As I drank a shot of vitamin-packed green juice at the Ingie Paris showroom before heading out to the penultimate day of back-to-back couture shows, a high-pitched, sing-song voice behind me stopped me in my tracks. “If I had to choose between Chanel jewelry and your clothes, I would choose your clothes,” a woman sang. I whirled around to see none other than Suzy Menkes, Vogue International Fashion Editor, being helped out of her coat as she gushed over Ingie Chalhoub. While it’s perhaps no surprise that Menkes would shower Chalhoub—the most powerful woman in the fashion industry in the Middle East—with praises, I was nonplussed to hear her do so before having even seen the new collection. After all, Chalhoub has just been named to the prestigious Chambre Syndicale du Prêt à Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, news that Style.com/Arabia broke during Couture Fashion Week. Le Bon Marché and LuisaViaRoma.com will also start stocking her brand Ingie Paris come March—and following a creatively shaky start, Chalhoub is now gunning to make clothes that women won’t just want to wear, but will need to wear, too.
For her Pre-Fall 2016 collection, Chalhoub has undertaken a design departure. No longer satisfied with designing clothes for social events, she is now looking to design for working women, for mothers, for jet-setters, and decision makers—in essence, Chalhoub is designing clothes for women like herself.
The notes cited a visit to the Andy Warhol exhibition in Paris as an inspiration for the Ingie Paris collection—specifically translated to a series of hibiscus prints in royal blue and fuchsia. But the highlight, however, is that this collection is filled with separates that cater to a contemporary woman’s plethora of sartorial needs. “I have grown in this luxury fashion all my life so it’s even more difficult for me to determine how I can give [fashion] a contemporary twist; my biggest challenge is to make it different,” Chalhoub tells me. She explains that she thought about women—and not specifically Middle Eastern women, but women who, like her, consider themselves to be multi-cultural and don’t fit under any one label. Chalhoub’s woman has a packed schedule, with big gala dinners in Dubai and awards nights out in New York, but also has to dress for work meetings during the day and family obligations alongside her children.Chalhoub herself is the mother of two young men—one son is at Harvard while the other is in London studying engineering.
“This is a mature collection, with go-to tailored pants with beautiful pleat details,” she explains. Coats are finished in rich, water-resistant Loden wool; skirts include pockets for a contemporary finish; and embellishments are understated and strategically placed along the neckline. While the color palette balances between fuchsia, navy and royal blue, and a smattering of colorful geometric prints, the lie-de-vin burgundy hue is striking on an overcoat and jacket with elegant peplum.
Anyone in conversation with Ingie Chalhoub will soon understand that overcoming obstacles is what she deems to be the most satisfying aspect of her career. I ask her what the apex of her design trajectory would be, “To be the next Valentino. My ambition is very big; and I’m a feminist as well. I want to show this industry that we can have strong women in our industry and from our region—but also show that [women] can do everything.”