Dream on

Skill­fully ex­e­cuted and made to mea­sure, San­dra Man­sour ‘s vi­sion of time­less glam­our is in­spired by rever­ies and brought to life in a col­lec­tion of lav­ish yet un­der­stated de­signs.

Bespoke - - SANDRA MANSOUR -

There are so many tal­ented de­sign­ers com­ing out of the Mid­dle East these days, fash­ion de­sign is prac­ti­cally a re­gional spe­cialty, kind of like what hockey is to Canada or foot­ball is to Brazil. As a mat­ter of fact, red car­pets all over the world are rou­tinely graced with the sul­try gowns and glit­ter­ing gems of our home­grown tal­ent and as a re­sult, the crop of in­spired emerg­ing de­sign­ers is grow­ing ex­po­nen­tially. But amid the fray of young tal­ents are a few stand­outs – those who have truly honed the savoir-faire their pre­de­ces­sors are known for, and are tak­ing it for­ward. One such per­son came to our at­ten­tion re­cently via a re­spected stylist, a man who makes a liv­ing with his ra­zor-sharp eye for fash­ion. He has seen the in­dus­try up close (on nu­mer­ous fash­ion shoots through­out the Mid­dle East and Europe), felt count­less fab­rics on his fin­ger­tips and ob­ses­sively ob­served how gowns, blouses and skirts drape the bod­ies of the women he has dressed. That qual­i­fied judge, when prompted, whis­pered this name to us: San­dra Man­sour. Man­sour, it turns out, has been art­fully and steadily in­fil­trat­ing the global realm of cou­ture for the last seven years. Her de­signs are on reg­u­lar ro­ta­tion at awards cer­e­monies (in Cannes at the time of our in­ter­view), fea­tured in mag­a­zine ed­i­to­ri­als around the world and en­dorsed by some of the hottest blog­gers. More­over, she’s no flash in the pan: the 32-year old Le­banese de­signer’s col­lec­tions are ex­ten­sive (there are 48 looks in the Au­tumn-win­ter 2017/18 col­lec­tion), ex­e­cuted with the skill of a sea­soned cou­turier and flaw­lessly mar­keted by a PR firm in Paris. In fact, sit­ting in her ate­lier, set in an old house on a bustling street in the Gem­mayze neigh­bour­hood of Beirut, it is clear San­dra Man­sour’s ma­chine is very well-oiled. “I’m not just a de­signer in a cou­ture house, I’m a CEO as well. You have to be care­ful with your em­ploy­ees, your cash flow, but as long as I can cre­ate, I’m happy,” she muses.

The airy ate­lier that serves as her brand’s mis­sion con­trol is also where San­dra and her team meet with clients and present them with cur­rent col­lec­tions on an ipad. Or­ders can be cus­tomised based on the client’s pref­er­ences and mea­sure­ments. “We adapt a lot to the re­gion. Some­times we add sleeves or higher neck­lines be­cause of the lo­cal cul­tures, for ex­am­ple, but it’s not a prob­lem for us, be­cause we have our own pro­duc­tion team in-house,” she ex­plains, point­ing to the area be­hind the ate­lier, where tal­ented seam­stresses are care­fully sewing and em­broi­der­ing Man­sour’s cre­ations. “We are very flex­i­ble be­cause we con­trol ev­ery­thing.” But de­spite her firm grip on the busi­ness side of things, Man­sour also in­fuses the col­lec­tions with plenty of artis­tic whimsy. And that’s un­sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing she had planned on be­ing a painter be­fore she shifted to­wards fash­ion de­sign. “I was in school, and when I was paint­ing I felt like there was some­thing miss­ing,” she shares, “so I did an in­tern­ship with Elie Saab.” For­tu­itously, the tim­ing couldn’t have been bet­ter: Saab was

“You know when you start dream­ing and your sub­con­scious be­comes in­con­trol­lable, this is what I try do­ing in our pat­terns.”

open­ing his first bou­tique in Paris and ex­plod­ing onto the scene, so Man­sour got the learn­ing op­por­tu­nity of a life­time and got a front row seat in Saab’s fren­zied fash­ion em­pire-in-the mak­ing. “I would draw in the morn­ing and in the af­ter­noon I would do pat­terns and stitch­ing. Other days, I worked up­stairs in the mar­ket­ing de­part­ment and then I would go to the haute cou­ture fit­tings with Elie Saab. I trav­elled with them to fash­ion shows and model cast­ings. Now, I think their in­tern­ships are more spe­cial­ized,” she re­flects, fully con­scious of how much she was able to ab­sorb and ap­ply in her own even­tual ven­ture. Back then, Man­sour was still a novice, yet ex­cep­tion­ally driven. Equipped with the prac­ti­cal knowl­edge she was ac­quir­ing at Elie Saab, she si­mul­ta­ne­ously en­rolled at Isti­tuto Marangoni in Paris where she com­pleted an in­ten­sive fash­ion de­sign pro­gram. “They taught me the tech­ni­cal parts, the pat­terns and how to build a col­lec­tion,” she re­calls. Af­ter that, she hit the ground run­ning. To­day, Man­sour’s fond­ness for art re­mains cen­tral to her col­lec­tions, as in the Au­tumn/win­ter col­lec­tion, Doux Rêve. In­spired by the geo­met­ric el­e­ments in the works of artist Ru­dolf Bauer, the de­signer brings a dis­torted in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the shapes to life on her ex­quis­ite hand-em­broi­dered fab­rics. As the name of the col­lec­tion sug­gests, Man­sour man­i­fests her dreams and fan­tasies through her cou­ture. “You know when you start dream­ing and your sub­con­scious be­comes in­con­trol­lable, this is what I try do­ing in our pat­terns,” she ex­plains. Over tea, Man­sour re­veals her tremen­dous ap­pre­ci­a­tion for cats (she’s had up to nine at one time), her cur­rent ob­ses­sion with all things Versailles and her up­com­ing plan to head to the Venice Bi­en­nale to source in­spi­ra­tion for her next col­lec­tion (which will un­doubt­edly be glam­orous, with­out os­ten­ta­tion). Our take is that San­dra Man­sour is in fact an artist who just happe ns to cre­ate clothes.

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