Rabih Kayrouz may be reeling as he watches and experiences the devastation of the economic collapse of his home country Lebanon, and yet he continues to push forth, a beacon of light, and a purveyor of beauty. The words of the great Syrian poet Adonis come to mind, “Beauty can save the world.”
This season, the Maison Rabih Kayrouz Fall 2021 couture collection saw its “Les Essentiels” collection transform through haute couture to become “Les Exceptionnels.” A fine wool jacket is transformed into a tuxedo with an open back. A double gabardine trench coat is embroidered and its fabric unravels into fringes underlining the cotton gauze of a dress in silk tulle. Meanwhile, a cashmere coat is accented with velvet bangs, accenting movement, and pushing forth with joy. Kayrouz comments that all is intertwined, intended to be treasured and passed on from one woman to another.
Where does one go, when the outside world no longer exists? Kayrouz was badly injured during the August 4th Beirut blast. Walking up the steep staircase to his showroom in Paris one comes face to face with the framed picture of the Rocks of Raouché. The familiar rock formations now appear like a broken heart. And then, light. The atelier is as it has always been, bathed in sunshine and lined with block-color clothes standing at attention, in silent competition; which one will slide first into the wardrobe? At the room’s center is Kayrouz. Exceptionally slim, his broad shoulders seem straighter; his face, while almost entirely covered with a surgical mask, has taken on the paradoxical deep and empty expression of someone who has witnessed war.
“Twenty years of work is not nothing. I have a certain experience,” starts Kayrouz, adding that he has an archive of 2000 patterns. “When I celebrated this milestone, in 2019, I took a step back to reflect and concentrate. And then the world sent some signs…” Kayrouz no longer wants to run, where the speed results in the forgetting of things that happen. He affirms that this realization occurred just before Covid. This desire to slow down the rhythm. “I was starting to feel tired, but you know, when you are in fashion, we have a calendar to follow and we don’t have the luxury to think a great deal.”
Yet, think differently, he did. He found strength in his desire to shift to act. Now, instead of churning out something new at all costs, he is focusing on his savoir-faire. “My obsession has always been to dress the woman I love in a full wardrobe. I present couture in my way. Contemporary couture.”