It’s well known that the fashion industry is a jungle where only the fittest have access to the magnificient and imposing water hole that is the Haute Couture world. Among the privileged few is Canadian designer, Rad Hourani, the very first unisex designer invited by La Chambre Syndical de la Haute Couture in Paris, to present a Haute Couture show.
Rad was sixteen when his family moved to Montréal from his native Jordan. Shortly after finishing high school, he became a scout for a modelling agency. His particular aesthetics and intuitive personal taste were rapidly distinguished in Montreal’s fashion industry. It only took a few years for the capital of fashion to call his name, as he moved to Paris at the ripe age of twenty-two. Today, he carries two lines: RAD by Rad Hourani, a ready-to-wear collection, and Rad Hourani, an Haute Couture line.
We had the chance to sit down with him at the Phi Center, host of the exposition celebrating his outstanding evolution, Rad Hourani: Seamless, 5 Years of Unisex , which begins November 1st.
Designers often talk about how they fell in love with women’s silhouettes, and excellent tailors talk about the importance of the perfect fit. What made you want to create clothing that could be worn by men and women?
What inspired me at the very beginning was the simple question of who decided that a man had to dress a certain way, and a woman another. During the Louis XIV period for example, men would wear these little high heel shoes. Many years later, it was the women’s turn to wear those types of shoes. The question is, who decided this and where does this conditioning, this way we have to restrict ourselves to a certain way to exist, not only when it comes to sex, but also to age? A lot of people keep themselves from doing things they want because they’re “too old” or “too young”. In reality, these restrictions are everywhere, even in the nations we live in. They’re what make a kid who leaves the country where he was raised feel uncomfortable in his new environment. It’s these barriers that we make ourselves.
Are you referring to a personal experience?
Absolutely. I’ve seen many traditions, religions and different comprehensions of what society should be, of languages and ways of life. What I finally understood from all that is that we’re all the same– we’re just conditioned differently. The programming of societies is completely different from one place to another. What I’m trying to do with my clothes, my creations, my photography and everything that I’m involved in, is to eliminate all of those thoughts, which are only there to slow us down in our life processes and our integration in the human society.
How long did it take you to create the perfect pattern and which silhouette were you looking for while creating it?
I took a year to create and produce the perfect pattern, which had never been done before. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking for a silhouette, but rather, a shape. I wanted to lengthen the body and eliminate all curves to give this almost rectangular appearance. Curves have a tendency to shorten people and I was looking for something completely different for my designs. I wanted to play with lengths. I didn’t continue my academic education past high school and I’ve never taken a single fashion course in my life. I build clothes in a very architectural way.
If your creations could talk, what would they say?
They would say they’re ageless, timeless and sexless. They don’t belong to any period of time and follow no trend. They speak on their own.
Designers like Gaultier, for example, play with the androgyny of certain looks and styles. Why is it that unisex clothes haven’t invaded every fashion show? Will it happen in the future?
I don’t think it will happen in the future, since for me, it’s already in the present. Unisex clothing really impersonates the kind of aesthetic that I’m trying to showcase and push forward. I don’t follow fashion. I create designs that represent this idea I have, where men and women are not bounded by their clothes. I believe that unisex clothes are not as popular on runways because a lot of designers are very anchored in their academic education. They’ve learned that a woman goes in a dress and a man, in pants. Like I mentioned earlier, I never went to fashion school and it’s probably what grants me this freedom.
What has been your best memory since you’ve entered the Haute Couture universe?
It has to be the phone call from Didier Grumbach, president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. I was in New York at the time, and he called to ask me if I wanted to join and to tell me that Sidney Toledano, Christian Dior’s CEO wanted to sponsor me. In the world of fashion, everyone dreams of high fashion, so I knew right away that I was very privileged.
High fashion shows could almost be described as operas of the opulent and exaggerated. Why do you think your collection monopolized most of the industry’s attention?
I think that a big part of my clientèle and the people who love my designs are very interested in the technique. I use the very best materials and there’s a huge amount of work behind the simplicity of each piece. I think people also appreciate that my clothes are so wearable, since you can wear them everyday, but it’s the quality that makes each piece collectible.
You’ve spent a large part of your young adult life in Montreal. What place does the city hold in the evolution of Rad Hourani?
Montreal is the city where I discovered myself as an adult man. It’s where I found myself and turned into the person that I am today. To me, Montreal is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it maintains a very important place in my evolution.
As internationally acclaimed fashion creator and first Canadian to participate in the Paris’s Haute Couture calendar, do you have any advice with regard to Canadian fashion?
I believe it’s very important to be very honest with yourself and to be confident in what you can do. In this industry, you have to persevere and give it your 100 per cent. This goes for any city in the world, but it’s very important for the designer to showcase their creations elsewhere. I presented my collection in Paris, but before that, I was doing shows in New York. You have to show your talent internationally because the market won’t allow you to grow if you stay in one place. You also need to be extremely demanding of yourself. The most essential thing is to find your own style; create your own signature.
What are you expecting from the 5 Years of Unisex exposition ?
I want to contribute to something happening in Montréal and make people discover the Phi Center, which is a very interesting place. Honestly, I just want to offer an event that will entertain everyone. I also hope the pop-up show will make my clothes more attainable to everyone who’s interested in Montréal.
And without any notice, our fifteen minutes are done. Hourani’s principles and vision slowly sink in. He may seem gentle and maybe a little reserved, but the confidence and certainty that emerges from his thoughts are, without a doubt, the qualities of a visionary who abides by his own rules.
Join us at the Phi Center on November 1st for the launch of Rad’s exposition : Rad Hourani: Seamless, 5 Years of Unisex
Or visit his website :http://www.radhourani.com