Aesthetic individuality and disassociation from traditional fashion rules are concepts that run deep within avant-garde fashion circles. And while relying heavily on black and grey-scale materials is not unusual, unisex collections and season-less collections are. One young designer who is doing just that is one-time Canadian resident designer Rad Hourani.
Photograph by Ryan Yoon.
Hourani often seems starkly out of place within the Canadian fashion scene. Unlike the Belgians, Canadians are not known for their avant-garde repertoire and Hourani's shows often attract large numbers of fashion industry individuals who may not frequent the Canadian fashion show circuit. The unusual nature of Hourani's runway shows is reminiscent of Mack Sam's (now working with John Varvatos) showing at Vancouver Fashion Week this past year: edgier, deconstructed apparel - and uncommon of VFW.
Toronto Life comically commented on the attendees of the Rad Hourani show, mentioning the "smattering of impossibly cool neck-tattooed people who stole front row seats." While the relationship between designer fashion and tattoos is a tale for another time (hint), it's always intriguing to see which designers the more brazen fashion crowd will brave the front row for. Many attendees remarked on how out of the ordinary his tailoring, colour and cut - and his unisex presentation - are for the Toronto fashion scene. Nevertheless, Hourani was welcomed back to Canada with open arms (he used to live in Montreal), garnering many positive reviews by Toronto-based press. His debut collection was shown in Paris in October 2007 when he was 25-years-old and Hourani has garnered respectable international acclaim before the age of 30. While he may not rely on age as any sort of marker, one seldom sees an edgy designer at such a young age.
As a child, Rad (yes, that is his real name) would visit his mother's dressmaker on a regular basis as she had her own garments custom-made. Thus began his immersion into the world of design, and he quickly started to voice his own opinions on each piece. His background in fashion actually comes from his work as a stylist, not design and construction. Hourani remarked that, "Styling is also a great way to analyse how things are constructed and marketed, especially for someone who never went to design or fashion school like me. It was probably longer…but I feel that I learned way more." His product and work ethic are both spurned on by ingenuity and confidence, rather than experience. He has introduced many pieces that he had no prior experience in creating, such as the hoodies from RAD by Rad Hourani Collection #5.
Rather than creating lines based on specific themes, there is continuity between his collections behind which is the notion that anyone can wear his designs anywhere and at any time. This is the advantage of the lifestyle designer: one that aims to evoke a full lifestyle, instead of simply selling articles of clothing. By naming his lines in simple sequential order, he has rid himself of the status quo of many designers who heavily rely on the S/S / A/W categories of design and event timing. It's quite common of his shows to see pieces that are counter to the season they are supposed to be worn in. This feeds back to his self-reliant and anti-trend mentality that's based in ideas, instead of conformity. In Hourani's words, he started "imagining clothes the same way [he started] creating images: with a sense of curiosity and innocence driven by [his] no-background background."
Hourani's pieces are often transformable: the wearer can turn a jacket into a vest or a backpack into a cape, sometimes flipping between androgynous, feminine and masculine, simply by undoing a few zippers or buttoning down. Hourani has been very vocal about the personal beliefs that drive his line. He decides not to see the world through the lens of age, sex, colour, season or otherwise. In both lines, a woman's sexuality is brought out not through accentuating curves but through attitude and mystery. Seeing trends as a method of fashion and financial brainwashing, Hourani follows in the footsteps of other avant-garde pioneers such as Rick Owens, Boris Bidjan Saberi and Carol Christian Poell in breaking away from trend reliance.
Rad Hourani's way of the unisex.
The Rad Hourani label itself is separated into two lines: Rad Hourani and RAD. Rad Hourani is more forward, couture (only in a matter of comparison) and experimental, while RAD takes these advancements and creates slightly safer, more malleable and casual pieces. Both evoke the strong silhouettes and unisex style indicative of Hourani's overall approach to fashion and design. The two-tiered approach is a favourite of many designers, as it allows a divide between runway and ready-to-wear, playing to both the fashion industry crowd and the casual consumer. It also creates an artistic difference within a label, allowing smaller groupings of ideas to manifest themselves under a title that differentiates itself from the main collection.
Hourani displays a level of experience that belies his young age. With a background not based in apparel construction or design, it's refreshing to see a designer that is firmly grounded on his laurels. It requires a strong level of determination to effectively release a clothing line - especially year after year - that defies fashion convention, without years of prior experience. With his operations based in Paris, Hourani seems in good standing to see Rad Hourani and RAD grow into renowned names, without catering to the status quo. Expect to see his work grow and expand - on his own terms - over the next few seasons.
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