Maison Rabih Kayrouz is getting back to the basics, back to iconic pieces, giving new breath, and expressing firmly the House’s DNA….
On August 4, 2020, Rabih Kayrouz was one of many physically affected by Beirut’s explosion that rocked Lebanon. He hasn’t given many interviews since then. The famed designer suffered a brain hemorrhage, two clots, and twenty-to stitches that day. As a result, there was a limited ready-to-wear collection last September, or, no haute couture collection in January, as Kayrouz took a step back to physically and emotionally heal- and to refocus his brand.
In an interview before today’s collection reveal, the first obvious question was: how are you?
“My first answer is that I’m ok. I have the chance to be in Paris, so I’m grateful. And then I would think more and say, it’s horrible what’s going on. We had to get out and move forward despite all our injuries, moral and physical. I was renting the showroom in Beirut and the landlords are rebuilding, so we’ve had the chance to have another place. My team is just amazing because I was injured and couldn’t move, and my team moved to a location next door, and the landlords graciously gave it to us, and we were able to continue.”
“This is my beautiful memory from the situation but what will save Lebanon is the Lebanese. I’m giving very little interviews because this time has been hard for me. Physically I’m quite good but I’m still moved by everything. I woke up with all the destruction around me. I’m the generation that built up that part of Beirut and we were there in 1995, and were able to witness all the construction, and it was moving to see the destruction.”
Forced into a long recovery, Kayrouz has been slowly coming out and getting back to work. “Despite the explosion in Lebanon the world has been exploded by this pandemic and it’s not an easy situation anywhere so it is challenging to keep on. I have the privilege of being in Paris, which is a civilized city. I don’t feel safe to go back to Lebanon now, I’m really recovering in Paris,” he muses.
And now that he has come back, he has made a shift in Maison Rabih Kayrouz with just three letters: MRK, the initials that signify that he will have two presentations a year, in January and July. Prices will be lowered by twenty to thirty percent, as fabrics will come from the Maison’s archive and partnerships with manufactures have changed. MRK will offer a wardrobe change with key pieces that will suit any occasion. Timeless pieces will always be an option, and couture pieces will be found in coats, jackets, shirts, pants, and skirts.
“In spite of the explosion I was thinking since last May to take a different direction and change many things in Maison Rabih Kayrouz. Because of what’s going on in the world, I was thinking to move my work on another level, and to get out of this fashion hectic system. To think less fashion and more clothes and to turn Maison Rabih Kayrouz into a brand where we love clothes, where we want to do a perfect collection for the women we love.”
“We’re going back to our treasures, bringing them back with new energy and new fabrics. We have very specific fabrics that have been developed for us. Why let them go? For us, it’s about going back to our roots and our DNA and to work with everything we love, in terms of form and material. This is what I’ve wanted since June, to take MRK to this level and this explosion came and I was obliged to step back and, in this way, my team was able to work the summer collection and I was able to be more present for the winter collection. We have taken all the iconic pieces of MRK, with the iconic fabrics, bringing in the winter collection with this new energy. In this way, our new wardrobe is more accessible because when we can think about our collection with a step further, we can have more accessible prices.”
The MRK autumn winter 2021 collection was revealed digitally today during Paris Fashion week, with “cocoon” garments that offer reassurance and protection. The model showcased looks to the song “All Is Full of Love” by Bristol featuring Yasmine Hamdan. Wrap around coats, capes and trench coats, to skirts, pants and shirts that fit any moment. MRK signature blouses and dresses flowing in charmeuse, shirts in graphic poplin, clever tailoring, and architectural dresses, a gold number that’s most noticeable in the film. Kayrouz and his team has used various fabrics from double gabardine, wool, velvet and brocade. The color palette ranges from black and white, to bright greens, blues and red.
“I wanted my collection to be more accessible than before. The women I dress will be able to wear my clothes more than before. And in this way, we will attract younger and new clients. As a designer, it’s is my dream to see people on the streets wearing my clothes so I have to make them accessible.”
A full member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, this means that MRK is a haute couture brand. Unlike his other Levantine colleagues in fashion, MRK couture is not about sequins and sparkle. “A strong woman doesn’t need any décor to become what she’s not. Suzy Menkes once said, “I’m an architect in a world full of creatives.” And I love this, he chuckles. “It’s about cut, it’s about the craft and the respect to the craft. It’s not about the décor to show something and what it’s not. I like to have sense in my work and to make essentials. All the glitter that surrounds pieces is not real and I’m not interested in doing them. For the past 10 years in Paris I’ve been able to give that emotion in my RTW [ready-to-wear] pieces as well.”
Looking forward and past the pandemic, Kayrouz is hopeful for fashion, but he sees these days as a reaction to the creativity that will come post Covid. “Fashion is always a reflection to what’s going on in the world. There will definitely be a reaction because we haven’t been able to express our individuality for the almost past year.”
“For the last years, we’ve been directed by a certain mono-thinking. This is what was working and we were more guided by the commercial and marketing side, which makes collections look the same. But with these two years of almost nothing, when we return we will have no reference between commercial and selling. We will express freely, beautifully, and spiritually our creations because we need fun, we need to express ourselves, we need individuality, and we will come back with energy and a responsible one. The world needs another 6 months to a year to get back to normal.”
Watch MRK’s AW21 RTW women’s collection