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Introducing Grace Rihan: atelierG
Mittwoch, Feb. 23, 2011, 10:07 / Beirut, Lebanon
Grace Rihan, designer, artist and owner of label atelierG always had passion for beautiful things – be it clothes, objects or buildings. Grace first studied architecture and subsequently landed a few projects restoring historic monuments in her native Lebanon. Artistic vision is Grace’s driving force in her creative career, which so far includes exhibitions and shows such as last year’s AW2010/11 collection presentation in Paris; costume design for contemporary dance act Rech Mayya; a show for La Princesse du Liban, a project aiming to protect and promote Lebanese heritage; and the Body Revolution workshop and exhibition held in 2009 at La Cambre, Brussels, which Grace considers the turning point for her fashion designer career. Almost all the invited designers were haute couture professionals and, according to Grace, she was just “a little architect playing with her Singer machine. But I got a lot of praise for my originality in the end, and realised I could really do this professionally.”
Three years ago Grace finally opened her own showroom and studio atelierG in Beirut at Abdel Wahab el-Inglizi, now an established destination for international clients from the Middle East (and increasingly Europe and the United States) placing private orders or looking for design objects to buy. Opening the space seemed natural to Grace, who passionately combines elements of craft manufacturing, traditional Lebanese clothing making and multicultural influences to create surprisingly minimalistic, functional pieces with a touch of the Orient, especially highlighted by the choice of fabrics (silk, wool and velvet) and colours (yellow, blue, orange and lilac). Her architectural background helps to create conceptual, structured and well-tailored dresses, caftans and coats, each fold calculated to form silhouettes measured and designed so precisely that even a millimetre makes a difference.
TribaSpace had a chance to talk to the busy designer to get her take on the fashion marketplace in Beirut, and how technology is instrumental when searching for new markets.
TribaSpace: How did the concept for your label begin?
Grace Rihan: Architecture is what I love, and creating designs and playing with fabrics has always been a childhood passion. 2008 marked my official transition professionally from my work as an architect to establishing atelierG. However, I am still involved in architecture as I give two architecture courses at the Lebanese University and take on selected projects when time allows. Since starting I’ve received huge support from family, friends, and, foremost, the press, and have managed to exhibit my work at several local, regional, and international showcases which were instrumental in attracting like-minded people that later became my regular clientele. From there it all picked up, and atelierG is still at its earliest stage growing steady. The concept of atelierG is one of evolution; garments continually evolve into new structures that define a novel concept in clothing.
How does your educational background in architecture and history influence your work today?
The experience that I garnered as an architect and restorer of historical sites and monuments for the past twenty years has been a great inspiration. Architecture has been a subliminal element in the creation of atelierG designs. As an architect, I think that people should live freely and comfortably in their spaces, and the same thing applies to the clothes we carry on wearing. We should be able to move comfortably in our own space; the space formed between the garments and our body’s movements. Flexible, practical, sober, and minimal are at the core of the atelierG foundation.
How does technology and new media, such as TribaSpace and other online platforms, affect your business? Do these platforms help you to reach the international market?
Starting mid 2010, we opened up to social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, shifted to a new blog on Tumblr, and started exploring TribaSpace which exhibited a new interesting approach to doing business online, as well as YouTube channel which we’re working on as we speak.
The online community in Beirut is growing significantly. We believe the online space provides the perfect medium to start a conversation with our current and potential clientele, as well as helping us expand into new markets. It is also a great opportunity to tap the power of crowd sourcing. We are building our efforts to leverage all options available to give our fans more access to our brand via our digital skins. We just have to wait and see how all this will materialise, and how it will eventually turn out – it looks exciting, very exciting.
How is Beirut positioned within the global fashion market? What do you anticipate as the future of fashion in Beirut?
There is a sort of an incredible creative energy that runs in Beirut – and when it comes to fashion, the city ranks high. Beirut has always been home to the biggest names in fashion: new promising local talent, as well as the patriarchs of the fashion luxury market Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Hermes, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Chanel, Celine, Jimmy Choo, Louboutin … and minimalist contemporary design labels Hussein Chalayan, Comme des Garçons, Maison Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, to name a few. All have found Beirut a profitable and qualifying market to seek business in, and consider Beirut as the Middle East’s fashion capital.
The true potential of Beirut’s fashion market, though continuously evolving, is still in its infant stage. The opportunity to transform Beirut into a true international fashion capital hinges on its ability to step up to the game: organising apt Fashion Weeks to help shed the light on and open the world to Beirut’s diverse local talent pool.
To find out more about AtelierG and Grace Rihan’s work, visit her TribaSpace Showroom.
Natasha Binar | TribaSpace
Creation, Sales, Textiles, Ready-to-Wear
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