Famous celebrities and royalty all over the world have worn Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab’s ultra-feminine, flowing gowns. Born and raised in Damour, a coastal suburb of Beirut, Saab began teaching himself how to sew before the age of 10, dressing his sister in scraps of fabric from their mother’s closet that he would sew together. By 1982, at age 18, he had launched his own label in Beirut, after a brief stint at design school in Paris. Despite the civil war that broke out in Lebanon in 1975 that displaced many people, including Saab’s own family, he insisted on opening his dressmaking studio in his native country.
Combining Western silhouettes and shapes with a Middle Eastern flair for ornamentation and embellishment, Saab’s romantic eveningwear quickly caught on, earning him fans from all over the world, particularly with brides-to-be. He is also popular with royal families in the Middle East; Queen Rania of Jordan famously wore one of his gowns for her coronation ceremony in 1999. On the red carpet, Halle Berry put Saab on Hollywood’s fashion map when she accepted her 2002 Academy Award in a sheer embroidered gown with a crimson taffeta skirt.
He became the first non-Italian designer to be accepted into the Camera Nazionale della Moda, the country’s governing body for Milan Fashion Week, where he debuted his ready-to-wear line. Shortly thereafter, in 2003, he was invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris to be a member and still remains one of the few officially ordained haute couture labels in the world. Saab’s company is now based in Paris. He splits his time between Lebanon, France, and Switzerland, with his wife Claudine.