Fashion Designer Rad Hourani.
I've read somewhere that you spent the first 15 years of your life in Jordan. I did not know that. What influence have all those years had on your work today? Do you have images or impressions that continue to inspire you today?
I don’t believe I have images of my childhood left except a few from my mom when she went to have dresses designed for her in tailors shops. I am 30 years old today, I spent the last 15 years of my life traveling between Paris, Montréal, New York, and Asia, but I don’t have the feeling that I have cultural influences in my creations. I would say that I enjoy observing all the cultures I come across and try to learn the best of each of them. However it’s important for me not to be culturally influenced in my work cause I find it limiting. I like the fact that my clothes are from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It’s an important form of expression in how I approach my creations.
Alternatively, do you have an urban style that is defined by a reality that exists only in big cities – without any influence from the place where you were born – a kind of personal choice, radical, and spontaneous?
I would say yes. But I think that everywhere in our world there are good and bad mentalities. I would love my style to transcend every place in the world, without borders.
Your fashion, I think, is also the expression of a feeling of difference, dissimilarity. I believe that in many places it is still almost a political statement to wear clothes – and one needs to wear them with confidence. Do you agree with this assumption? Or is this a situation that is evolving very quickly?
I understand what you mean, but I like when people wear my clothes in different ways and different styles. My clothes carry a universal message, but we don’t have to wear them the same way that they are worn on the runway. It is definitely important to me to have an open mind when wearing my creations and for each person to adapt the clothing to their own style.
You are often compared to Owens, Helmut Lang, or Margiela – however in my opinion, you are far from Rick Owens’ Gothic world – are you flattered or upset to be associated with what already exists?
I felt it was very flattering to be compared to Helmut Lang for my first collection in Paris in 2007. Today, I really think that I created my own universe. Rick is the king of Gothic, Martin of experimental vintage, and Helmut of modern art. Comparisons were mostly made for the architectural shapes that are characteristic of some of their work and mine. I believe that I have my own unisex “language” and I am the first one that launched a high standard unisex collection where each piece can be worn by a woman or a man. I also was the first one to adapt the concept to “Haute Couture”. Yes, I gladly feel alone in a way because I never wanted to be part of a group or be something that already is.
I am also considering, for instance, the question of male/female gender which is at the centre of many debates around us today. Is your fashion a statement about a changing society?
I never understood why women had to dress a certain way and men another… Who imposed those codes and how did we get there in today’s society? My aim is to communicate this message and to apply it to everything that imposes limits like gender, age, nationality, religion etc.…I hope it will help to evolve the society in which we live. So yes, it is a statement about a changing society.
Will this post gender conception of your collections remain your signature in the future or do you think you will eventually create pieces exclusively for one gender or the other?
Unisex will remain my signature for all my life. I don’t do it for fun. My work is my life and my way of expression. My personality is pervasive in my collections and I am quite sure that it is what I want to express for now and also in the future.
If I recall the first time we met in Montréal, it was a wonderful city for artists, wasn’t it? Is it still the case? Do you still spend time there even though your studio is located in Paris now?
Yes, I think Montréal is a splendid city where life is pretty easy. The production of my ready to wear collection still takes place there and I need to visit there 4 times a year to meet the team in charge and make sure everything is under control. At the same time, I can meet with my family and old friends.
Is your work acknowledged over there? Did some people from Montréal follow you to Paris?
I can’t tell you if I am renowned there, you should be asking the people over there! (Laughing). And yes, I have employees in Paris who come from Montréal.
Paris is a place where everything seems to be focusing on Classical Bourgeois/Neo Bourgeois style, meaning that you get stared at in an odd manner when you don’t fit into that particular style? Vice versa, when you conform to that dress code, everything seems to be much easier, people are friendlier, we feel at home like in a warm cocoon that can become very addictive. In that way, I admit that I am a typical Parisian. However, you chose this city, which is not always the friendliest with people that assert their differences trough their style of clothing.
