Ziad Ghanem is probably one of the more subversive figures to emerge from the world of contemporary fashion, let alone from the Middle East. The Lebanese-British designer seems to be drawn to poles of multiculturalism, possibly inspired by his life in Dubai and now London. Sometimes known as the Cult Couturier, Ghanem is an artist by design and philosopher by nature who uses diversity to manufacture clothes that embody a spirit of cities where cohesion, clash and collaboration form the framework of progress. ‘I am inspired by my surroundings; from life, people, films, music and reality, and the simple matters,’ he tells us.
It is the sense of the unreal and untouchable that is most striking in his ready-to-wear pieces which enter through a tunnel of avant-garde to emerge as something plucked from a Poe-esque landscape. In his latest collection, for example, from Spring/Summer 2012, named Matka Johanna after a Polish horror film his designs are dark, interesting and dramatic.
He uses combinations of black lace and nude sheer to create a theatrical image of high couture combined with the contrasting shapes and cuts. Ghanem’s designs endeavour to capture gothic glamour, dark romance and are characterised by beautiful tailoring. He says one of his proudest moments has been a controversial Vogue design that supermodel Naomi Campbell wore in 2009, but this sense of dissent that runs through his pieces hasn’t stopped him from working with major high street chains such as Topshop and Firetrap.
He says he has achieved this widespread recognition because he has ‘worked hard and been himself’ and his only strategy in the coming years, he mentions to us, is to ‘expand and remain an enigma.’
As tight-lipped and mysterious as he may be about the future, he is a little more open to discuss his childhood and his early steps in fashion design. ‘When I was five years old I started making drawings of my mum in different dresses,’ he remembers. ‘All my life I designed and made clothes without having a title of a designer and although I started my label ten years ago, I am still experimenting.’
Indeed experiments and ethics have been habitual companions on his journey and he has used recycled and environmentally-friendly materials to make his ideas a reality. It has also drawn Ghanem a diehard following, which has given him the confidence to introduce some revolutionary concepts to the runways. Alongside the gothic looks on the catwalks of the major fashion weeks this spring, Ghanem’s models also paraded with paint splattered across their faces and outfits. He also used normal, eccentric individuals to model his pieces and masked them in a somewhat unruly form. Whilst the shape of things to come for this designer is anything but clear, he is a master of craftsmanship, creator of drama and intensity and master couturier.
Where did you study?
I am self educated
Famous brands you’ve worked with?
Designing for how many years?
Since I was 5 years old
Dramatic but modern
Where are your designs most popular?
The whole world
12 month plan?
Expanding to the Middle East
Who’s the next ‘one-to-watch’?
Noa Couture from Saudi Arabia
Photography: Christopher Dadey