FASHION EMPIRE KRIKOR JABOTIAN'S
Lebanese-armenian fashion designer Krikor Jabotian star ted his atelier at the age of 23. Six years on and he’s built a solid reputation for his luxurious haute couture designs that have just gone global. He sat down with LT to talk about inspiration, emb
Lebanese fashion designer Krikor Jabotian hit the international headlines in September when American actress Regina King was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her role in ABC’S American Crime. When she accepted the award at the Los Angeles ceremony, it was one of his dresses she was wearing – an elegant white ankle-length gown, embellished with pearls... at the af ter party she sported another of his designs. “We are thrilled to have our first Hollywood appearance by an award winner. The first day I didn’t really understand what was happening. The second day I understood how big this was,” Jabotian says, sitting in his Tabaris atelier. “It’s created a lot of exposure and buzz for us – a lot of people were requesting the dress af terwards.”
Though this was the first Krikor Jabotian design to appear on the Red Carpet in Hollywood, the in-demand designer is already well established in Lebanon. Af ter graduating from the Beirut ESMOD school of fashion, he went on to work in renowned Lebanese designer Elie Saab’s creative department. “It was a super-enriching experience, especially working one-on-one with Elie Saab,” Jabotian says. “He taught me to love embroidery; I used to have a repulsion towards it, then I thought if it was done with taste, you could turn embroidery into jewels.” It’s since become one of the defining characteristics of his style. Af ter less than a year of working with Saab, Jabotian launched his first collection at Starch Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps launch the work of emerging designers. His evening collection of long gowns came in midway between couture and ready-to-wear and was an instant hit with the public. “When I first started in Starch I never imagined that soon I would have my own atelier and launch myself as an independent designer. But, then I felt that people were relating to my work and they started placing orders for custom-made gowns. It was quite a huge responsibility at a ver y young age,” Jabotian says. At 23, Jabotian launched his own Achrafieh atelier and af ter only a year the demand for his work was so high that he moved to a bigger space in Tabaris. Six years on and the business has become a mini-empire. He has back-to-back appointments with clients in his spacious atelier; spread over three floors of an old building where he works on custom-made haute couture gowns, of ten for weddings. He has transformed what was a small atelier into a big family business, employing his mother, father, sister and close friends. It’s become his second home. “I spend much more time here with my team than in my apartment. I believe that working in a healthy environment with people you trust is ver y important for being productive,” Jabotian says.
Jabotian cites Dior as an early influence, but closer to home his grandmother was a significant figure. He used to watch black and white Egyptian movies with her, dur ing which she would tell him about the dif ferent cuts, necklines and flared skir ts she used to wear in the ‘50s. “She used to sew her own dresses when she was younger – I learned a lot from her.” Being of Armenian origin, the countr y’s culture has always had a strong presence for him: “We went to Armenian schools and learned the histor y. It’s a beautiful way to preser ve our heritage and culture. I think it’s quite interesting to have these dif ferent worlds combining indirectly in my work.” Though Jabotian stays abreast of the latest trends, working mainly in haute couture, he sets his own rules. “When you do couture it’s like you are selling dreams and each designer’s own fetish, their fantasies, their world. I attract a specific kind of clientele because they can relate to my world.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT TRUST
The first process of a commission star ts with a meeting in Jabotian’s atelier, to establish the client’s personality and tastes. “I might get inspired by her personality, her job, or the way she dresses,” Jabotian says. During the second appointment Jabotian shows the client a proposal – perhaps a sketch, fabr ic suggestions, embroider y and samples. “If it clicks, then we’ll be able to work together. The client needs to trust me, because when the client comes here I don’t have readymade dresses for her to tr y on. It’s a matter of trust and energy.”
Jabotian was approached by Vogue Italy to take par t in the Vogue Fashion Dubai Exper ience, which took place in October. Eight designers from around the world were selected to create a collection and share it on a runway in front of fashion gurus and industr y exper ts. The ready-to-wear line for Spr ing/summer 2016 was his first runway fashion show. “It was a toned-down version of what I usually do. I kept the same spir it and ambiance but made something more practical… though it is still ver y dramatic,” he laughs.
When I first started in Starch I never imagined that soon. I would launch myself as an independent designer
“The Last Spring” – Spring/summer 2015 collection.
Photos: Krikor Jabotian
Krikor Jabotian Atelier 01 204793, 71 883737 kr ikor jabotian.com
Kr ikor Jabotian, Kr ikorjabotian Dakdouk Building, 4th Floor, Tabar is, Selim Bustros Street, Beirut