Lebanese designers George Azzi and Assaad Osta have unveiled their label Azzi & Osta’s fall 2021-22 haute couture collection. Deviating from their usual renowned architectural structures and solid geometries, the designers have dedicated the stunning 23-dress collection to the most abstract and volatile product in existence: perfume.
“Perfume is one of the most intimate choices a person makes; it reflects their allure and personality, their individuality – just like the notion of haute couture and how its ingredients are tailor-made specifically to the person. They go hand in hand,” the designers tell Vogue Arabia. “Perfume leaves a trail of your presence, it stimulates familiarity and emotion, and is different, whether flowery or musky, for day or night, or for summer or winter. In short – it is a parallel universe, which gives another dimension of elegance.”
The duo found inspiration for the collection while taking a trip to a perfume museum in the French town of Grasse, known for its long-established perfume industry. They discovered a vast universe of essences, be it osmanthus from Japan, pine needles from Canada, or sandalwood from India, drawing attention to the different territories, civilizations, talents and cultures that can intersect in a single bottle of perfume.
Osta says that jasmine was his favorite essence from the trip. “It locked a childhood memory of Lebanese breezy summer nights spent with family and loved ones. Honestly, for me, it reminds me of my grandmother,” says the designer. Meanwhile, Azzi vividly recalls the scent of bergamot in a class where he learned how to mix his own cologne. “Upon trying to guess what the essence was, the specialist said, ‘Notice how your mouth is watering; that’s because your brain subconsciously recognized already that it’s a fruit, not a flower.’ That was fascinating,” he says.
So, how did the designers evoke the pervasiveness and lightness of a spray of perfume in their collection? They embroidered precious ingredients including orange blossom, peach bud, patchouli, magnolia, fig, neroli, and myrtle, that compose a typical fragrance, with subtle petals of fabric molded and colored by hand, accompanied by ribbons of tulle stitched together edge-to-edge in frills. Between one dress cut in the shape of a vase and another mimosa ball-shaped dress drawn from a cloud of tulle, the collection’s palette is delicate and light.
Three wedding dresses are the apotheosis of the collection. One of them, whose skirt is embroidered with myrtle flowers, is made of tightened velvet ribbons and speckled tulle. Another is embroidered with tuberose on Chantilly silk, under a layer of lace dotted with organza flowers and spangled with crystals, meant to be paired with a bolero of ribboned tulle. The third wedding dress is the closest to the brand’s signature sheath. Illuminated with sequins and embellished with organza feathers on the shoulders, it emerges from a veil covered with raised flowers.
The designers say that although they love all their pieces from the collection, they have a soft spot for two dresses made of the natural, renewable fiber raffia: Pivoines and Grasse. “Those really took a lot of time and attention and came out exactly as we imagined them, and we are very happy with being able to achieve that from such a material uncommonly used on dresses,” they remark about the gowns printed in 3D with verbena and patchouli.
“Pivoines tells a story in itself, inspired from baskets pouring peonies. Both dresses take the shape of a couture silhouette. Basket made of sustainable hand woven raffia, and flowers handmade one by one by a local artisan, a craft so rare nowadays! It’s the resume of the entire collection. The 3D printed looks bring lots of joy as it’s something we’ve used for the first time in couture, and the bridal looks, the tafetta cape… All of it is beautiful, really!” they admit.
The two lovers of nature subscribe rigorously to slow fashion, producing high-quality creations that stand the test of time. Pieces are produced on-demand, mitigating surplus and ensuring that fabrics are not purchased in bulk. Wherever possible, the fashion house sources sustainable materials, repurposing both fabrics and embroideries. The brand further employs local artisans and local production, meaning that not only is carbon footprint reduced, but communities are also engaged. The packaging is minimal, and any fabric remnants are donated to emerging designers, giving them a second life.
Adding to these conscious practices, the feathers on the dresses of this collection are not feathers, and nor is the fur, to help protect wildlife species. In light of climate change, the designers feel assured that if humanity can join hands to create beauty, it can also do so to save the earth.
Azzi and Osta advise aspiring designers looking to incorporate similar eco-friendly principles in their collections to have sustainability as a lifestyle and not just as a message in a collection. “Looking out for the environment is something we practice in our daily lives and in our brand since launch. It becomes a continuous quest of research and learning – as the world becomes more aware, sustainable resources are becoming more available. It’s important to not forsake the cost of protecting the environment despite it being more costly. The effect is longer and gives back to all,” they add.