Although Lebanese designer Georges Hobeika has been presenting his collections in Paris since 2001, the Spring 2017 Couture season marked the first time that he was included on the calendar as an invited member rather than an invited guest. Throughout his impressive career, Hobeika has achieved incredible milestones – from establishing his atelier in Lebanon and presenting in Paris to being worn by A-list celebrities and expanding his house to encompass four fashion lines. It’s safe to say that Hobeika’s time has come, and the spotlight shines brightly on his incredible creations on the grand global stage.
In this exclusive interview, get to know the thoughtful, artistic designer and follow Savoir Flair behind the scenes and into his atelier in Beirut and backstage at his Spring 2017 Couture presentation.
Since you first opened your atelier in 1995, you have steadily expanded your house to include four fashion lines. What was the timeline for adding each line?
Since I wanted to ensure that each of the new lines launched was properly developed, I allowed at least two years between each one. This gave me the necessary time to create and edit the style of each line and to put optimal market-entry and promotion strategies in place.
How has your aesthetic evolved since you first launched your brand?
I believe that my aesthetic has evolved in a way that has successfully preserved my authentic creative codes while having made the style changes necessary for fostering a very broad international market appeal. For example, the embroidery designs and craftsmanship seen in my very first collection are as distinctively “Georges Hobeika” as the embroidery and finishing that define my designs today. However, those embellishments, which appealed most to my couture clients in the Middle East, are now embraced by clients from every continent in the world.
Designers today are expected to do so much more than design. In a way you are like the producer, director, lead actor, casting director, and costume designer on a film, having to play dozens of roles at once. How do you balance business and creativity?
The balance I have reached between business and creativity can be attributed mostly to the extremely capable team of people that support me and Maison Georges Hobeika.
Do you believe that collections need a backstory?
Good collections are usually those with creative “depth”. That being said, a backstory is an exceptional source of details, emotions, or circumstances that can be used to enrich a collection’s development.
There is always a sense of excitement and uncertainty in Lebanon. You never know what’s going to happen next.
What inspired those exquisite ear creations for your Fall 2016 Couture show?
I must admit that I love creating embellishments that fantastically highlight features that would normally be overlooked on a woman. I always think about the “What If” creation for every one of my collections.
Patrons of your work include Marion Cotillard, Diane Kruger, and Elle Fanning. Do you feel like there is a common thread that unites the women who wear your designs?
Yes, I do. The women who love and wear my designs all have a very refined sense of fashion and are confident about their stylistic individuality. They also view fashion as a true art form.
What is the process like to become a guest member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture?
The process is quite complex, but to put it simply for now, a guest membership is granted to those brands that have become integrated into the French fashion market, brands that have created partnerships with various French businesses in the fashion industry, brands that have attracted attention from respected French and international fashion press, and brands that have earned the patronage of permanent members of the Chambre.
Why have you chosen to keep your atelier in Lebanon?
I see no reason to leave the country and the people I love if I have the privilege of managing a successful fashion house in Lebanon. One of the most important things to me is the relationships in my life; and most of those relationships are rooted in Lebanon.
How many people work in your atelier? Who is on the Georges Hobeika internal team?
Approximately 200 people are part of my fashion-house team. Of those, a group of people is considered “internal” in regards to making the brand successful from a production, financial management, and promotional standpoint.
One unique aspect of your atelier is that you produce all garments in it and do not use outside workshops or factories. Why is this important to you?
This is one of the most important features of my atelier because it ensures quality control, excellent finishing, the unique ability to fulfill specific – and often last-minute – client and point-of-sale requests.
What aspects of your home country inform your designs?
There is always a sense of excitement and uncertainty in Lebanon. You never know what’s going to happen next. I think that is what fuels the passion that Lebanese citizens have for life and for living every moment to the fullest. That passion, along with our people’s admiration of beauty, is a huge influence on my design work.
I can see the Middle East becoming a fashion hub, both for designers and for consumers.
When you are starved for inspiration, where do you go? Do you seek out, for instance, nature, solitude, the company of friends, or art museums?
In this ever-changing world, I am rarely lacking inspiration. However, I do actively seek out inspiration from my favorite sources, nature and art.
Do you think fashion is an art form? Do you consider yourself to be an artist?
Absolutely, and I do consider myself an artist in that I use fabrics, embroidery materials, and tailoring to complement the female form.
Do you see potential for Dubai to be the fifth fashion capital?
I do see great potential for Dubai to become the next fashion capital of the world. Dubai’s location, its progressive economic management, and the city’s ability to create what it dreams make it the perfect candidate.
The Middle East has gained traction in the fashion industry, and you are one of its premiere forerunners. What do you see in the Middle East’s fashion future?
I can see the Middle East becoming a fashion hub, both for designers and for consumers. The valuable contribution that the Middle East has made to the international fashion market is undeniable, and further globalization will make this region both more accessible to and integrated in the mainstream fashion industry.