For those who have never heard of him, Krikor Jabotian is 28 years old couturier that makes one of the most intricate dresses in the world. Began operating his own atelier at the young age of 23, today Krikor runs the business within his family and is a household name among the fashion elite in the Middle East. – by Mubaraq Haniff
MH: Please describe Krikor Jabotian as a person and a brand in 3 words
KJ: Oh god…as a person; I am excessive, realistic and ambitious. I hate describing my brand in words though, but since you asked, the three words would be dramatic, romantic, and couture!
MH: Why do you do couture?
KJ: It just happened all of a sudden. My debut collection was supposed to be designer’s ready-to-wear. I began creating it while I was still in ESMOD and I redeveloped it after I finished school. Once I launched myself as an independent designer in Beirut though, I started receiving special orders such as customised evening and wedding dresses. One step lead to another, and so we started in the couture business without even planning it.
MH: Many articles have been written about the absolute disappearance of haute couture business. What is your take on this?
KJ: There is a niche market for Haute Couture with super exclusive clientele. It is obviously less commercial and not all over the place like ready-to-wear. I believe that it will always remain, but the amount of demand will not be as much as it used to be, say back in the 1950’s. I previously had the chance to talk to the lady that did the communication for the late Mr. Hubert de Givenchy. She says that back in the 1950’s, women would go to couture houses and request for a whole change of wardrobe from day wear to night wear. There is no such thing these days.
MH: Who are your clients?
KJ: My main clients are from the Gulf Arab countries. I am meeting my first Asian client tonight. They flew all the way to Paris from Indonesia. We were actually supposed to meet in Lebanon, but it was cancelled for immigration reason.
MH: We heard that you are going to launch your ready-to-wear line, is it true?
KJ: No, it is not exactly ready-to-wear, it is just our second line that is more affordable and a tone down pieces of what I usually do. We are still studying and constructing it properly. A little mistake and everything will be a waste you know! But we are definitely doing it, there is a huge demand. For now we are still figuring out the right approach to it. And of course eventually once we launched this second line, we could think of ready-to-wear – if we are going to the empire-making direction.
MH: Which you will!
KJ: I hope so!
MH: When can we expect for it to be on the market then?
KJ: For now, I really enjoy doing couture as it gives a sense of exclusivity to my clients especially the one-on-one service. I still however, would definitely like to venture into ready-to-wear someday as it is very challenging to come up with beautiful designs along with practicality and functionality. It has a lot to offer and commercially speaking, if you structure it properly it can be very profitable. I think it is also amazing to go to a place and see people wearing “you”!
MH: And how is Krikor Jabotian ready-to-wear going to look like?
KJ: Our ready-to-wear will be very functional and practical. Wearable and sustainable items that you can play around for the different occasions. The spirit will always be of Krikor Jabotian that is tragic and dramatic. But we need a huge capital for this and a lot of thinking!
MH: I read your interview from 2013 with The New York Times about running a business in a country like Lebanon. Would you consider to move your activity elsewhere?
KJ: No, absolutely not! I will stay and always be based in Beirut. I think as a Lebanese designer, just like the rest of Lebanese people, we learnt to be resilient. We always look for solution to our problem, looking for a way out in order to make it happen! For example, given the political situation, most of my clients aren’t capable of coming to Lebanon – so we go to them instead. This is how it has been going for us so far. We travel, we meet our client, we get to know them. Sometimes I go and meet them myself, the other times it is my mom (which is also Krikor’s business partner). We continue the travelling for the ‘brainstorming’ with the clients, the fittings and so on. We are so used to the rhythm; in fact it is part of our job.
MH: You are coming back again to Paris in October to present your new collection. What do you expect from this presentation?
KJ: I really have no idea. I don’t know what to expect but I really think it’s time for me to move out from my comfort zone. It is already a great opportunity for me to present my collection here in Paris. It will be a showroom installation for about week. We are testing the water; giving it a shot. Without trying, we will never know our real capacity. It is better to move a bit from my cocoon and start taking risk. If we don’t do this now, things will get stagnant; and that is something that I dislike.
MH: How is it that you have this incredible skills at this very young age?
KJ: In school, I only learnt the basic of clothes making. And then I started with my ready-to-wear. The only place I worked was at Elie Saab – but I only stayed around 7 months. I learned a lot there. But I highly believe in personal effort, researches, trying new things, the trial and error construction, deconstruction. The fact that we are always experimenting allows us to evolve. Every time we work we try to develop new skills and elaborate our techniques.
MH: We at A Life Curated really appreciate the creative process of every designers and artists. Can you please share with our readers yours?
KJ: Well it is basically just a state of mind, a spirit, a mood, a feeling. My works are pretty much personal; it’s usually related to me. I need to be moved in order to come up with a collection. I always let my spontaneity to intervene my creative process. When I start doing a new design, it will normally takes a different form during the muslin construction. And when the model is in front of me I will retouch them and it becomes something completely different. It is always spontaneous – at the despair of moment. I don’t like to calculate things. I just let myself to go with the flow.
MH: Since we are in Paris, what do you think of French fashion?
KJ: French fashion has shifted. it is taking different approach now. it has become more contemporary. I love what the current designers are doing for houses like Givenchy and Saint Laurent, but it is not true to the original image of these houses. The same goes for Balenciaga and Dior. But fashion is shifting and it’s taking a different form like everything else in our lives today. Things are changing and so does fashion.
Mubaraq Haniff is the eyes & ears of A Life Curated in Paris. He first met Krikor Jabotian at Dubai Fashion Week in 2010.