Bonnie J Brown
February is a month of red roses, chocolates and candy hearts that speak of love, but it is also a month that plays host to the largest and most popular red carpet event of the year. The Oscars are no longer just an award ceremony honoring all of Hollywood, but instead it has become a fashion show in its own right, setting trends and, let’s face it, giving Joan Rivers and her Fashion Police enough material to use for the remainder of the year. People tune in to watch the Academy Awards to see who’s wearing what just as much as they are to find out who will walk away with a statue. And while the actors are the ultimate winners that night, the designers who dress them receive enough publicity to make them feel like victors as well. It also doesn’t hurt when you’re a relatively new, up-and-coming designer and your couture gown is worn by the night’s Best Actress. Elie Saab had just that luck when Halle Berry won the Oscar for her role in Monster’s Ball in 2002. Berry wore Saab’s sheer, burgundy gown with expertly placed decorative stitching that wowed the crowd and put Berry on the top of the best dressed lists and made Elie Saab a house hold name.
But Saab is far from being an over-night success. He has been creating gowns and showing his work in Lebanon since the age of 18, often attracting many high-society clients with his ultra-feminine gowns. While he did train briefly in Paris before opening his couture atelier in 1982, he is predominantly self-taught and began cutting his own patterns at the age of nine. While he had relative success in his home country, it wasn’t until 1997 that he was invited to be the first ever non-Italian designer to become a member of the Italian Camera Nazionale della Moda, which also marked his first fashion show outside Lebanon. He was then invited to show his collections at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris in 2000, where he continues to show.
Saab debuted his ready-to-wear line in 1998 with great fanfare, but it is his couture line that is his mainstay. His garments, although feminine and delicate in appearance and textile, require a bit of risk taking on the part of the wearer’s side. His gowns are often sheer, have plunging necklines, open backs, and/or drastic slits. The materials Saab uses in his garments are chosen with a critical eye, as movement is a key feature to his clothing, which could be a reason behind his red carpet success. But his ultimate success has come in making women look good as well as having them stand out from the crowd. The minute details he puts into his gowns are what make them alluring to the wearer and makes picking a Saab gown for a red carpet event a natural choice. I for one can’t wait to see which actresses will be wearing Elie Saab this year at the Oscars, and I’ll be watching.
1. Halle Berry in Elie Saab during 2002 Academy Awards
2. Beyonce in Elie Saab at 2009 Golden Globes
3. Elie Saab Couture Spring 2003
4. Angelina Jolie in Elie Saab at the 2009 Oscars
5. Elie Saab Couture Spring 2011
Image Layout: Molly Murphy