For a young Lebanese designer, Beirut in the late ’90s was the place to be. “The civil war had ended, and the city was happening,” recalls Rabih Kayrouz, who, after studying at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, found himself swept up in the energy back home. Women wanted dresses they could dance in, and, unlike the heavily embroidered couture gowns that were the norm, Kayrouz’s light, ethereal creations, formed by draping fabric directly onto the body, allowed that freedom. “My dresses were like butterflies,” says Kayrouz, who at 41 still aims for that effect. In 2008, after a solid decade of dressing every It girl in the Middle East, Kayrouz felt the desire to branch out. He returned to Paris and quietly began building Maison Rabih Kayrouz, turning out ready-to-wear for the same cool, well-heeled clientele, but for less formal occasions. If it took a little time for people to catch on, well, that was all part of his plan. “I wanted to have something before I started to talk about it,” he explains of the buzz that began just a couple of seasons ago, leading Barneys New York, Ikram, and the Webster to pick him up, and chic fans like the stylist Charlotte Chesnais and the jewelry designer Noor Fares to line his front row. From the looks of his rather bold spring 2015 collection, which includes papery-leather bustiers and a brash orange flower print, Kayrouz is riding the momentum. “The women I love—they’re having fun,” he says with a broad smile. Clearly, he is too.
Hair by Shuko Sumida at Walter Schupfer Management; Makeup by Eny Whitehead at Calliste.