INTERVIEW WITH GEORGES HOBEIKA

Georges Hobeika is one of the most sought after designers of today. Without much imposition, he won the hearts and wardrobes of many celebrities, such as Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez, offering them a specific style and creative expression, and a rather new thought about fashion. His journey of thousand miles began in Baskinta, a picturesque mountain village in the heart of Lebanon, a country enriched with diversity. Alongside his mother, owner of a tailoring studio, he learned how to sketch, tailor and sew at an early age. Although visibly talented for fashion, he decided to enroll in the study of architecture and began channeling his creativity in a slightly different way. As fate would want it, at the outbreak of the civil war in Lebanon, Hobeika traveled to Paris in search of a more stable path. There he began working at the atelier of Maison Chanel. Just a year later, he returned to Lebanon and, encouraged by the knowledge and skills adopted in Paris, he established his eponymous studio. As it is clear from his two-decade-long opus, his aesthetics has evolved from a dual point of view. On the one hand, he was evidently strongly influenced by the Parisian ateliers and the skill of garment making that is akin to the French capital. On the other hand, we witness a strong influence from his personal heritage, whether historical or cultural, because Georges Hobeika is a proud Lebanese. Ultimately, all of his collections are a reflection of a personal journey to the center of his own being, a depiction of an introspective path filled with a different life, artistic and philosophical stages. In his work, he often celebrates the role of flowers in fashion, thus confirming the claim that the human effort to achieve majesty in dressing is merely a simulation of the perfect beauty that has always been found in nature. That the architectural studies left a strong mark in his work, becomes evident in the geometrically harmonious lines and shapes he incorporates into his design. If we regard his work as a form of art, a domain in which it certainly belongs, Hobeika is experimenting with shaping a whole new reality. Fashion becomes more than fashion, and the notion of beauty surpasses lust and mere physical interest. Beautiful in Georges Hobeika's work is unique and timeless, even Kantian sublime above beautiful. The designs which he creates have their own vocabulary and they talk about the way he thinks and perceives the world. Through them, he tells a story about his own identity. For the new issue of Elle magazine, Hobeika exclusively talks about the inspiration behind his latest haute couture collection, which he perceives as an ode to joy, his creative process and plans for the future.

There is something lavishly artistic about your Spring 2020 haute couture collection. The unalloyed vibrancy of each garment and the feeling of uniqueness made it stand out in Paris as a new, fresh vision of high fashion. How did the idea behind the collection evolve? Did you intentionally transform the way we perceive haute couture?

The collection started as a continuation of the last collection. The last collection “Birds of Paradise” was a colorful, vibrant collection and I wanted to stay on this path of flamboyant and modern style. With this in mind, I decided to express a theme that is bold in color and can be expressed through different stylistic nuances.

While staying to true to the perception of authentic couture, I bring a new, modern feel to my collections, which ultimately cultivates a new perception of the Georges Hobeika brand.

For the next season, you reveled in color, petals, and volume, making us feel that haute couture is still vital and relevant. What kind of future do you envision for haute couture?

Haute Couture will always be relevant and sought after. Haute Couture is art- I am dedicated to preserving that and so, I create pieces that will always be in style and that can be worn from decade to decade.

In your work, you approach to fashion as art, in terms of both craftsmanship and aesthetics. You obviously work in a very detailed way. Can you guide us through your creative process− from the inception of an idea to its implementation?

The creative path is quite “messy” and changes with every collection. It starts with visual inspiration – being inspired by pictures, movies, music… which leads to a mood focus and more defined ideas that are then communicated and discussed with the team. This leads to new inspirations and refinements, which result in a final mood board that becomes our main inspiration for the collection. However, as this is a process that changes every time, it is not defined only by these steps.

In terms of inspiration, it can surely come in different shapes and forms− from music and films to nature and different landscapes. How do you know (or, feel) which particular idea to follow when designing a new collection?

Feel is the correct term. It’s the feeling that I patiently follow until it is defined as a clear vision. Communication and sharing ideas with the team is a very significant factor in obtaining that vision.

Your haute couture focuses on fantasy, whereas your prêt-à-porter collections seek to make everyday life exceptional. Do you have to adapt to designing for different women and style scenarios?

Absolutely. Both the inspiration and the procedure differ between creating couture and prêt-à-porter collections. Those differing paths are also subject to the demand for a variance so that every woman will find herself in those creations from both collections. Variances depend on sizing, age of the customer, and the occasions for which the pieces will be worn, in addition to many other factors. The key is knowing which variances to combine in order to create the best designs in either collection category.

You are known for haute couture, prêt-à-porter, bridal and accessories collections. To encircle the lines, could we expect a men's collection in the near future?

In my world, everything is possible. We have already started introducing some looks for men, and I’m excited about where those take us.

Who is the woman Georges Hobeika designs for?

I design for the contemporary woman who has a strong, yet demure personality.

Following your international recognition and success, you can easily move your atelier and production to Paris. You choose to stay in your beloved Beirut. What does Lebanon represent to you, both personally and professionally?

Lebanon is my country. My family and my loved ones are here. It is where I started my company and my journey in fashion. Also, Lebanon, being a mixture of civilizations that have thrived between the mountains and the sea, is a constant source of inspiration.  As long as I can stay here and manage to grow internationally, it makes perfect sense for me to do so.

Your son Jad is working closely with you. As you are combining different generational, aesthetic and creative identities, it seems that your vision for the Maison is always harmonious. Is that the secret to the success of Georges Hobeika− keeping it a family business, with respecting different generational views?

Yes, Jad has been a creative lover of fashion since he was very young. I have always encouraged to pursue that passion. Although we have different styles and ideas, combining them has been very successful and, certainly, one of the secrets to my fashion house’s success.

In conclusion, there is one more thing to ask. What kind of life does Georges Hobeika lead behind the scenes? Can you please share with us your personal interests, or a one day in life when you are not working?

I spend a lot of time with my family and enjoy moments and socializing with close friends. I also practice sports - namely swimming and walking - and I love to read.  

(Interview was originally published in Elle Croatia, March 2020)