If there is anyone that has captured the art of the gown, it is Rani Zakhem. With an eye for detail and designs that are infused with the colours that were his upbringing, he creates masterpieces for the woman who is effortlessly stylish and mesmerizingly elegant. Sharon Carvalho speaks to the master designer about his glamorous creations
How did your journey with design begin?
Being born in Lebanon and raised in Kenya, I did not have the luxury of walking into a bookstore and buying fashion magazines. I would always flip through the issues that my father would bring back with him from his business travels, for my mother and feel so ecstatic. It was the cornerstone that urged me to venture into the world of fashion. Also, ever since I was a child I would always re-arrange and re-model the furniture around my parent’s house, scrutinize my mother’s outfits and always offer my opinion about what she was wearing. This, I believe, is how I realized my talents. With regards to educational background and experience, in the fall of 2005, after obtaining my Bachelors of Science in Interior Design from the Lebanese American University, I got accepted to Parsons, The New School of Design, in New York City. There, I pursued a degree in Fashion Design. I fostered my work experience in fashion at the hands of renowned industry players such as Yigal Azrouel, Carlos Miele, Patricia Underwood and Zuhair Murad, to name a few.
What is your design process?
It all starts at Première Vision, the fashion industry’s most important fabric trade show. There, we find a wide range of fabrics, which kicks-off the very first stage of the creative process – textile research. Although it differs from one designer to the other, I believe it is very important to walk into PV with a concept, or you can get very distracted in there.Moving forward, and in compliance with the collection research done in-house, we build a mood board of imagery that captures the feeling of the collection and what myself and the design team is going after. Inspiration trips are often a starting point for many collections and seasons, especially for Ready to
Wear. The design team and myself also spend days upon days scanning trend-forecasting databases for predictions on what colours, silhouettes and fabrications will be popular in the coming seasons.
Once the concept is finally developed, we start building the pieces by sketching and also draping fabrics on a dress form or live model. Usually, a heavily draped garment must be worked out on a form, while a tailored piece works better if it is first done as a flat pattern. At this point, we would typically have a pattern cut and that is when we go through the process of fitting on muslin. It is truly all about refining, refining, refining! We might design 60 silhouettes and then refine until we bring it down to the strongest pieces to create the entire collection.
Ultimately, the end result of acollection is about creating desire. Whether it is a commercial or conceptual piece, it is about the connection between the product and consumer.
What inspires you?
My inspiration typically arises from multiple facets. I do not have one occasion, artist or product that inspires me solely.
Who is the Rani Zakhem woman?
She is daring, trendy and glamorous.
When designing a collection, what is the thought you begin with?
The women I design for and what I would like for them to look like in one of my gowns, it the though I begin with. The Rani Zakhem woman is my brand ambassador and I take pride in giving this title to each and every client of mine.
What was the turning point in your career?
Being selected as an invited member of the official AltaRoma Fashion Week in Rome was a moment I will remember forever.
What difficulties did you face while creating your label and how did you overcome them?
Production is always one of the most difficult departments to develop and sustain in a fashion house. Time and experience are definitely the two factors that have helped me create a strong and reliable production team.
Who is a celebrity you would love to dress and why?
Charlize Theron! Her elegance, charm and personality are the definition of who a Rani Zakhem woman is.
When designing for a bride, what do you keep in mind while creating the dress?
I try to remember to avoid having the dress overshadow the purity and glamour of the bride on the most important day in her life.
What are your hopes for your brand?
To eventually open up stand-alone stores for the Ready to Wear brand with private couture viewings and personalized bridal appointments in the most luxurious retail spots around the world’s fashion capitals.
What advice would you give to young designers?
Create your own identity as no one can take that aspect away from you. Positivity and strength are also two important ethos to live by when starting your own enterprise.