding without it. The body is also important to me and that is why I took a full year to understand the different shapes of bodies and how I could fuse both genders to create a unisex canvas that can make bodies look taller and slicker, new and comfortable all at the same time. I don’t understand who established these codes of dressing by gender. It doesn’t make sense to me that a woman should dress differently than a man or vice versa. I am not trying to dress a man like a woman or the opposite. I am creating a new way of dressing that makes people look modern without any limits.
SK You have lived in many parts of the world from Montreal, to New York and Paris, where do you feel most at home?
RH Everywhere I am in the present. Circumstances led me to move around the world early on in life and I’ve felt compelled to continue doing so. This has made me consider things in a wider perspective with no restrictions. I want to convey this notion in my line, and design clothes that can be worn anywhere, anytime.
SK Outside of fashion what are your other passions and why?
RH I have no interest in “fashion”. Art, painting, cooking, photography and film are equal passions as is design.
SK I know that family and friends are very important to you. How would you describe a best friend?
RH A best friend is someone that you consider as family. A person you share with all part of your life and that you feel in an exchange of energy with rather than someone that only takes your energy. A friend who you feel you grow with in both ways.
SK What is the ideal way to spend an afternoon?
RH An ideal way to spend an afternoon anywhere in the world is to wake up in the morning, stretch, take a shower, have a breakfast, get dressed and walk around a park, a museum, a gallery, etc.
Photography WIKKIE HERMKENS | Styling SONNY GROO | Interview SAVI KURUPPU
Hair TOM BERRY | Makeup THOM WALKER | Model PASCAL BONVIE at REPUBLIC MODELS
Assistant Styling JESSE STOKKEL | Clothing RAD HOURANI HAUTE COUTURE – COLLECTION #11