From as far back as he can remember, Rami Kadi has been passionate about the art of embroidery and other traditional craft skills. This passion ultimately led him to choose fashion design as a career path and so he enrolled at ESMOD Beirut, graduating in 2008.
Following his graduation, Kadi worked with Rabih Kayrouz and was soon after selected to showcase his first collection at Starch Foundation. He recalls the experience as being extremely successful, resulting in lots of appreciative clientele.
Speaking of the value of his education in ESMOD versus his experience with Kayrouz and Starch, Kadi evokes the talent versus education debate and says: “It’s obviously very important and crucial to have an education and learn all the appropriate techniques when you’re planning to practice any job. When it comes to fashion, learning all the techniques is even more important and amounts to 50 percent of your experience: How can you design, choose the fabrics, and oversee the sewing if you haven’t learnt the basics? However, I also think that you’re born with a passion for fashion, a natural skill that engulfs your whole creativity, mind, and life. It’s called ‘mawhabe’ [talent] in Arabic,” he says.
Kadi, who launched his own brand in 2011 at the age of 25, says he has chosen to focus only on his couture or made-to-wear line for now. As with the other designers Executive interviewed, his main clients come from the Gulf. “Currently the Gulf is my biggest market, I guess it’s the case for all couture designers generally speaking. Women of the Gulf are very much ahead in terms of fashion; they know exactly what they want, they have a strong expertise in this field, and they love to dress up. Weddings in the Gulf are like red carpet events, you can see all the latest trends and couture dresses!” enthuses Kadi.
Since his focus is on couture alone, the only international platform available to him is Paris Couture Week. The young designer held his first fashion show there in 2014 and says the most important part of the experience was getting to meet the international fashion press and experts in the field. “It definitely gives more credibility to my brand,” says Kadi.
Kadi today has an atelier of 40 tailors and ten other employees across three main departments, from operations to marketing to sales. According to him, Lebanon has highly skilled tailors and craftspeople. “We definitely have a high level of craftspeople, they’re qualified and have a strong savoir-faire. I’m always impressed by what they can achieve in every collection, and the amount of hours they spend on each dress. Each dress takes about 1,200 hours of craftsmanship, and this really needs experts in the field,” he explains.
Kadi says he does not feel he will relocate out of Lebanon, but would consider opening a showroom in Paris, as it would make him more accessible to the international influencers and the celebrities that he dresses. “The hardest part [about working out of Lebanon] is getting to reach the international influencers and fitting them for special events,” says Kadi, explaining that celebrity endorsements are a must for brand awareness and adds “glamour to their image.”
The advantage of having an atelier in Lebanon, other than the talent, is having the freedom to experiment. “Lebanon is my hometown, what is better than operating from your own country and speaking the same language of your co-workers? Lebanon is also a laboratoire in fashion, you have so many different types of women; it’s stimulating!” concludes Kadi.