In January of 2013, Rad Hourani made fashion history by becoming the first Canadian and the first designer to present a unisex collection during the Parisian Haute Couture shows. These two distinctions were achieved after only 5 years of having launched his eponymous line, a feat unto itself. Hourani has quickly distinguished himself as a force to be reckoned with, creating both ready-to-wear and couture collections that can be found in shops and galleries around the world. He has succeed where many have failed in the design world, creating unisex pieces that are both elegant and beautifully constructed. In honor of his upcoming show at the Phi Center in Montreal, Rad Hourani: Seamless 5 years of unisex, I had the pleasure of chatting with this inspiring talent about his design process, personal fashion icons, and more.
What drew you to the design world?
I HAVE BEEN DRIVEN BY ESTHETICS IN GENERAL SINCE I WAS A KID AND NOT JUST FASHION. 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.
Where do you draw inspiration from when creating new collections?
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. ALSO, 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, CUTING, FITTING, PROPORTIONS, ETC.
How has your international background impacted your development as a designer?
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. I DESIGN FOR PEOPLE WHO APPRECIATE A CERTAIN SOBRIETY, YET WHO WANT TO LOOK EFFORTLESSLY SLICK AT ALL TIMES. IT IS A WONDERFUL THING TO LIVE AND GROW UP IN DIFFERENT SOCIETIES AND CULTURES AS IT SHOWS YOU THE WORLD FROM DIFFERENT ANGLES, AND MAKES YOU UNDERSTAND THAT WE ARE ALL THE SAME AND THAT WE ARE ALL LOOKING TO PERFECT OURSELVES IN LIFE. AND ABOVE ALL IT MAKES YOU REALIZE THAT WE LIVE IN ONE WORLD AND NOT ONE COUNTRY OR ONE CITY. IT SHOWS YOU ALL THE LIMITS WE HAVE PLACED ON OUR SOCIETY.
What is the design process like for creating Haute Couture, do you find that it differs greatly from creating your Ready-to-Wear pieces?
OF COURSE. FOR THE SIMPLE REASON OF : AN HAUTE COUTURE JACKET CAN TAKE UP TO ONE MONTH TO MAKE. AND A READY TO WEAR JACKET CAN TAKE UP TO TWO DAYS. DO YOU SEE THE DIFFERENCE ?
What drew you to creating unisex pieces?
THE IDEA AROSE FROM A SERIES OF QUESTIONS: WHO DECIDED THAT A MAN SHOULD DRESS IN ONE WAY AND A WOMAN IN ANOTHER? OR THAT 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.
Who are your fashion icons?
COCO CHANEL, ALAÏA, MME GRÈS AND PIERRE CARDIN.
What, if any, are the challenges you face when creating unisex collections?
MY CHALLENGE HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE SAME AS THAT OF ANY LANGUAGE: TO BE UNDERSTOOD AND MAKE PEOPLE REACT TO WHAT YOU SAY. DESIGN FOR ME IS A TOOL FOR SELF-EXPRESSION AND SELF-INVENTION. IT’S ABOUT OBJECTS TRANSCENDING SIMPLE FUNCTIONALITY AND GAINING SYMBOLIC POWER BY ENGAGING IN A DIALOGUE WITH THEIR ENVIRONMENT AND THEIR TIME. MY TRANSFORMABLE PIECES ARE CONCEIVED TO ALLOW EACH INDIVIDUAL TO CREATE AND CHOOSE THEIR OWN STYLE AND USAGE OF IT.