I never felt linked to any one particular city. I find that idea to be limited, because I feel at home in any city in the world. I never felt the need to define myself with a nationality. Yes, my parents live in Montréal, but I don’t especially feel the need to limit my life to one city, since we live on planet earth and not in countries with made up names. It is my way of thinking and I am also happy to apply it in my clothes because my collections are from nowhere and everywhere at the same time.
One thing I particularly appreciate in what you do is the pleasure to discover the cloth when getting closer to it: It looks quite simple from a certain distance, then we discover the technique of the layers and lengths – ultimately, it is quite complex but also fluid. The lines are strict, but there is also a pretty fascinating construction to explore, don’t you think?
Absolutely, it is the most difficult thing to achieve. All my architectural shapes seem simple, but they are in fact very hard to make. I never draw fashion silhouettes, but rather graphic and geometric shapes which develop architecturally into clothes, furniture, or objects. I believe that architecture is a mathematic and logic method in which design and conception can exist.
You started to create your own brand very early, was it spontaneous or could you not see yourself collaborating with established designers?
It has always felt natural to me that I would first create a collection for myself. I didn’t believe I would create a brand like I have today and that I would do Haute Couture. I was searching for a style of clothing in particular that I couldn’t find before I created my first collection. It is how everything started!
There are silhouettes that you look at retrospectively thinking you created and liked them at that time – I recall Oscar Wilde’s quote “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months” – but I am also quite sure that there are some other samples you would love to keep the same but that you have to eliminate or modify because fashion has to be renewed every 6 months…?
Evolution is my first base when I am drawing a new collection. It is a way to improve my creations and bring them further into timelessness.. It has absolutely been my approach for the last 5 years keeping clothes unisex and ever fashionable as a base. I never follow the trends and it helps me a lot to stay out of everything that is “trendy/fashionable” because fashion does not interest me. What matters most to me is style and being able to recognize my pieces without seeing the logo.
Do you imagine – for the people that wear your fashion – that they appropriate and pair it with more classical pieces? Or in your opinion, is it more of a powerful statement to choose to be dressed up by one designer such as you who defines his own silhouettes?
I love to see people mixing my clothes in their own way. I never suggest that they should be wearing all Rad Hourani. Everyone has their own style and I respect every style!
How do you picture yourself in 10 years? Can you imagine your fashion becoming classical and daily for a large part of the population – which surely represents a dream for many designers – or do you think that it should remain the enlightened choice of the informed fashionistas who will always claim to be different?
I hope to still be able to do what I love and maintain an audience that sees itself in my creations. Without a doubt, it would be magical to be able to participate in the evolution of the world and have an eternal style. We never know what can happen!
Do you my think my previous question has significant meaning? I mean who nowadays has the slightest chance to become a “classic” in any domain out there? From now on, isn’t it a privilege – if ever it was one – that is totally out of reach of anyone?
It is my aim in life to have my own signature that can endure time while remaining present in people’s minds and in clothing codes. To be part of fashion history is a pleasure, to be part of the world’s history would be magic!
Do you find the difficulty of becoming a “classic” saddening or empowering?
No, the challenge of becoming a “classic” is a good thing and is not sad at all.
What do you still wish for, personally and professionally? What do you think are the next best steps for you in the future?
That is a good question! I believe that I try to improve each day in my life, even if perfection is an illusion. Like all the rest, it is complicated to remain inspired after having experienced a lot of different things. I always try to start from scratch and erase everything, it’s a good exercise to empty one’s self and then refill again. I think my state of mind is my first source of inspiration, because I follow what I see, what I hear, what I read, and what I feel. A sound, a face, a sentence, a building, or even a meal in a restaurant can inspire me. But it is important for me to erase any illusion and start from the beginning. This is a great way to erase any influences in order to build a future full of originality.
Collaboration with a “Grande Maison” or leading brand, do you ever think about it? Do you like the idea? Or does it sound out-dated?
I had a few offers, but I want it to be the perfect fit, not just doing it to do it. I want to do things well. I am not against the idea, but I will take things step by step…