Youtube from Spring/Summer
When I visit the Chelsea workspace of French Canadian designer Rad Hourani two days before he presents his Fall/Winter 2009 collection for New York Fashion Week, I am greeted at the door by a towering red-headed model in a sinuous black bodysuit. Her eyebrows have been covered; her hair is slicked back on her scalp. Her Hourani transformation is under way. She reminds me of someone.
"Tilda Swinton," offers Rad. Bingo. Swinton embodies so many of the Hourani hallmarks-androgyny, severity, a hard intelligence-it's no wonder he tells me she is the one celebrity he really, really would love to see wear his dark unisex garments. The latest line the racks in his studio; I eye the midnight blue and onyx caged leather leggings, charcoal origami layered knits, and what appears to be a highly textured black cuirass, longingly. "These are definitely nighttime clothes," I say.
Rad agrees: "I am a night person, so it comes naturally. I like blacks, dark blues, greys. I am a dark person-not a pessimistic person, though!" What other myths might we dispel? For one, that Rad's aesthetic is comparable to any of the following luminaries: Rick Owens ("I'm not Gothic! He rules that domain"); Margiela ("I am not a conceptual designer"), or Gareth Pugh ("I'm slick and modern, not sci-fi"). And while his clothing's visual impact is stark and futuristic and his colors monochromatic, he doesn't consider himself a minimalist. "What looks minimalist is actually very complex, very detailed. I take the idea of purity, but I love to embellish it. I liked to build refined layers and regard clothing like sculpture. What influences that? It's usually architecture. It can be a line, a texture, a shape," says Rad.
But what about the shape of a woman's body? For Hourani, a woman's curves are of little interest. "My clothing is asexual," he says. "A man or a woman can wear these garments interchangeably. Gender is irrelevant." He's bold: Who dares to say this in New York, the fashion city that launched a thousand lines of flirty cocktail dresses?
Fall/Winter 2009 looks
It's a specific type of client that looks to such a robotic ideal. Hourani describes his customer as "Someone like you or me [LAUGHS]. Someone who similarly appreciates the geometry of clothing and who understands there's a sensuality to the clothing itself without relying on the human form."
It's also for someone who "loathes trends," which repel Hourani. The designer hopes that the recession will inaugurate a type universal catharsis for creative people. "It's time to re-evaluate our priorities again. It's time for making wise decisions-I really just want to see trends die."
Hourani knows brilliant marketing when he sees it, and talks a lot about the line between "art and commerce." Make no mistake, "Rad by Rad Hourani." a diffusion line, will happen in the near future-it's designer "for the people who already enjoy my aesthetic, but can't afford it." And Hourani won't be selling it just anywhere: "I often turn away buyers, or remove my lines from boutiques if I feel it isn't working out; it's very important that my designs appear in a specific context, and it needs to feel very organic".
And celebrities? Don't count on Rad dressing you for the Spirit Award—as you might anticipate, this decision, too, is a highly selective one. So far, not many bold names have made the cut. But Indie actresses beware...