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MARK BENJAMIN: At 23, you moved to Paris where you began your career in art photography and eventually design. That stuck out to me because it sounds very scary and daring, how did you decide to make the leap?



RAD HOURANI: I used to do art direction in Montreal for many projects. I was successful at it, comfortable, I was working every day. It was a great career that anyone would want to keep. I didn’t like that comfort zone and I wanted to experiment more and evolve more. I decided to move to Paris as I started to want to go back to what inspires me. I felt that I could express myself more, so using my video camera and my photo camera, I started doing these art projects with paint and different things. Then I designed my first collection. The purpose of it was actually to use the clothes as part of a projection that I wanted to do in this art gallery, but not as a runway show, as an art show. The pictures and videos were not ready on the day of the event, so I did a runway instead. That’s how it got started my unisex brand.




MB: I was looking at that, was it in October 2007? That was 10 years ago, before ideas of gender, agender, and androgyne had hit mainstream fashion. What made you cling to these ideas of being genderless, ageless, raceless, nationless, and limitless at that time?


RH: When I moved to Paris I did an ode to analytics and observed myself and how I function and how I live in general. I started noticing that I don’t see things by gender, by their race. I don’t think of someone’s age. I won’t say I’m not judgmental, but I don’t look at people or life in division. I don’t need to categorize things. Humans need to categorize things and identify things to feel secure. I don’t think I ever had that insecurity to think in terms of you’re old or young, you’re black or you’re white, you’re gay or straight, you’re a woman or a man, or you’re Christian or Jewish, or from whatever division there is.


So I started writing these things down about how we dress, how we live, and how society functions in general. Then I started taking these pictures that I wanted to be neutral, black and white pictures that don’t have any identification, and I also started thinking about my wardrobe, because I see the way we dress as a form of expression. It was during the same period I was analyzing everything. I remember thinking, “Who decided a man should have certain codes of dressing and a woman needs to have a code of dressing as well? And where did this restriction of dressing come from?".




MB: To come back to this idea of unisex, in 2013 you designed the first unisex couture collection to be recognized by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris. Jean-Paul Gaultier closed his ready-to-wear line not long afterwards and now does only couture, a lot of revered names are doing this now. It seems as though there’s a shift, with designers moving back to the art of fashion and away from the mass market.


RH: Why I decided to go into couture... I had never thought of doing couture in my life. Really, it was the Chambre Syndicale that invited me, to see if I would be interested in becoming a member, because they considered my work to be haute couture. They considered it to be what you said, something unique, something that is not necessarily mass market. So it was a great pleasure to be invited.


I accepted because I believed that all of the work that goes into making a certain type of garment is a form of art. [The line] should have a couture status, because we spend so much time on the conception of the garments, the building of the garments. It’s not about making a T-shirt, it’s about constructing something like architecture. Couture has more value or is more desirable, I think, because we live in a society where everything is so fast. Everything lasts maybe five minutes or five seconds. We live in a generation where I don’t know if one day they will appreciate anything. It’s just about consuming the next thing, and the next, and the next.




MB: And time. It’s like everything has to be so instant today.


RH: Exactly. After five minutes, they’re bored. And all of these people, artists, designers, and architects spend so much time on building, or creating or conceptualizing something. I think to make things more limited or exclusive or private would make more sense in the society that we live in today.




MB: We have to adapt and move on...


RH: Absolutely. It’s been a while since I heard someone say, “Did you see that thing of this designer, that artist, or that filmmaker?” There is no more excitement or remembering things, or appreciating things for longer than the moment they saw it. I think that kind of fast consuming, whether visual or physical, or whatever it is, is quite scary. Even sexuality has become so mass today. Even coolness has become mass market, so it’s a bit hard to define what’s cool today, because everybody can do cool.




MB: I’m happy to hear you have this attitude of, “We can’t complain about the times, we just have to adapt and move on.” Because there are a lot of people in the industry who complain and say things were so much better “back then.” But things like Instagram are probably a good thing for fashion producers at least, because that influencer who posts a photo in these pants can’t be shot in those pants anymore, they need new pants.


RH: I think these ideas, the collections, or whatever it is, people are not remembering or capturing for more than one day. I think, psychologically, it’s going to be very scary because this consumption is happening so fast and is so charged with information that what makes you desire something or what makes you feel good about wearing something or wanting something lasts only for a few moments. Before, you would buy a jacket and you would keep it for years and you would love each time you wore it because it was the jacket that you got at a store in Paris that only sells there. But now anything can be so [easily] consumed or there are so many options that you are left feeling kind of bored or blasé.




MB: Things are less and less precious.


RH: It’s scary in terms of satisfaction in general.


