Born and raised in Beirut, couture designer Krikor Jabotian confesses that his successful design journey is one he never initially mapped out. Jabotian speaks to Style.com/Arabia on growing up, his formative years, and Lebanese versus Gulf couture tastes.
ON GROWING UP WITH AN EYE FOR DESIGN
I was the boy with an eye for things that kids my age wouldn’t be interested in. I used to pay a lot of attention to colors, fabrics, and textiles, and I used to ask my mom to cut me pieces of fabrics so I could create little gowns for my sisters. Very cliché!
ON HIS FIRST JOB, WITH ELIE SAAB
Once I graduated from high school I joined Esmod Beirut. From there, Elie Saab, who was the Head of Jewelry at Esmod, gave me the chance to work in the creative department of his eponymous brand. I was very happy to join the team and I gained a lot of experience—especially how to appreciate embroideries. I used to think they were tacky and common, but if they are done well, they can be very beautiful. Now, all my work revolves around embroideries, so this period with Saab changed my whole perspective. But I left after seven months; the atmosphere inside the studio was very competitive.
ON BEING SELECTED BY RABIH KAYROUZ FOR THE STARCH FOUNDATION
Following my time at Saab, I then spent four months figuring out what to do with myself. I never planned to open my own brand because I was very young—so, I thought about applying to other jobs or doing something that had nothing to do with fashion. Then I received a call from Rabih Kayrouz’s PR who invited me to be a part of the Starch Foundation (a non-profit foundation that helps launch up and coming Lebanese designers). I accepted to be part of the first generation of selected designers and this is where my story started. And it was a success from day one.
ON “ENJOYABLE STRESS”
Starting my business and managing both the creative and the business side has been a challenge, but this was a choice and I wanted to pursue both arenas on my own. I ended up enjoying it. Sometimes I go through several nervous breakdowns, but that’s part of the job. It’s an “enjoyable stress.”
ON THE DRAMA OF A DRESS
I love creating statement pieces, but I also want them to be wearable. I don’t create drama for drama’s sake. Women want to feel beautiful while wearing the gowns, so I implement my touch and style but at the same time I pay a lot of attention so that my dresses are aesthetically beautiful.
ON LITTLE MISSES
Once, I was working on a volume on a small dummy and a client came in and she thought I was creating something for a little girl. She asked if that was the case—so I said, ‘yes, of course!’ I thought, ‘if I am capable of creating a big gown, I should be capable of creating a little gown.’ My first Little Misses client loved the dress and the business took off. It all happened via word of mouth and we were able to create lots of little dresses for weddings in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Today, what started as a fun project has grown into a very serious business that produces an income.
ON LEBANESE VERSUS GULF TASTES
In Lebanon, I work only with brides. Here, we don’t really have the mentality of creating a couture gown. Lebanese clients would rather go and buy something off the rack for the evening—it’s easier. Three quarters of my clients are based in the Gulf and this is where the business happens. I work for a lot of clients based in Kuwait, Qatar, and a couple of families based in Saudi.
As told to Caterina Minthe