ELIE SAAB Lebanese designer Elie Saab has long been a leading name in haute couture in the Middle East, where his romantic, crystal-encrusted gowns attracted princesses to his Beirut atelier, opened in 1982 when he was just 18 years old. His ready-to-wear line, which launched in 1998 in Milan, heralds the same feminine aesthetic as his couture dresses, with brightly colored silks, chiffons, pearl beading, and embroidered lace. With their Middle Eastern detailing and European sensibility, Saab gowns are also at home on the Hollywood red carpet.
Halle Berry famously wore one of Saab’s designs to pick up her Academy Award for Monster Ball in 2002. Many other celebrities have been seen wearing his designs including Rachel McAdams, Mila Kunis, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Rihanna, and many more. Born in 1964 in Lebanon, Elie Saab is a self-taught fashion designer. His interest in dressmaking started at the young age of nine. Saab spent much of his free time cutting patterns and drawing sketches for his sisters, using his mother’s tablecloths and curtains.
The neighbors soon got wind of what he was up to, and by the time he was a teenager he already had a small network of loyal clients. Looking back, Saab says, “I was born with this passion of creating and making dresses and was always surrounded by beautiful women, from sisters to neighbors, so the desire to dress them and make them look elegant was my constant inspiration. ” In 1981 he moved to Paris to study fashion, but ended up returning in 1982. That year, at just 18-years-old, Elie Saab opened his Couture Atelier in Beirut, managing over a dozen employees, he was already a master in the art of dressmaking. In 1997 Saab was the first nonItalian designer to become a member of the Italian Camera Nazionale della Moda, and in 1997, showed his first collection outside Lebanon in Rome. In 1998, he started ready-to-wear in Milan, and in the same year, he held a fashion show in Monaco which was attended by Princess Stephanie of Monaco. In May 2003, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture invited him to become a member, and he showed his first haute couture collection in Paris in July of 2003.
His first readyto-wear collection in Paris was the Spring/Summer 2006 collection, and Paris is now his permanent ready-to-wear runway. Beirut remains Saab’s main source of inspiration. In 2005, he inaugurated a modern fivestory building where the workshops are now located, along with his studio, ready-to-wear boutique and haute couture showroom. The atelier is where all of the haute couture gowns are made and pass through the hands of Elie Saab himself. Elie Saab’s target customer is certainly woman of status. All of his designs are hand made making them very expensive.
He only has two shops carrying his haute couture lines. They are in Paris, France, and Beyrouth, Lebanon. His ready-to-wear lines on the other hand, can be found in multiple places in over 30 countries including the United States. Saab’s accessories are more like his haute couture gowns in that they are much harder to come by, they can only be found in Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, France and the United Kingdom. The most accessible item from Elie Saab would be his perfume, which can be found at Nordstrom, Saks, and Neiman Marcus stores across the country. Saab’s collections are glamorous and sophisticated, fusing a cultural myriad of fashion influences to give a distinctive and modern edge to his designs. His signature elements are definitely his very feminine, flowing gowns. He experiments with the central themes of femininity and romanticism, creating clothing that is cut-to-the-curve, with soft edges and exquisite detail including hand embroidery, beading and the use of luxurious fabrics such as mousseline and silk.
He is scrupulous with his intricate detailing. A writer at Women’s Wear Daily stated, “He likes sexy, embroidered gowns. Period. Sequins—the more the better. Flounces, fringes and everything that glimmers—give him more. ” It is very true, if Saab’s designs aren’t dripping with sparkling embellishments they are meticulously embroidered. Saab creates fairytale designs whilst always maintaining a delicate sophistication. There is always some incredible detail on the dresses really displaying the designer’s talent.
When Elie Saab was asked to dress Belgian Countess Stephanie de Lannoy for her wedding to Luxembourg Crown Prince Guillaume it was no surprise for he has known the bride for eight years. The amount of effort he put into the dress was astounding and from Saab, one would expect nothing less. A writer from Women’s Wear Daily stated, “The dress required 3,200 hours of work and embroidery, and 700 hours of sewing by a team of 10 seamstresses and 15 embroiderers. De Lannoy’s wedding dress was embroidered with 200 transparent sequins, more than 80,000 different transparent crystals and 50,000 small beads.