MB: I have to ask this, because it’s so relevant talking to you about unisex, the internet became upset about this cover story that recently came out in Vogue, with Gigi and Zayn talking about being gender fluid. It was called out as being tone deaf and Vogue eventually apologized. I think it’s kind of interesting to see this go down and wonder how it happened. It almost seems like there are two different generations having two different conversations about the ideas of gender norms, gender fluidity, and being non-gender. There seems to be so much miscommunication between the establishment and the ideas from a new generation.


RH: Sorry, I’m not aware of what happened.




MB: The singer Zayn Malik and model Gigi Hadid had this Vogue cover that was... well, Vogue called it gender fluid, but it was mostly a story about Gigi grabbing from Zayn’s closet and vice versa, occasionally sharing a wardrobe and pieces. Labeling it gender fluid got people upset because they said, no, if you want to see gender fluid, have Zayn in a dress.


RH: I think today there is a trend of using these terms gender fluid, gender equality, and no-gender clothing. All of these unisex designers, editors and magazines... I get requests to take part in interviews because I'm considered to be "the ambassador" of that and I just can’t get involved with most of them because I don’t think there is an understanding of what unisex or gender fluidity is. I think it’s just a trend that is circulating, even commercially. I think it’s becoming a huge trend that... I won’t say it doesn’t make sense, because it’s good that we’re speaking about it, even if it’s not being executed in the way I think is unisex or neutral. But when a woman wears men’s clothing, it’s not unisex and it’s not neutral and it’s not no gender, because you’re still making a woman masculine and a man feminine. That’s still playing with gender dressing conditioned codes.




MB: Playing with the two styles?


RH: Exactly. But making gender equality or real unisex clothes means garments that don’t have a masculine or feminine style, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the past 10 years. We’ve done all possible research and there’s never been a brand that has been completely neutral and unisex before Rad Hourani. There have been brands making feminine clothes for men or masculine clothes for women, but that’s not what my vision is about.


What I did 10 years ago was take male anatomy and female anatomy and put them together to create the first unisex pattern. Before starting, I spent at least a year and a half, really testing how the body moves in the garment, how the body moves in the shape, how you can make it feminine, how you can make it masculine. And for 11 years, I’ve been perfecting it, until it’s really pure unisex where I can dress... For example, last week I dressed a basketball player who is 6ft 7in and he’s, like, 57 years old, and I dressed a girl who’s an artist, 23 years old, and I dressed a mom, a grandma, different types of people, different ages, different bodies. Being able to do that is because of what I’ve been perfecting over 11 years, in terms of how my clothes fit the body and how they can be adapted into a feminine or masculine personality. I’ll be really happy to see more brands do that, but to just use the words unisex,” “genderless,or gender fluidin a collection, for me, is a bit insulting. It does not express what it means.




MB: Even your name, Rad, honestly, is very gender neutral.


RH: Ahh, that’s a good one. I never thought of that.




MB: I thought Rad could be a guy, could be a girl. It doesn’t matter, it’s just Rad. I also wanted to ask you about the way we project sci-fi movies or futurism, the post- apocalyptic idea where we’re all genderless, raceless, and nationless. The clothes are very... They don’t signify any of these things. In some interviews, I’ve seen people associate your aesthetic with futurism in this way. I wondered what your take on that is. Is that something you think about at all? It seems that our hope is that, in the future, this is how things will be.


RH: I see your point about futurism. I see it more as an evolution of society. I feel like we always move forward, then go backward, a bit like with gay marriage, one year it’s legal, the next year it’s not. It shouldn’t be a discussion anymore. It shouldn’t be something that needs to be voted for. This should be beyond civil rights and human rights, this should just be evolution or normality, this thing that is completely human and natural to be.


I think the way we dress is also very conditioned and restricted because of this evolution that is not really evolving, like going forward then backward. In the 1970s, men were wearing heels, full print on clothes, long hair, jewelry, and all of that, then all of a sudden it went to something else, and so on. What some may see as futuristic in my work is just a way to evolve to be now. Can we evolve into something that becomes our base? Which is limitless, we are limitless and we are nationless and we are raceless, and we are genderless. We created boundaries, we created religion, we created countries, we created flags, we created everything that we are limited by. If my work looks futuristic, it’s more that it reflects what life is now.




MB: It’s like the future of fashion was yesterday.


RH: Well, fashion is a trend machine. It’s about selling clothes, like today we should be wearing yellow, next week is print. I’m not interested in fashion. I’m not interested in trends. I’m allergic to trends. I’m interested in a lifestyle, in a way of living that has a 360-degree, limitless way of being.




MB: I also wanted to talk about your photography and exhibitions. I don’t know how you do it all. It’s amazing to put out all these collections and also be doing photography and film making. I was curious to see how you go about thinking about your next creative projects?


