For couturier Sandra Mansour, the past few years have been anything but easy. As was the case for creatives all over the globe, the onset of coronavirus brought with it a avalanche of challenges, and just as the world began navigating its way through a new era shadowed by a pandemic, Lebanon saw one of the worst disasters in its history—the Beirut blasts of August 4, 2020, which saw some of the city’s most-loved creative hubs suffer heartbreaking levels of damage. The statistics were astounding: Close to 200 dead, 6,000 casualties, and 300,000 people left homeless, and in Mansour’s case, the tragedy resulted in a maison engulfed in flames, years of hard work reduced to rubble. “I will always cherish my boutique’s location, with its marble mixed terrazzo floor and traditional characteristics,” the much-loved designer had shared with Vogue Arabia at the time. “The tragic events of August 4 will forever echo in my heart, but I will always keep on building and believing in the power of my dreams. That is the only way forth – to overcome and create light.”
True to her words, Sandra Mansour has risen from the ashes like a phoenix, presenting the world this season with an unapologetically bold bridal collection that sings of victory. Named ‘Ad Astra Per Aspera’, the brand new line of ready-to-wear wedding ensembles celebrates the uncertainty of existence via intricate hand-and-thread embroidery, unexpected elements like pops of red and blazing gold suns, and artful drapes. “After the pandemic I wanted to create a collection filled with hope and dreams,” the designer shares with us during a special chat, describing how she leaned on “the delicacy of Lyon lace and lightness of tulle to pave the way for a lifetime of bliss amid a universe of doubt.” The result? A line of wedding ensembles that seem to have it all, from buttery soft gowns that stand the test of time, to sheer wedding numbers doused in glistening pastel 3D blooms, sharp ivory blazers, and when you least expect it, romantic scarlet pieces that demand to be admired.
With As Astra Per Aspera, Mansour paves the way to a brighter, lighter, gleeful future, rebuilt on a foundation stronger than before. Below, find out everything about the bridal collection that’s bound to make it to your dream wedding list.
Ad Astra Per Aspera — this is the inspiration behind your newest creations. How did you stumble upon this phrase, and what makes it so important to you? How does it translate in your bridal collection?
The inspiration behind this collection was from the Book of Miracles. The ready-to-wear bridal collection takes after its title, which denotes that our aspirations take us to the stars, to radiate a spectrum of subtlety and craftsmanship that spells out a new chapter in the story initiated by its Renaissance-inspired predecessor.
This is your first bridal collection after two difficult years. How has your journey through it been?
The past two years have been a challenge globally but a great learning curve. Deciding not to design a bridal collection during these times was a personal choice because bridal is unique. Bridal portrays peace, unity, love and hope, and for me now was the perfect time to bring it back.
Each collection you put forth tells a personal story. What’s the story behind this bridal collection?
This collection is dear to my heart mainly because the fabric and hand embroidery used were part of the unharmed inventory that were in the atelier on the day of the August 4 explosion. Giving them a new life was extremely emotional and a sign of resilience to me.
Second chances, miracles, and the idea of bliss are some of the themes that stand out in the pieces of Ad Astra Per Aspera. How did you reach these themes? What part of your personal life inspired you to create a collection that explores such deep points?
The Book of Miracles is the main inspiration for this collection and has allowed me to look at art in a different way. Living in the world we live in, with all of its changes, having an escape to dream is essential. While designing this collection I fully immersed myself in a different paradigm.
This bridal collection spans from classic white wedding gowns to unexpected looks featuring gold suns and red tones. What’s your take on wearing unconventional hues on one’s wedding day?
Bridal for me is an expression of feeling, and ones feelings aren’t limited by colors. A bride wants to feel unique on her day and beauty isn’t conventional. I aspire to make any women feel special on her day.
How would you describe the Sandra Mansour bride?
The Sandra Mansour bride is an empowered woman, a woman who isn’t afraid to express herself, yet a women who is soft and sophisticated. There is no single description… She is a woman that looks at our collection and feels connected.
Your journey grew from a love for painting to now designing, and it seems like every creation tells a story. Is your designing process the same as when you create art? Do you share your visions and thoughts in the same way through both? What’s different?
Yes, creating a collection is like art. I don’t set boundaries to my designs. I like to explore the fabric, colors and patterns to create something that moves me. The difference is that both art and clothes are interlinked, yet designing a collection requires a further step, which is reconnecting to reality in order to make the dress wearable.
Art—and therefore fashion—has a knack for reaching out and leaving a lasting impression on everyone it touches. What’s the message you’d like to send with your designs?
My message would be for every women to feel that what she wears expresses and represents her. To know that there are no boundaries and no norms and that clothes are not simply pieces to wear, but art to connect with.
Lastly, what’s next for Sandra Mansour?
Many plans are in store for the brand, how they will manifest will show in time.