LONDON — The Beirut-born, London-based designer Racil Chalhoub launched her tuxedo-focused label, Racil, during Paris Fashion Week a year ago with an all-black, 20 stockkeeping-unit collection, comprised of two jacket styles and two trousers. “I’m a big fan of the black blazer — I probably wear one every day — so I thought ‘What’s next?’” she said in an interview ahead of an event on Wednesday at Matchesfashion.com’s Marylebone town house. “The tuxedo seemed like the perfect upgrade. I wanted something to fit my lifestyle that you could wear separately or together.”
Her fledgling label has since been worn by Leandra Medine, Camille Charrière and Karlie Kloss while Matchesfashion.com picked it up for spring 2016. She has since doubled her output with additional jacket silhouettes plus shirts and a slipdress and has also introduced color, from powder blue to pink and tangerine with contrast lapels.
Chalhoub grew up in Paris after her parents fled the war in Lebanon and the city proved inspirational for her future career. “From when I was seven or eight years old, my mother would take me to fashion shows at the George V,” she recalled. “I remember being mesmerized by all the clothes. It was so magical sitting next to her in the ballroom. It was the Eighties so there were all these big dresses.” The family spent summers in the south of France and Racil would spend her weekly pocket money buying bits of fabric in the local haberdashery, which she sewed together to make outfits for her mother.
When it came to university, her parents didn’t want her to study fashion so she compromised, studying interior architecture in Beirut before transferring to the American University in London where she studied fashion design and fashion marketing. Following an internship at the Yves Saint Laurent press office, she returned to Beirut where she set up a concept store with best friend Dalia G. Mochi of Dalia’s Kitchen.
“It was an authentic Lebanese house with a boudoir, boutique and café. Dalia looked after the menus and I did the buying.” Due to the increasingly unstable situation in the country, the duo were unable to grow the business further, and in December 2013, Racil decided she was ready to start her own brand.
For fall 2016, the collection has practically doubled in size once more. “I looked at my favorite eras, the Twenties and the Seventies,” she said. Her collection riffs on men’s evening wear with luxe velvet variations on the tuxedo in burgundy, midnight blue and black.
Silhouettes include the shawl lapel, classic two-button with notch label, double-breasted plus another iteration with Brandenburg closures based on a gentleman’s jacket from the Twenties.
Next up is an evergreen collection. It will feature around three jacket shapes and three trouser fits — something to suit every body shape — in blacks and midnight blues. The new line will debut in Paris in January.
The designer will show spring 2017 in September as usual, but January will also mark a schedule transition. The brand will shift its main season presentations, and plans to show fall 2017 along with spring 2018 in June. “It’s when buyers have more time and bigger budgets,” she said. She will still produce two collections a year.
The label’s first presentation featured three pairs of shoes made by her friend Edgardo Osorio of Aquazzura. And while, going forward, Chalhoub hopes to augment her line with shoes and bags, she is adamant that these will be collaborations rather than in-house designs. “I believe you should do what you know how to do best and trust others for the things that are not your speciality,” she said.
The label retails at 18 stores worldwide including Selfridges in the U.K., Montaigne Market and Le Bon Marché in Paris, Kirna Zabete in New York and Tsum in Moscow.