- Published on Friday, 03 August 2012 08:31
- Category: Culture
Fashion — it’s a loaded word. It embodies multiplicity of interpretations ranging from the most basic T-Shirt and jeans combination to the elite confections of haute couture. Fashion is something that, even if we don’t realize it, we interact with on a daily basis. It’s an art form that we literally live in.
We step into “fashion” each time we get dressed in the morning. The garments we select to adorn our bodies stem in some way, shape, or form from the runways. For example, if a designer features black lace prominently in a collection, it is pretty much guaranteed that black lace will filter its way down the fashion food-chain from high-end department stores to tween shops and bargain outlets. It makes a person wonder, then, who are these fashion elites that shape the way in which we represent our forms visually to the world?
Aslan Media recently sat down with fashion heavyweight Georges Chakra, whose designs habitually are seen on the backs of some of the world’s most famous women including Gwen Stefani, Miranda Kerr, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez, and Jada Pinkett Smith. The Lebanese fashion designer has dominated the haute couture runways for a decade, and in 2009 Chakra launched his ready to wear line Edition by Georges Chakra. We chatted about his entrée into the world of fashion, how he approaches his collections, and what inspires him to create.
When Chakra remembers what life was like growing up in Lebanon, he says fondly, “Being born and raised in Lebanon was a great privilege. In Lebanon we have a great amount of diversity.”
“Most of my childhood was spent traveling between the city and the countryside, so I got to see many changes especially in nature,” he says.
These experiences all served as a foundation for the career he would one day realize as a leading couturier. His father was a hobbyist in leather. “He loved working with leather, creating wallets and other leather goods,” Chakra recalled. Yet it was his mother who showed him first-hand how to put a look together. “My mother’s sense of style as well as her social circle that helped spark my interest.”
Initially choosing to pursue interior design, Chakra studied for two years before switching his coursework to fashion. When asked about the change from interior design to fashion, he said: “I love interior design, and still do today [but] my first choice was always fashion; it took me some time to become comfortable and decide to change to fashion.”
However, he does not see the two vocations as being all that different. “You dress up a house or you dress up a woman, they both need a similar imagination. I always have to envision the personality of whatever or whomever I dress. When someone has this creative sense in them they can venture into any artistic outlet.”
Reflecting on his studies at the Canadian Fashion Academy, Chakra said, “The school allowed me to experiment and to try different things; it also allowed me to understand failure and to pick myself up again.” Certainly, training that allows for failure and evolution as one progresses in any field, let alone fashion, is vital to becoming successful. For Chakra, school was a chrysalis stage that allowed him to develop his designer wings.
Outside the classroom, Chakra recalls the experience of moving to a foreign country. “[It was] a shock at first leaving everyone here and moving but then it was a relief. The experience of living alone and fending for yourself really puts shaping your personality into overdrive”. Indeed it was a turbulent time back home while Chakra was abroad. “I moved during the first big war” he added, which was a main factor in seeking a foreign education. “It was very difficult to get a structured and continuous education in Lebanon [during the war]”.
Though Chakra was educated far from home that does not mean his designs are without influence from his homeland of Lebanon. “My culture had a huge influence on how I envision my designs” Chakra said, noting that landscape and his Lebanese culture permeates his designs on all levels. “As a country that borders the Mediterranean, Lebanon is rich in deep colors and hues of yellow and orange. There is a mix of Orientalism and Occidentalism that helps shape my designs”.
In the last decade, there has been a huge influx of designers from the Middle East showing at fashion weeks and couture shows, many from Lebanon in particular. Charka’s take on this? “We have a very creative base in Lebanon, not only in the fashion sense but also in the world of art, advertising, and design. I am very proud to have so many designers represent my country at fashion week”.
In addition to the influence of his home country of Lebanon, Chakra was also influenced by the designs of the late Yves Saint Laurent. “When he [YSL] first started he went against the norms and broke the “trend” that was then fashionable. He saw the woman in a different way.” That different way of looking at a woman, and how a woman dresses herself, clearly shows up in the sophisticated styles that Chakra produces. “Each collection has a muse; [but] there is no ideal woman [that he designs for]”. Couture is more challenging because I can really explore my imagination to its fullest,” he said. “With ready to wear I think more of the everyday woman; it's a mixture of comfort, strength, and style”.
Unlike many of his peers, Chakra is involved in every level of his garments, from start to finish. “[I am] fully involved every step of the way. I was never the type of person who sits on the side and lets things go as they may. I’m there from the drawing (most of which I do) to the pattern making, to the sewing and adding the embellishments if there are any.” In his newest collection for fall 2012-2013, Chakra told us he was greatly inspired by the Hitchcock heroine. “She is mysterious and secretive but also very confident, strong and sensual”. Utilizing hues of blue, white, purple, and black, with the predominate color being blood red, Chakra has created a rich tableau for the fall season.
“[I used] patent leather and feathers over most of the collection this season. As well as a thick crepe [which] actually gives the body an incredible shape. You will also see some mousseline, and lamé material,”he stated. These materials will be seen produced in silhouettes that are very body-hugging,” noted Chakra, “this plays with the idea of a mysterious woman in the shadows.”
Truly, Chakra continues to produce collection after collection that stuns everyone from fashion editors, models, and Hollywood elite. When asked if he foresees ever becoming bored by fashion, Chakra simply stated, “I hope not, if that ever happens then I should probably change careers. Fashion is so diverse that I don't think I can ever become bored. There is always something to discover.”
For more information on Georges Chakra, please visit www. Georgeschakra.comBy Erin Joyce, Aslan Media Contributor
*Photo Credit: Courtesy of Georges Chakra and beyrouth
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