Although he elected not to present his 2012 spring/summer collection in New York this season, Lebanonese fashion designer, Georges Chakra, has still been busy. Since 2001, when Chakra began presenting his haute couture collection at Paris Fashion Week, his creations have earned him a steadfast pool of aristocratic clients who swoon for their imaginative and elaborate detailing, utmost quality, and luxurious designs. In 2009 the demand for Chakra’s creations in America, led to the launch of his ready-to-wear collection, EDITION Georges Chakra. With a background in interior design and architecture, Chakra has followed an interesting path to success in the fashion world that has resulted in an illustrious fan base, ranging from royalty to starlets: Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé Knowles, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, Emily Blunt, Kristen Bell, and Elizabeth Banks.
We sat down with Chakra to learn more about the man of many passions. Also: An exclusive photo shoot of his 2012 resort collection.
Benjamin-Émile Le Hay: How has your Lebanese heritage influenced your career?
Georges Chakra: My Lebanese heritage is part of my identity, part of who I am. It has played an important role in my career. I act as an ambassador and I try to convey this through my art and my designs.
The Lebanese market was my starting point. Lebanese and Middle Eastern women were my first clients. Extremely chic and particularly aware of the new trends, it was at the same time a challenge and a pleasure to design for them. They have influenced my designs with their respect for the oriental ancient tradition and their love for the occidental unique elegance.
BL: Tell me more about your experiences at the Canadian Fashion Academy?
GC: Although my business is based primarily in the Middle East, I was and am still exposed to many different people and places from both the eastern and western parts of the world. Studying in Toronto at the Canadian Fashion Academy was the first chance I had to experience a different culture. It enhanced my international experiences and exposure. My designs are now mixing the western fashion values with the unique blend of eastern mystique and sensitivity. It’s like the best of both worlds.
BL: What caused your fervor for fashion? Who inspired you in the creative world?
GC: Since childhood, I was interested in the fashion industry and designing. It was one of my favorite pastimes to look in magazines and go to the movies to see what movie stars and models were wearing. Yves Saint Laurent was my favorite designer. He is the inventor of modern fashion and I am still amazed by his timeless designs.
BL: What are the challenges you face in designing haute couture?
GC: Couture design has a great influence on the ready-to-wear and on the way people dress around the world in general. Haute couture is considered to be the trendsetting for the season to come. It is also an opportunity for designers to show our creativity. So I would say one of the main challenges is balancing creativity with wearability – with some exception of one or two looks in the collection which are designed for the pure pleasure of designing.
Breaking into the international market is an additional challenge to consider, as the rules are different in each country and the competition is tough.
BL: Your clients? Tell me about the Georges Chakra woman?
GC: My clients are Middle Eastern, European, Russian, Asian, American… but Georges Chakra women all have one thing in common: sophisticated elegance.
BL: In 2009 you founded EDITION—how did that transpire? How are the challenges with designing a full additional line different from your couture department?
GC: The idea of launching Edition, which is our ready-to-wear line, is actually a project my team and I have been working on since 2006. We wanted to make sure that everything was perfect so it took years of careful planning. As compared to the couture line, the ready-to-wear collections allow me to broaden my horizons; to grow the brand name that was so far solely dedicated to couture, to expand my customer base by designing different styles and catering to less formal occasions as well as giving me the freedom to experiment with new silhouettes and fabrics. The Edition line still has the same spirit of creativity, sophistication and originality of the Georges Chakra couture line, but toned down just a little, so the collection is at a more affordable price. The fabrics and workmanship remains beautiful and very well done. It is what I like to call ‘couture’s wear.’ The main challenge is the production as each collection is limited but not exclusive as in the couture line.
BL: How did the global downturn affect your business?
GC: Like many other designers, I am careful with the spending and allocating of funds strategically.
However every struggle can be turned into an advantage. For example, using social media to communicate is a great way to stay within a budget while feeding the brand awareness.
BL: What are your passions outside of fashion? Where do you holiday? Where do you dine? Where do you stroll in the world?
GC: I’m very passionate about movies, especially the classic ones. I travel to European cities, especially Paris, whenever my schedule allows. I like to dine in small cafes and cozy restaurants, ones that offer regional specialties, as I enjoy discrete surroundings and good local food.
BL: Tell us about your new spring/summer 2012 collection and resort? What were you seeking to communicate through your garments?
GC: The ‘Edition by Georges Chakra’ ready-to-wear spring 2012 collection is a very fresh and light collection in terms of cut and color, much like a summer night breeze on a luxurious beach.
Whereas the Resort 2012 collection is characterized by a more eclectic mix of styles, with more elaborate characteristics and some couture detailing.
My designs usually embrace the woman’s body, making her feel seductive, glamorous and extremely sexy. I try to emphasize the ladylike feel.
BL: What will be new, different, or next for Chakra?
GC: The latest addition to our couture and ready -to-wear lines is the Resort 2012 collection. We felt it was time to expand a bit as our clients vacation over the holidays. As for what’s next, we are considering adding a full Bridal collection to the Georges Chakra umbrella.
BL: What is key for luxury designers to consider in the future?
GC: In an era of standardization and democratization of the luxury brands, I think luxury designers should do what we have to so that the uniqueness, the quality and the craftsmanship of the pieces we create is not compromised.