“To create something meaningful…”
This is what Céline Haddad has set out to do as she further develops her self-made luxury womenswear brand, ‘Céline Haddad’, “I want my designs to be sustainable and to empower women,” expressed the founder and creative director who launched her line in October 2019.
Haddad plans to tell one story at a time through each collection she creates as they will discuss a new topic that is related to generational, societal and even interpersonal controversies, “I am very curious about my surroundings and the exploration of the self, and having a story behind each and every garment and accessory makes it very unique and special, for me as a brand owner and designer but also for my customer.”
This curiosity that Haddad has displayed through her brand has stemmed from the now 24-year-olds diversified experiences in life, around the world and within the fashion industry thus far.
Haddad, who was born in Rabieh, Lebanon has been exposed to fashion all her life. With Beirut being the fashion capital of the Middle East, known for successful couture designers like Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad, and most recently fostering prominent ready-to-wear designers, Haddad said that it is, “the perfect mix of Oriental and Occidental and being exposed to both cultures allowed me to somehow take the best of both world: the simplicity and rather simple cuts of the Occident and complexity and detail orientation of the Orient.”
Looking back on growing up in Lebanon, Haddad revealed that they had been exposed to chaos at a young age and were taught to “notice beauty in the slightest things.” Haddad acknowledged that the political instability and major corruption are a constant challenge in Lebanon but she strongly believes that it prepared her to face challenges in her professional life, “In my opinion all these reasons are what distinguishes Lebanese designers from the rest of the worlds and somehow sets us apart. An advantage Lebanese people have is that we are very international and we can target both the Oriental and Occidental market with a relative ease.”
While beginning her educational endeavors, Haddad recalled that her career shifted to fashion, “quite randomly”. As an 18-year-old sophomore at the American University of Beirut where she completed a Bachelor in Business Administration, Haddad felt it was not “challenging enough and was a bit bored”. This caused her to enroll in a certificate program for Luxury Management of Fashion Companies offered by Bocconi University in Milan which influenced Haddad to look into more courses like fashion journalism and creative direction.
By acquiring a well versed understanding of the fashion industry as a whole through her diversified coursework, Haddad decided to practice design because, “it is the perfect mix of creativity and technical skills and I felt like it suited me the most since I have a very concrete and scientific side to myself and yet enjoy the exploration of intangible thoughts, concepts and ideas. I learned to use my designs to convey messages that are deep and go beyond the pure aesthetic of the products: since clothes and accessories are seen everywhere, everyday and are one of the major communication means, might as well use them for good causes and raise awareness on various topics through them.”
Haddad’s passion for design brought her to New York City where she was accepted into Parsons fashion design program.
While in New York, Haddad said the city triggered an interest in her to explore the various aspects of society and generations in her creative process and even lead her to explore herself more,“Just like Beirut, New York has a very diversified society and I’ve been exposed to people of all kinds there : I’ve seen scenes of great misery, been to luxurious hotels and restaurants, overheard conversations of people of all ages, seen how they can lead very different lives in the same city and couldn’t help but think and overthink about the controversies that arise from such diversification.”
“The city is also very artistic and liberated when it comes to Fashion : One can wear anything at anytime and not be judged by anyone. This allowed me to create with no boundaries and let my imagination flow freely,” revealed Haddad, “Contradictorily, New York City also taught me to set limits to my designs : Big cities, and particularly Manhattan, made me realize how important it is for garments and accessories to be comfortable and practical. In fact, in such busy cities, one doesn’t have the time and luxury to worry about the fit of clothes and is constantly on the go, so people look for apparel that can be worn all day long. Also, in most cases, storage space in apartments is limited, so having only a few items that could be styled differently and be worn for various occasions would be ideal.”
While on the subway heading home from work one day, Haddad overheard passengers talking about how Billie Eilish is provocative and how she “can appear odd for people who are from older generations.” Their conversation sparked an idea for Haddad who remembers sketching her entire Rébellion collection that night.
Just a few months after graduating from Parsons, Haddad presented her debut collection, Rébellion, at the Vancouver Fashion Week, in which she said, “showing my work at a Fashion Week has been a dream of mine ever since I decided to shift my career to Fashion Design.”
“While Rébellion may appear to be about femininity, it features fourteen bold, daring, and controversial looks that aim to be provocative and go against expectations. It is an audacious, eclectic collection in which I presents spirited and elegant rebels asking for the liberation of women and garments from rules and norms.”
Céline on Rébellion:
Through it, I aim to challenge traditions by revisiting classic and timeless garments and presenting them in their rawest form, for instance, with raw seams and hems. I did this to demonstrate the importance of inner foundations, and convey the message that beauty is not only reserved to what is perfected and polished. Every step towards reaching completion is beautiful too.
I additionally paired quaint retro classics with provocative and sensual accessories and skin showing to proclaim the importance of the assumption of femininity and the freedom of expression: We live in an era where being women no longer rhymes with being delicate flowers, but with sensuality, independence and power and where women can wear what they want, how they want, when they want . I emphasized the dissent of my rebels by adding utilitarian inspired accessories to complete their looks.
The juxtaposition of contrasting textures of fabrics such as fine silk and merino and black leather allowed me to create expressive, experimental and exciting silhouettes with a balance of traditional and trendy.
On show day, Haddad said she was not stressed, rather she felt pure excitement, “I was able to make the most out of the experience and live every instant of it. All in all, it feels extremely rewarding to have shown my collection at VFW. It definitely boosted my label, gave it a lot of exposure and helped me grow and learn a lot.”
Prior to her own brand’s debut, Haddad said that working on Victoria Secrets model, Lily Aldridge’s 2019 MET Gala dress, with fashion designer, Richard Quinn, was one of her “greatest” experiences in New York.
