Rad Hourani’s Unwavering Vision


“I’ve never done a mood board in my life,” explains French-Canadian designer Rad Hourani. “My inspiration is always a continuation. I evolve by staying the same in style and vision: unisex, timeless, ageless,” he continues. “It’s always been a very clear direction, a very clear process, and very clear timing. I never make my team finish a collection three days before a show; it’s always done in advance and it’s always a very clear point of view.”

It is this confident, committed vision that makes Hourani’s designs wearable, but never tedious; strong, but not obnoxious. Only 31 years old, Hourani is the first unisex designer to be accepted into Paris Couture Week by La Chambre Syndicale de La Haute Couture. On Saturday, he presented his ninth ready-to-wear collection in Paris; shown on both male and female models, Hourani’s offering was unflinchingly architectural, with a focus on strong shoulders and layered coats.

EMMA BROWN: Can you tell me a little bit about how you designed this collection.

RAD HOURANI: My process of work is a very organic and very precise at the same time. I have a canvas that I work on, and very precise direction and vision, and then I sketch graphic, architectural shapes, and these shapes can become a garment or an object or a building or anything you would like it to be. I don’t really design in a fashion process. I never look at pictures. I start drawing these symmetrical rectangles. Once you cut them in fabrics and test them and recorrect them, then they become garments. I’m not really interested in the fashion, but more in the aesthetic.

BROWN: What was your state of mind while you were working on this collection?

HOURANI: Feeling good, I think. Feeling more and more comfortable, more and more confident. I wanted to create very straight lines again—very soft and very rigid at the same time. The fabric is a very light gray wool that gives you that feeling of tenderness. So it’s kind of what I said, feeling good but confident at the same time; enjoying life but being strong. I wouldn’t call it stiffness, but that rigid, protected line, a protected shape. I want coziness, and something that is soft to touch, soft to look at, but without being drapey and without being chiffon. Maybe chiffon, but more made of very structural fabrics. Maybe being in love and feeling good… [laughs] I went a bit far.

BROWN: In the past, you’ve said that not having a background in fashion has been the basis for your collections.

HOURANI: There are two things that are good and bad about not having a background. The good thing is that you’re really not conditioned into what someone may think is right or someone may think is wrong; you’re free of any programming or process of creating. That allowed me to come up with something unisex, and a canvas that didn’t exist before. I had to create it by assembling the men’s and the women’s, the male and the female anatomy, into a unisex canvas. We have men’s code of dressing and we have women’s code of dressing, and I always wonder who had decided these codes?

The disadvantage of not having a background of study is the technical, business [side]: how to run a company, how to do production. It took longer for me to learn these things on my own. But now, it’s a natural process for us and we have a great team doing it.

BROWN: But now, you have a background—you’ve been doing this for a while, you are experienced. If being sort of uncorrupted by knowledge was the starting point of your aesthetic, has learning more about fashion changed things for you?

HOURANI: I see what you mean. No, I think it made something new. It’s going more and more profound into yourself and into what you really are creating and what you’re really trying to express. So it made me actually realize new things about myself, and about what I’m. I must say I find this a very exciting moment of my life—it’s like when you discover a diamond, something that’s a treasure, and you find it more and more beautiful. You see it in different shades of light and you understand why it’s a treasure and why it becomes more valuable to you. I think that’s what’s happening to me right now, in every aspect of this—the art aspect, intellectual aspect, the psychological aspect.

BROWN: When you’re putting together a show, how do you decide whether to put a look on a male or female model?

HOURANI: I think it has to be with the direction of the show. For example, the last show, the last couture show, I really wanted for the first time to work with extreme feminine and extreme masculine. I wanted the ladies to look extremely feminine and extremely fatale, and I wanted the men to look more graphic and more austere and cold.  But I wanted to also show that you can adopt this collection to any kind of style that you want it to be. I don’t like to use the word androgynous, but if I go more androgynous, I would go for a more “A to Z” androgynous.

BROWN: You’ve shown in both New York and Paris, but you grew up in Canada. Do you remember the first time you ever went to either city?

HOURANI: The first time I went to Paris was in 2003. I came to visit my family; I stayed with them for a few weeks, and I knew that two years later I would be moving there. New York, I was 18 or 19. I felt, the first time that I went there, very small, very lost. In Paris, maybe because the streets are more cozy and smaller, I felt more protected. The first time I came to New York to do a show was one of the biggest moments of my life. I was 25 when I did it. It’s a powerful feeling, and I will always be thankful to New York as much as to Paris.