Rahel Guiragossian’s clothes are covered in paint and look like they have come straight off of the canvas. You would be forgiven for calling them artworks. In fact, she has always been surrounded by art. Born into one of the Middle East’s most-famous family of artists, Rahel’s grandfather Paul Guiragossian is perhaps Lebanon’s best-loved artist. Her father Emmanuel and brother Marc are also artists, so it is no surprise that her fashion design could easily fit into the art world. In fact, Rahel uses the paintings of her family as prints in her clothes and often photographs them in her family’s studios in Beirut, London or Berlin. Having visited them myself, I can tell you that they are magical. With a clear respect for both art and her family’s legacy, Rahel’s designs are lusted after by art girls far and wide. We spoke to Rahel about her upbringing, what drew her to fashion and her approach to sustainability.
You have a pretty unique upbringing when it comes to art, can you tell us about that?
I grew up watching 3 generations of painters – I was surrounded with paintings, colours, studios… I watched the development and growth of my grandfather Paul (well known Middle Eastern painter) father Emmanuel and brother Marc. I wanted to use my experience, childhood, family, heritage and culture in my work.
In a family of artists, what drew you to fashion?
The colors, the shapes, the thick paint on the canvases. As a child, I was imagining the paintings coming to life. I wanted to take the final stage of a painting to the next step. I kept choosing and analyzing which painting would look the best in motion. I wanted art to be wearable and appreciated the same way as seeing it on the wall.
How do you choose the paintings that make up your clothes?
It really depends, sometimes I find a painting that really inspires me. Most of the time I try to imagine each painting draping on the body. Some paintings just naturally work and some don’t. it’s all about experimenting with the colors and shapes. Sometimes it works best when you least expect it. Other times I get an idea and I pitch it to my father or brother to create something from scratch. It’s a longer process to make because both the artist and myself need to feel the painting come to life.
Can you tell us about your approach to sustainability?
Our approach is to eliminate waste and overproduction. We produce our products on demand and by doing so we customize per client and produce a unique piece. With this process we create a relationship between our customer and our products. We want to go against the seasonal system and to SLOW down fashion. We strive to make our clients understand our message that using art gives our clothes a different long lasting value just like the painting hanging in a museum. Using art as the foundation for our brand enables us to lift the standard and create longevity above the typical fast fashion market.
It’s very rare to create the same outfit as a replica. We make sure that every piece is cut from a different angle of the painting so that each piece can be unique. In some of the designs, We implement the zero waste method where we don’t cut the fabric but instead drape it around the body.
Besides your family, who are your favourite artists?
Edgar Degas, Toulouse Lautrec, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, John Singer Sargent, Edouard Manet
With experience of being surrounded by both the fashion and the art worlds, how do the two compare?
They are very similar. I wish the fashion industry could adapt more to the art world. Fashion has become super fast and it’s losing the artistic touch to it. This is one of the reasons I wanted to combine art with fashion to show that we can slow down fashion and invest in our clothing like artworks.
What advice would you give to young women wanting to make a career in art or fashion?
Risk to do whatever inspires them the most and reflect on their own identity and heritage instead of creating what the industry wants to see. I think a dedicated individual whose passion is to create and try new things can be more powerful and unique.
What are your plans and hopes for the future?
I am planning on expanding my brand to Dubai and establish a more permanent basis there. The Middle East will always be my first home and I want to use my heritage combining it with art and fashion.
Text Lizzy Vartanian