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Zuhair Murad Joins Couture Pack

Lebanese designer has been showing couture in Paris on the sidelines of the official calendar since 2001.

Zuhair Murad?

PARIS — Zuhair Murad is on a roll.

This story first appeared in the January 25, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Not only did he design one of the most talked-about dresses of 2012 — the sheer nude number Kristen Stewart wore for the Los Angeles premiere of the latest “Twilight” movie — but last November, the Lebanese designer was designated a guest member of Paris Couture Week.

The honor marks a turning point for the 41-year-old, who has been showing couture in Paris on the sidelines of the official calendar since 2001. “It was a dream of mine, and now I feel like I am being recognized by my profession,” he told WWD in his spacious new salon, located on the floor above the showroom-store he opened in 2007 on the tony Rue François 1er. His global headquarters, meanwhile, occupy an 11-story building in the Gemmayzeh district of Beirut, home to a flagship boutique and 150 staff.

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Murad, who is the sole owner of the brand, employs a dozen people in Paris, and plans to hire up to eight more in 2013 to keep pace with the label’s rapid expansion.

Known for his Grecian-inspired draping and opulent embroidery, the designer is a favorite of celebrities including Taylor Swift, Blake Lively and Jennifer Lopez, who had him whip up six looks for her last tour. “I love making stage costumes, because with celebrities, you have free rein,” he said. “I’m not a minimalist designer anyway. I love detail. I love meticulous, painstaking workmanship, and I adore lace and embellishment on dresses.”

For this couture collection, Murad sent out an array of gold-embroidered gowns that had red-carpet written all over them. On one, a richly embroidered bodice dissolved into sequined arabesques on a nude silk tulle train. Others were Grecian in spirit, with wafting panels of chalk-colored chiffon or silk tulle, set off with gold or platinum embroidered motifs.

Murad also produces ready-to-wear and recently upgraded his accessories line, with a collection of shoes, handbags and belts made in Italy. The rtw is carried in about 90 points of sale worldwide, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman in New York; Neiman Marcus; Harrods in London, and Tsum in Moscow.

In the next six months, Murad plans to open standalone boutiques on Qatar’s man-made island, The Pearl, and in Kuwait, with others set to follow in Italy, Turkey, Russia and the U.S. over the following three years. “I hope to develop a full-blown lifestyle brand,” he said. “Design for me is not just about fashion, but also architecture, interior design, furniture, perfume and cosmetics.”