Fash­ion for­ward

New york de­signer vows to kick­start mideast fash­ion.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - CLOVE -

THREE decades af­ter es­cap­ing Le­banon’s civil war to ful­fil her dream of mak­ing it in New York fash­ion, Reem Acra’s client list reads like a who’s who of Hol­ly­wood’s Alist.

Cather­ine Zeta-Jones, An­gelina Jolie, Madonna, Halle Berry, Kate Hud­son, Eva Lon­go­ria are just a few of the fa­mous names who favour her lux­u­ri­ously em­bel­lished evening wear.

From the world of mu­sic, coun­try singer LeAnn Rimes got mar­ried in one her cre­ations – a low-cut chif­fon robe slashed to the thigh and em­broi­dered with pearls – while singer-song­writer Tay­lor Swift chose a strap­less Reem Acra wed­ding gown for one of her videos.

Acra is proud of her achieve­ments, ex­plain­ing that is she is the only Mid­dle East­ern woman to es­tab­lish her own fash­ion house from scratch in New York.

Now, with suc­cess firmly un­der her belt, she is turn­ing her at­ten­tion back to the Mid­dle East where she wants to help kick­start a home-grown fash­ion in­dusty.

The de­signer is work­ing on a plan for the re­gion al­though she stresses it is in its early stages.

”There is no (fash­ion) in­dus­try there to­day. But is there an ea­ger­ness for it? Ab­so­lutely,” she told AFP in an in­ter­view in Paris.

”I am get­ting in­volved ... There is an ea­ger­ness in th­ese coun­tries; they want to ex­pand, they want to be part of the fash­ion scene.

”I will help it to de­velop. I think there will be op­por­tu­ni­ties to help de­sign­ers de­velop and grow the in­dus­try,” she added.

With 30 years’ fash­ion ex­pe­ri­ence in the US and Asia, Acra has plenty of in­sights to share.

The de­signer, who has four homes, two in New York, one in Le­banon and another in Nashville, got her first break while study­ing at the Amer­i­can Univer­sity in Beirut.

There, she im­pressed a vis­it­ing fash­ion ed­i­tor with an em­broi­dered silk organza gown she made from her mother’s din­ing room table­cloth and wore to a party.

The ed­i­tor im­me­di­ately of­fered to host a fash­ion show for Acra, and in 1983, she found her­self in New York al­though she is con­fi­dent it will yield re­sults.

”I would say they are at the very be­gin­ning (in the Mid­dle East) and fash­ion does not get es­tab­lished in two days, fash­ion takes time,” she said. But she added: “There will be a Mid­dle East fash­ion in­dus­try.” – AFP Re­laxnews study­ing at the Fash­ion In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy.

”It was 100% dif­fi­cult,” she said, adding that there had been no ques­tion in her mind that she would have to leave Le­banon, then in the grip of civil war, to make a ca­reer for her­self.

”(But) I knew from the be­gin­ning that some­thing would hap­pen for me in New York in a good way.”

Af­ter stints in Hong Kong, Tai­wan and China, she said she even­tu­ally felt she knew the US fash­ion in­dus­try well enough to branch out on her own.

In 1997 she launched her own la­bel, be­gin­ning with bridal­wear. She later moved into evening dresses fol­lowed by ready-to-wear at­tire.

Acra’s clothes are now shown at New York Fash­ion Week and sold in over 150 stores world­wide.

In to­day’s global mar­ket, she says, her main chal­lenge is to de­sign for all women, not just those from one or two coun­tries.

De­sign for all women

”When I am de­sign­ing, I have to think about the woman in Saint Tropez; I have to think of the Chi­nese woman, and I have to think of the Mid­dle East woman, all in one dress.”

Nor is her fash­ion tar­geted at women of any spe­cific age, said the de­signer whose per­sonal favourite for evening wear is vin­tage ivory and pale plat­inum.

”My woman is not of a par­tic­u­lar age. I erase her age in my mind,” she said.

Her Mid­dle East plan, mean­while, is still on the draw­ing board,

de­signer reem acra, whose client list reads like a who’s who of Hol­ly­wood’s a-list, is the only mid­dle east­ern woman to es­tab­lish her own fash­ion house from scratch in new york. Time­less el­e­gance: acra’s time­less ap­peal is re­flected in this beau­ti­ful num­ber.

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