"This coming November 1, 2013, the Phi Centre will welcome him as guest curator of an event that will last all month long. At the request of Phoebe Greenberg, founder and curator of the Phi Centre, Rad Hourani will take us inside his seamless approach and his five years in unisex fashion, through his study of the human body, his patterns, his photography and his 20 collections."
I met with the creator earlier this week so that we could learn more about him and where he comes from.
You usually work with more elongated and slim body shapes. What do you specifically like about both the female and male body?
What I’ve been doing since the start of my brand, but most of all my vision, is to really study the anatomy of both men and women to be able to create an unisex pattern. I studied that shape for at least one year to really get a grasp on how the body really works.
Now, like you said, you will most likely see very elongated and slim shapes walking down the runway. Some people even tell me they are androgynous, but it’s not really that. What I’m really trying to do is to erase the masculine and the feminine to give people a blank canvas, free of any references, so they have the choice to adopt it the way they want to in their everyday life.
But yeah, it’s really not about them watching the runways and thinking that they have to look like this.
You basically give people the starting point, then they can interpret the fashions the way that feels best for them? We are obviously not all the same, so it has to come out at some point, right?
Exactly. It would have been much tougher for me to choose a specific style, very feminine or very masculine, to walk the runway.
What does it mean to you to have the title of high fashion associated with your ‘brand’ since last January?
It is a high honor for a brand, an artist or a fashion house. It’s a bit like getting the art history seal of approval. It’s not everyone that can access it; there’s a lot of laws, it’s a very tight group that is hard to get into. I never dreamed that one day I would be able to even come close to it and to also be the first unisex designer to access it means a lot to me.
It all started from the question: Who decided that women should be dressing this way and the men that way? Starting this idea of a unisex pattern was a way to erase all those rules and start over new.
Aren’t you scared that one day this unisex brand that you created will imprison you?
It will never happen for the simple reason that it’s who I am. I don’t make clothes to fit in a category or to be part of fashion. Fashion usually doesn’t really interest me, what interests me is a style, an object that expresses something. It can be a photography, a painting, a piece of clothing, a song, basically anything that will canalise my creative energy.
What do you like to do when you are not working on your collection?
I love cooking, especially vegetarian raw food. I also love yoga, but lately I haven’t really had time to go and take classes, so I try to do it by myself before going to bed. It's been hard to keep up lately; usually I’m really disciplined. I also really enjoy water, the sea, swimming, the spa. Of course I love going to the museum, but that’s part of my life. I also really enjoy going to the countryside.
So a good T-bone is definitely not your thing, huh?
[Laughs] It’s never been. Never had the taste for meat.
Do you have any children?
I’m a godfather twice and of course that’s also part of my everyday life. I love kids, I’m supposed to babysit this Saturday! It’s great to be with kids, it regrounds you with the basic stuff. You know, they are not conditioned on anything, they are learning everything. It also shows you how we’ve all been programmed at one point to be who we are by gender, nationality, race, religion, but that at the beginning we are pretty much all the same. It’s weird because I feel like we are so much bigger than this…
Talking of nationalities, races and religions – I know you come from a mix of different nationalities, so could you tell me to what extend this has or hasn’t influenced you and your work?
My dad lived and studied in Montreal at McGill, he is Jordanian-Canadian, and later he went on a trip to Syria where he met my mother. They decided to stay in Jordan after that so that his kids would know the country. When my older brother finished high school, we all moved back to Montreal so that he could finish his studies in medicine and then finally I moved to Paris later on.
I would say Montreal is definitely the place where I grew up to be an adult and in a way built myself and my confidence, whereas Paris is the place where I understood myself. With a step back it’s always easier to see things better and I feel that moving to Paris was exactly that for me. I love Montreal. I’m always really excited to be here, to see my family and for my projects.
You have included a lot of Montreal artists in your pop-up shop at the Centre Phi, right?
Yes, there will be work from Gilles Saucier, the architect, choreographer Édouard Lock (La La La Human steps), Leela Sun, Renata Morales, Jessica Wee, Pierre Lapointe and Chris Garneau who will be playing on the 24th of November and finally, Mekele, who always does my runway music, who will be opening for Jacques Greene on the closing night of the exhibition.
It was really important for me to showcase local talents; it’s really a Montreal celebration. It’s not all about five years of unisex, a lot of things have been built for this particular project, pieces of clothings, art, books, oh, and I also shipped my personnal library here - it's for sale as well.
How did an event like this one come to life? Did anyone have to bug you for ages before you finally said 'Yes'?
It really came by organically. I really wanted to do something in Montreal since the start of my brand, but I hadn’t found the perfect fit. I was often approached by museums and galleries but it wasn’t IT, you know? Then Renata Morales introduced me Phoebe Greenberg. Her son, Miles Greenberg, was already wearing my clothes at the age of 12! When I met Phoebe, she explained to me what the Phi Centre was, its mission and it totally got me. I mean, it was the perfect place for me to really express myself in as many ways as I want to.
Now, one last thing, could you please draw yourself?