Canadian-Jordanian designer Rad Hourani creates avant-garde designs with a vision: To break all boundaries, starting with gender.
His revolutionary unisex garments were showcased in the Middle East for the first time ever during a show late Friday at Arab Fashion Week in Dubai.
In thick pieces of material tied up in different styles, male and female models walked down the runway wearing dark sunglasses.
The 34-year-old, an invited member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris, was the first ever designer to present a unisex haute couture collection in 2013.
His Spring-Summer 2017 collection presented in Dubai is a reworked mix of his past archives and aims to showcase “the timelessness” of his 10-year-old genderless works, the soft-spoken designer, wearing a simple black cotton T-shirt and matching trousers, told AFP in an interview.
“People didn’t really understand it (unisex) at the beginning,” he said. “They were always asking which pieces are for men and which pieces are for women.”
“I had to work very hard in the past 10 years to communicate the neutral unisex vision,” which has become his signature style, he said.
– ‘Free of limitations’ –
For Friday’s show, Hourani said he re-edited his old collections “in a new way, adding new forms and new shapes.”
But it was the first time the designer, known for his clean A-lines and minimalist looks, has worked with draped folds.
“I think working with these shapes in a new drapey and architectural way was an interesting exercise for me,” he said.
Behind his work, Hourani has his own unbounded philosophy or “vision”, as he likes to call it.
“I live in a way which is free of (the) limitations of gender, race, age or nations,” he said. “I see the world as one place and I see the people as one as well.”
Through his garments, he tries to offer customers some of this freedom by creating unisex clothing that could be transformed to menswear or womenswear through simple styling such as adding a belt, or tying up the piece in a certain way.
“What I’m trying to do is to create neutral graphic shapes and then to give each individual the options of wearing it: feminine, masculine, casual, or whatever style they like it to be.”
“I don’t work in a way that I can limit you in the way you style the garment. So my garments are really very transformable in terms of style.”
While his fabrics are generally cotton satin, silk, and crepe, he used a plastic-like material for his Dubai collection and added bright colours — a change from his usually monochrome palette of black, white, grey, and blue.
“This time it’s more of a fun show” with the models even appearing wrapped up “like gifts” to celebrate the decade he has spent in the industry, Hourani said with a grin.
– ‘Lady Gaga style’ –
His designs drew mixed views from the audience with an elderly Iraqi man exclaiming: “They’re aliens!” as the models walked past.
But Nora, a Frenchwoman of Arab origin, said she did see some “interesting” pieces which she could consider buying.
“We don’t have this kind of fashion here in the Middle East… I see it (as) a bit special,” she said after the show. “To understand this kind of design you need to… understand the designer himself how he thinks.”
Daryl Scott, a fitness trainer from New York, agreed that “it was pretty interesting. It’s different in a good way.”
“It’s something more like Lady Gaga” style, said Scott, referring to the all-famous American pop star who has already worn Hourani’s designs.
But the designer said he does have Arab clients.
“I see a great evolution” in the Arab world in terms of fashion. “We have Emirati clients”, male and female and of different ages.