Maison Rabih Kayrouz opens its doors to a grand painting of haute couture, decor, sensuality, and sunshine
“I knew this was where I was meant to be, just like that, I felt I had come home,” says Rabih Kayrouz about his label’s new home. The Lebanese fashion designer has just moved his fashion house to its new home – the elegant 19th century Dagher Palace in the Gemmayze district of Beirut. “I needed to combine the atelier, the couture salon, and the ready-to-wear boutique into one place.”
Stepping into the vaulted light-filled showroom, visitors are invited to witness the inner workings of the atelier, from having the opportunity to meet the tailors and seamstresses as well as discovering the creativity behind Kayrouz’s pieces, including the new ready-to-wear bridal collection. This is a milestone year for the 45-year-old. In January, Maison Rabih Kayrouz earned haute couture status, an achievement bestowed by the French Couture Federation. It is also 20 years since the label was launched in his home city. His first atelier was located in an abandoned apartment in a charming old building on 81 Rue du Liban – “one where you could see marks of the civil war, but it had such a beautiful and positive energy that I had to take it, and start a new story for the house and for the brand.”
His second location opened in the Port District of Beirut in 2000, with the help of his friend Karen Chekerdjian, an internationally renowned product and furniture designer. They transformed a simple warehouse into the first Maison Rabih Kayrouz boutique. “We kept it quite simple and raw, adding some wood and mirror panels. And the clothes did the rest!” he shares. Of his chosen spaces, Kayrouz says, “I had countless beautiful moments and memories with my clients over the years. I designed and created more than 2 000 unique pieces in that atelier, including 400 wedding dresses. I am truly so grateful to this place, it gave me a chance, a story to tell. I believe in places and the energy they carry.”
The same passion and sentiment continue in the next chapter, with the designer carefully considering his surroundings for the here and now, as well as the future of the label. He’s known Dagher Palace, in all its rococo splendor, for more than a decade. “A dear friend of mine used to live in it, and I never thought I’d take it over, or be in someone else’s house, for that matter. I visited it for an art exhibition after my friend left the house last December. As soon as I walked into the empty space filled with a few art pieces, it hit me.” The blank canvass inspired the designer to breathe new life into every inch of the house. “As soon as you walk in, you immediately feel part of a grand painting: the painted walls, the intricate and detailed high ceilings, the baroque decor reflecting the Mediterranean light… It all gives it a certain indescribable magic.” Kayrouz’s style and Dagher Palace’s bare grandeur is intertwined; a combination of oriental sensuality and sunshine, with the rigor of Parisian structure.
“The central room in the house, the heart of it, has beautiful original 19th-century decor. When the light comes in, you need nothing else. I like the simplicity of things, which is reflected in my clothes. And so it will be here. The collections will be displayed in a very light way around the house.” While the building is steeped in history, Kayrouz intends to keep the house on trend. “My plan is to ask an artist or designer to come and create a new installation every three months. The house will be like a blank page, where every season, you’ll have a new drawing, a new piece of art. I’ve always liked sharing spaces, opening up my house to friends, family, and everyone in-between. It’s a way to exchange ideas and bring beautiful stories and good energy. You also want to have fun and keep a certain sense of curiosity and excitement around the space.” This sense of creativity is deeply rooted in Dagher Palace’s foundations. “Before this house was built in 1865, there was a silk weaving factory on the land, which makes this space even more charming and fitting.” Where thread was once woven, now it is sewn.