All that finery needed more than 10,000 meters of silver-plated thread, according to Saab. When all was said and done, the gown called for 50 meters of Chantilly lace, 40 meters of Calais lace, 30 meters of satin organza, 70 meters of 4 tulle, silk crepe for the lining, and 15 meters of silk tulle for the veil. ”  Further proving his commitment to his work and his ability to create incredible designs to not only make any woman feel like a princess, but to actually fit a princess for her own wedding.
Saab doesn’t do much to advertise his clothing. Besides runway shows he get’s all of his business from celebrities who already wear his designs and others who see the designs on those celebrities. Halle Berry accepting the oscar for “Best Actress in a Leading Role” wearing one of Saab’s designs made him an overnight success in the red carpet world. Since that day, it is nearly impossible to find a red carpet event without an Elie Saab design being worn. Taylor Swift is one of Saab’s most loyal customers.
She has been spotted wearing his designs on multiple occasions on and off the red carpet. Elie Saab’s biggest competitors are Versace and Valentino. All three designers attract a similar clientele with their haute couture gowns. They have similar styles as well, all being very well versed in creating gowns that flatter a woman’s body and show a soft feminine side, but in my opinion Saab is the epitome of femininity. He just completely understands how to create a a breathtakingly beautiful and elegant design.
Anyone celebrity wanting to impress on the red carpet with elegant beauty would know to go to Elie Saab. Personally, I have never seen an advertisement for Elie Saab designs but I am always blown away at his gowns on the red carpet. His knowledge of the female figure and how to flatter it is amazing. His gowns always cut in at exactly the right spot to make every woman look beautiful. The market segment Saab is definitely missing out on is the middle class however. In a way, this doesn’t really matter because most of his designs, and the ones he is most famous for 5 re his haute couture gowns, which not many people other than celebrities or high-status socialites have a reason for wearing. One way I would remedy this divide however, would be by offering Saab’s bridal gown line in more wedding boutiques across the country. Although Saab’s wedding gowns start at around 10,000 dollars, many women are willing to spend huge amounts of money on their weddings, especially their dresses, so I think this would be a perfect way to reach a larger audience plus it would be great for more middle class women who still love and appreciate Saab’s gorgeous designs.
Another way Elie Saab could reach the market he is missing out on would be to create a line similar to the Marc by Marc Jacobs. I more affordable line that could be carried in the same department store that already carry his perfume. With the way Saab has been able to expand his fashion empire in such a short amount of time, this more accessible line seems like the logical next step. There is no question that Elie Saab is an incredible fashion designer but he is also an incredible businessman.
Today, the 46-year-old runs a truly global empire, with boutiques in Paris, London and Dubai. His clothes are on sale in 22 countries, and he has moved into bags, shoes and jewelry. But that is just the start: in recent years, Saab has expanded into designing the interior for the BMW X Series, worked with MAC Cosmetics and has also signed a deal to design three mega yachts. There is no question that his talents p far past just dress making. Elie Saab’s exquisite eye for detail, knowledge of how to flatter a woman’s figure and business savvy make for an incredible combination.
The designer has already made such huge strides in the business in such a small amount of time, there is no question in my mind that Elie 6 Saab will continue to expand his fashion empire. There is really no limit for a man with the talent Saab possesses. 7 1. WWD Article Elie Saab Tapped for Royal Wedding By ROSEMARY FEITELBERG FROM: WWD Issue 10/25/2012 THE COUNTESS BRIDE: For Elie Saab, dressing Belgian Countess Stephanie de Lannoy for her wedding Saturday to Luxembourg Crown Prince Guillaume was not an overnight occurrence — he has known the bride for eight years.
The dress required 3,200 hours of work and embroidery, and 700 hours of sewing by a team of 10 seamstresses and 15 embroiderers. De Lannoy’s wedding dress was embroidered with 200 transparent sequins, more than 80,000 different transparent crystals and 50,000 small beads. All that finery needed more than 10,000 meters of silver-plated thread, according to Saab. When all was said and done, the gown called for 50 meters of Chantilly lace, 40 meters of Calais lace, 30 meters of satin organza, 70 meters of tulle, silk crepe for the lining, and 15 meters of silk tulle for the veil. Saab said, “We met several times to discuss the design of her gown. At first, she explained to me what she had in mind and I came back with different sketches. She then selected one of them and we started working on it, choosing the different fabrics, color, and adapting the design. ” The designer was with his own wife, Claudine, and one of their sons at Luxembourg’s Notre Dame Cathedral when the bride and groom exchanged their vows last weekend. 9