RH: I do things quite organically. I do produce a lot of things and I do work intensively. I have a great team of assistants, but I design everything myself. I never have an assistant design for me or create a piece for me. When it comes to photography or how I build the next project, it really comes organically for what the project is. For example, when I did the Vava x Rad Hourani collaboration, the idea was to put on an exhibition on the eye. I went through the eye, I wanted to understand how the eye functions, how it processes light, a picture, an image, etc. I wanted to capture things with my eye without necessarily thinking or processing or identifying what was in front of me, like what I talked about before, about humans needing to identify people or categorize things or give limits to certain things, or names. I just wanted the eye to capture things around me without necessarily defining what those shapes were or what these shapes could be related to, what city, what country.




MB: In your early film Unframed, as in your most recent exhibition, a lot of camera angles are involved, sometimes the same subject shot from many different angles, different views, and a lot of screens, almost thumbnail- like screens. It made me think of plurality. Is that another tool to help you communicate that we’re not in these rigid boxes of race, age, or gender?


RH: I think it’s to showcase that there are different angles in life. We can be different in our personalities, in our opinions, but of course, as humans, our base is the same. I think there is the option of being more feminine, more masculine, more neutral. There’s the option of being casual, glamorous, whatever makes you more comfortable or satisfied in how you express yourself in terms of what you wear, or say, or think. It’s possible and it’s an option that should be respected. Showing these angles and perspectives of images in my installations unconsciously reflects that I don’t do it for a purpose of a statement.







































With a refined practice that mediates a sensibility of neutrality paired with architectural designs, Rad Hourani has shaped himself as a unique and prominent figure in an industry that has a pervasive desire to conform. “Until now, many people would ask, what [I] think about gender blending and the no gender movement, and for me, none of this equates to unisex. This is making women look masculine [and vice versa]. It’s like crossing borders and that is not what I’m interested in. I’m interested in a neutral canvas in which I take the male and female anatomy and assemble both, to create something purely unisex.” states Hourani. His designs evade the stereotypes of femininity and masculinity, a state where these common implications do not exist, creating an incumbent state of neutrality.


TEXT BY Morgane Kendall




“It’s interesting how [innate] ways of life and shared values amongst different cultures come to [fruition] and can be [adopted] in different societies,” outlines Hourani. “I won’t say it inspired me, but that it made me take neutrality to a different level and push it even more. Constantly travelling and living in new spaces has made me realize the [fluidity of culture] and its notions – its impact on society.” Jordan-born and Canadian raised, Hourani’s cultural upbringing has had a profound impact on his career. These inherent implications of gender coding have allowed Hourani to question its effect on a societal dress code, stating that his garments can often be seen as armor deterring labels while fostering confidence to protect ones uniqueness: “I want my garments to promote a lifestyle that has no limitations.”

The young creative has garnered a lot of attention internationally with his label, most notably as the first Canadian and unisex designer to receive consideration as an advising member of haute couture by the renowned Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris. Some of Hourani’s garments take up to one month to construct and perfect, being recreated at least four to eight times. Of his designs, he states, “I have always been a perfectionist about quality and construction in everything I do but I never thought my name, or a unisex label for that matter, would ever be thought of in the same regards as haute couture. It can be mathematically complex and doing the construction has a certain intricacy as well.”

With the subject of androgyny and gender fluidity being a rising topic of conversation in the media, it is crucial to have a figure present to convey the true identity of neutrality amongst gender within fashion. His designs give a voice to those who defy stereotypes of gender normative roles portrayed through a conventional uniform. “I find that recently [there] have been very intense interviews requests about notions of gender. Most say I’m an ambassador of unisex but [what] I find disappointing is that I’m [not] seeing unisex. I find brands are making women’s clothes on men and men’s clothes on women, or mixing both together but the feminine and masculine elements are all there. I don’t see anything that is purely unisex. It has to be a neutral object that gives [an] option to the person to make it feminine or masculine. Just saying genderless [or] gender fluid, I find it almost insulting somehow.” States Hourani.








After the establishment of his eponymous label, Hourani feels it is only now that he is really starting to communicate the notion of unisex through his designs. “The first five years were really hard work in terms of communication. People were not used to the notion of unisex [in terms] of design and construction. In the past there was always a [clear] distinction between men and womenswear and I think it took a while to understand a brand that really offered pure unisex garments to all genders.” – It is not easy nor is it common for a designer to create a successful unisex pattern. With no formal training or education in design and what Hourani describes as a “naïve dream,” the young creative spent his time studying the human anatomy, a meticulous task requiring nearly two years to perfect his gender-neutral canvas, which has become an intrinsic element to his architectural figures. With a documentary and retrospective on his 10 Years of Unisex, Hourani is focusing on perfecting his namesake label, investing in their online and in-store presence to cultivate a deeper understanding of his realm of a-seasonal designs.