Lebanon’s bridal fashion punches way above its weight. Clare Thompson of The Wedding Club explains why it has produced so many stars and discusses two of its brightest names
Lebanon designers notch up points on global red carpets, as well as being worn by brides around the world. The epicentre is Beirut – hub of a thriving fashion scene and with strong links to French and Italian fashion industries. It is still sometimes referred to as the Paris of the Middle East. The Wedding Club’s Clare Thompson says that Lebanon’s success comes down to the huge concentration of both talent and traditional design expertise. “Beirut’s fashion ateliers are old-school and with skills that have been passed down generations.”
“Wedding gowns are considered works of art, with extraordinary attention to cut, fabric and embellishment”
The Lebanese are devotees of high fashion and the design approach here is all about detail. “Wedding gowns are considered works of art, with extraordinary attention to cut, fabric and embellishment,” says Clare. “Designers draw on Middle Eastern and Western design aesthetics, and that is what makes their work so distinctive.” The nation’s design DNA can be seen clearly through the work of two of its brightest stars.
A regular on the global fashion stage, Zuhair Murad has dressed stars ranging from Taylor Swift and Jennifer Lopez to Priyanka Chopra. US model Chanel Iman wore not won but two of his gowns for her wedding, while actress Sofia Vergara glittered in a custom creation that took more than1,600 atelier hours to make.
“Zuhair’s designs are incredibly detailed, with luxurious fabrics and intricate embellishments, but they are also ultra flattering – designed to make women look glamorous,” says Clare. The Wedding Club is exclusive UK stockist of Murad’s RTW bridal line and Clare says that international customers often fly in to London just to try on his gowns.
Murad trained in Paris, debuting on the catwalks of Milan in 1999 and in Paris two years later. He launched his bridal line in 2011. While he now has a presence across the fashion capitals of Europe, he also has a devoted audience across the Middle East; notably, he dressed Saudi Arabia’s Princess Ameerah al-Taweel for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
“There is so much style about his RTW bridal collection,” adds Clare. “With each new season you find bold and fashion-forward details, but ultimately the dresses have a quality that makes them timeless.”
The son of Italian-Lebanese couturier Elie Ward, Tony Ward grew up immersed in the world of Beirut high fashion. Like Zuhair Murad, he cut his teeth in Paris. Ward trained at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. He then worked with the best in the business – Claude Montana at Lanvin and Karl Lagerfeld at Chloé among them – before launching his couture label in Beirut. RTW bridal joined the label in 2011.
Ward’s bridal silhouette is romantic and he has been called the ‘architect of detail’ for his use of sculptural forms and elements of light and shade. Stars ranging from Kelly Osbourne to Minnie Driver and Rita Ora have been spotted owning the red carpet in his gowns, which are designed to celebrate the female form. Ward now has a European flagship on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, which, along with his appearances at Paris Fashion Week, puts him firmly within the realms of high fashion royalty.
Ward’s gowns have been showcased at The Wedding Club in Knightsbridge, giving brides an opportunity to see the quality and attention to detail of his gowns. “Tony is a master of fine detail,” Clare says. “And there’s always a lightness of touch and elegance. Like Zuhair Murad, his atelier is extraordinary for the beautifully crafted gowns it produces.”
Zuhair Murad is one of more than 20 international labels at The Wedding Club’s three stores in London and Birmingham. You will find his gowns at the 10 Yeomans Row, Knightsbridge, SW3 branch. thewedding-club.co.uk
Tony Ward has flagships in Paris and Beirut, offering bridal gowns, alongside mainline couture and ready to wear collections. tonyward.net
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