Design against boundaries: Rad Hourani

Rad Hourani. Photo by Anastasia Muna
Rad Hourani. Photo by Anastasia Muna

Rad Hourani’s designs are clear and symmetric, he imagines them as asexual, aseasonal, with no tradition and from no place, transcending categories and borders. His architectural aesthetic was honoured by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in 2012 when he became the first unisex designer to be invited to Paris Haute Couture. On the occasion of his “Five Years Of Unisex” anniversary and his first visit to Berlin in March 2014, sleek met Rad Hourani at Oukan Concept Store. The exhibition shows his work of the first five years, his current Haute Couture collection and introduced his first unisex perfume.

Sleek: How do you perceive yourself if not as a fashion designer?
Rad Hourani: I don’t want to call myself one thing. I hate fashion because fashion is ephemeral; I want my work to be timeless. So I think I’m just a person with a vision I’d like to express in different disciplines, and these disciplines can be design, architecture, art, photography, sound, words, literature and music. Humans have a very big tendency to categorise things, putting things in ages, genders, religions, in coats that divide us. I’m trying to erase all these limitation of differentiation, and that comes to why I do unisex – it’s about not limiting yourself because you’re a man or a woman or because you’re this or that age. I’m trying to express that by not putting myself into any category.

Since you don’t have a formal education, where does your work come from?
At school, the only things I was always good at were mathematics and arts. I didn’t follow up on a formal education afterwards, but I think I have the ability to construct an object that can become any kind of object I want it to be. I started creating my first clothes for myself out of curiosity and innocence in 2007 because I found it difficult to find clothes I would like in the men’s and women’s departments. Before I started designing the first garment, I studied objects and architecture, and I studied the anatomy of men and women for a year in order to create my own, one unisex canvas. I set up fix points that would always be constant: all my garments are symmetric, rectangular and graphic. I observe how they feel on the body, how my body moves and what feels comfortable. So my process of working is very related to myself and to how I want to wear things. I never do mood boards and I don’t make muslin prototypes, but work directly with the original material – which differs a lot from the typical designing process and is much more expensive. I’m approaching things very intuitively and naturally.

Photo by Anastasia Muna

How does design transgress social boundaries? How did your experiences influence your work and how can your work transcend borders?
Design definitely communicates a message and it touches people who really understand what I mean. For me, design is a form of expression the same way art and music are. The unisex point of view is the eradication of limitations that can divide people and limit them from evolving. The division between religion, gender or nationality is not a forward way of thinking, it’s not who we are and it’s not how we exist on this planet. The limitations are something we put up, and I ask myself who decides these categories, like what a man or a woman has to wear. I might not be in the government or in an institution, but I think design can be one form of expression that helps to break these boundaries and touches people. I am communicating my point of view on the world from a psychological and political and aesthetic point of view. And I think my work participates in erasing these borders and participates in society and makes a meaning.

Do you want to unify people by creating unisex? And who is wearing Rad Hourani?
I’m not trying to make people the same, but I’m trying to liberate them. I try to make a garment that is versatile, a piece that provides freedom to be individual without boundaries, a piece that enables possibilities of shapes and is adaptable for everybody. One of my first clients was Phoebe Greenberg’s teenage son, and then, herself. Couples and parents and children are wearing my clothes, so it’s very universal, people of all ages and genders and backgrounds are wearing Rad Hourani.

How has your work transformed and developed in seven years?
The first collection I made was for myself. Only when people started asking about my clothes, I started the label. When I was invited to the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture by Didier Grumbach, Rad Hourani was split into one ready-to-wear and one couture line and the whole business became very serious. And all the time, I didn’t really realise how much I had achieved during the past years because the working process is so intense that there’s basically no time to reflect on it. But when I looked at all the images of my work, at what I have created, I felt proud. The clothes still feel timeless, and yet there is a progress in the manipulation of the fabrics, experiments with proportions, the construction in the couture changes and it’s very complex, even if it seems simple, it’s not. And still it naturally goes well with each other just as my evolution came very naturally and organically. It never felt forced, it was always within me and it’s the way I develop in life and in my work.

Interview by Quynh Tran

Taken from Sleek 42, Fun & Games

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