The connotations attached to haute couture are usually summed up in three words: elitist,
feminine and expensive.This narrow view of one of fashion’s oldest institutions, dating back
to 1868, is what has led to the growing speculation of its very demise. Can haute couture survive
the onslaught of mass market clothing and its minuscule prices? Who is haute couture’s client
today? And, perhaps most importantly, does anyone outside of the fashion industry even care
if the tradition dies? For these reasons and so many more, the governing body which oversees
couture fashion week in Paris, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, has begun a campaign
to redefine its image. In November 2012, the organisation made a move that few saw coming: it
invited Rad Hourani, a designer of unisex, aseasonal collections to be the eleventh designer
officially allowed to show during its fashion week; an incredible move that placed this
five-year old label next to fashion powerhouses such as Christian Dior, Chanel and Givenchy.

Rad Hourani was born in Jordan in 1982 to a Jordanian father and Syrian mother. At the age
of sixteen, his family relocated to Montreal, Canada, where he completed his high school
studies. Following graduation, Hourani started working as a model scout, eventually switching
gears to work as a full-time stylist. His experience as a stylist would prove highly
influential on the design aesthetic his namesake brand would come to be known by. Hourani
explains that, “I have always been driven by aesthetic in general and not just fashion.
I believe that looking for the exact thing to wear was the first step into designing my
collection. When I was a stylist, I was looking for something very specific that did not
exist: genderless, timeless, seasonless, and ageless”. Once satisfied by his experience
behind the scenes in the fashion industry, Hourani decided to up the ante by moving to
Paris in 2005. The move was prompted by gut instinct and could not have been better timed.

In 2007, at the impressively young age of 25, Hourani launched his eponymous line as a
way to design his ideal personal wardrobe; he admits that he had no intention of filling
a gap in the market or catering to commercial concerns. But like it or not, Hourani’s
penchant for strong, clean and almost reference-less designs struck a chord with some of
the greater fashion powers that be. Instantly picked up by retail barometers of cool such
as Seven New York and Luisa Via Roma, it took only a few seasons for Hourani’s popularity
to soar. He is quick to describe his vision as utopian, a label that certainly seems
apt when comparing his work with contemporaries. According to Hourani, “what we wear is a
reflection of who we are, but I am not interested in fashion. My interest is in the world
and the people that live on this planet and I hope that my life will serve to communicate
a message that can evolve our society and the way we live. My message is not just about
clothes or art or film, it is about a complete lifestyle and a way of being”. Sticking true
to his quest, Hourani launched Rad by Rad Hourani in New York; a more affordable, lower
price point label that aimed to carry his unisex, aseason wardrobe to a larger audience.

With his debut on the official haute couture calendar this January, claims to the beginning
of an evolution can certainly be made. It is as if the history of fashion has finally
caught a glimpse of its future. Hourani approaches his new membership with great weight;
“we live in a very fast society today where everything is about fast production and copying,
where we don’t have the time to digest. For me, I think that haute couture is to attribute
respect to all the craftsmanship that goes into making a luxurious collection. It
is about ‘Le savoir faire’. It feels right for me to do it today. I like to create my own
rules and not to follow any rules just to be part of an industry. I do what makes sense to
me and it always work out very well.” While the effects of his appointment may not be felt
immediately, Hourani’s role in the future of haute couture, and also in the larger world
of fashion, is cemented. Perhaps if we had it his way, we’d have better things to discuss
than the rising or lowering of hemlines. Hourani wants us to imagine. Or at least to try.