“Every stitch had to be perfect,” expressed Haddad, “I was very happy to meet Richard and his team of young professionals in person, especially as an emerging designer myself. Thanks to working with them I practiced functioning well under pressure and worked on my self-discipline. In fact the fittings and alterations of the delicately beaded dress were done at a record speed in stressful work conditions, but I had to remain calm and professional at all times.”
As Aldridge graced the pink carpet and photos emerged, Haddad recalled that it was a very, “emotional and definitely a big milestone in my career. I’m very thankful for the opportunity of working with Quinn and would love to do it again.”
Since Haddad’s debut, her work has been featured in two issues of Vogue Magazine.
Currently, Haddad lives between Lebanon and France and said that, “ever since New York, I make sure to implement the following elements to my designs: the exploration of society, practicality, functionality, adaptability, edginess, sustainability and finally my personal touch.”
As she is creating two new collections as well as different projects related to ‘Céline Haddad’, she said she wants to focus on, “Not rushing to put products out there is very important for me: I am an advocate of slow fashion and taking time to launch the best possible version of any design.”
The designer aims to not follow the traditional fashion calendar that currently puts pressure on the industry and forces us designers to overproduce for over consumption, “We need to break this loop, change this cycle. I am hoping to slow things down, along with fellow designers, and contribute to transforming the fashion industry into a more sustainable one. The time for change is now, we cannot and should not wait anymore.”
Haddad’s main condition for her brand is to be sustainable and ethical and hopes to improve the industry, “by designing long lasting, thus sustainable products by focusing on designs that outlast short term trends and are made out of good quality.”
“My goal is also to encourage individuality and empower women by making the feel confident and beautiful. Finally, my designs are meant to spark an interest in whoever sees them, because of their subtle odd accents, or intrigue them at least, and thus generate a discussion. And since every single one of my creations has a meaning behind it that’s part of a bigger story about the controversies that arise in today’s civilizations, this will make people talk about this specific topic precisely. The discussions will lead me to my end goal with is raise awareness on certain topics and explore them in more depth.”
Céline Haddad said that her brand is aimed at catering to urban women of any age because it revisits wardrobe’s classic and adds a subtle modern touch to them, “Any woman can wear classics, she will just have to style my creations in her own way. The advantage of my products is that they are very adaptable and versatile and encourage the expression of the individuality of each.”
Overall, Haddad hopes that her customers will feel confident while wearing her designs,
“Confident that she is worthy, confident that she can achieve her goals, confident in her body and femininity.”
Style Spotlight: Céline Haddad
What has been the greatest lesson you have learned from fashion thus far?
CH: Fashion taught me how to toughen up and how to be extremely organized. You need to have a lot of discipline, self-control, patience, and self-confidence to be a part of this industry. Whenever you overcome or get accustomed to something, you will be faced with a new challenge. That’s simply the way it is in Fashion, you either have to accept it or can’t be part of the game in the long run.
Has there been anything in this industry that you have had to overcome? How did you do so?
CH: I think that in any industry, and the fashion industry in particular, you have high chances of stumbling on people who are going to try to boss you around, so learning to say no and not be overly nice is a must, even if it’s generally not a part of your nature. I remember being asked to sew some things, that were not a necessity at all, overnight, during my time off, when I was working for someone, which wasn’t a part of our agreement or contract. In moments like that, you have to be firm and stand up for yourself. I simply said “no, I regret saying that I won’t be doing it”. To my biggest surprise, the consequences of me refusing were not bad at all, on the contrary: I actually impressed my employer and made him gain more respect for me.
Why do you think fashion is an important outlet for people around the world?
CH: An obvious answer would be that Fashion is a means of expression and creativity for both the wearer and the designer, which is true, but it doesn’t stop there. Fashion is everywhere: Wherever we look, we are surrounded by it. It is omnipresent at all point in time. And this is why it is, in my opinion, a very important communication tool. The fact that it is widespread, in all societal classes and countries, can be used to transfer important messages and thus create change. The big majority of human being wears clothes; if each garment has a deep story behind its conception and how it is made, a meaning behind its existence that is made available and shared with the customer or wearer, designers can spread messages that reach billions of people. It is important however to pick the right information to transfer, something that’s both meaningful and contains the right values. The Fashion industry is one of the biggest and most influential industries today. It employs around 300 million people worldwide, generates around $2.5 trillion yearly globally and, sadly generates 4% of the world’s waste on its own, 92 millions tons per year. Just imagine the impact that implementing a tiny positive change in Fashion can have on a global scale. Designers and brands are responsible to start that change now and take action. We should all focus on ethical labor-force, transparency, and sustainability: If we each do an effort, a much brighter future awaits us all.
How has fashion shaped you?
CH: Being challenged is my biggest motivation, which is great because Fashion challenges me every single day. Being a successful designers requires a lot of self control and the 4Ps I came up with (Yes, I was inspired by the 4Ps in Marketing): Passion, Perseverance, Patience and Precision. The design world might give the impression of being very glamorous and glossy, but it’s not nearly close to reality, due to the constant work and focus required. For all these reasons, Fashion made me even more self- disciplined that I already was, and seeing the terrible behind the scenes of the industry made me want to fight more than ever for sustainability.
How would you describe your own personal style? Is it similar to that of your brand?
CH: I don’t really have one specific style per se, I enjoy having fun and exploring different ways of dressing, but, I could say that, in general, my style is a mix of modern and classic. I like playing with textures a lot, which is why you would often see me wearing a lot of leather, under all its forms, as pants, jackets, shirts, bold belts, boots. It is very important for me to wear something functional, in which I feel both comfortable and confident, whether it is a pair of pants, a sweater, a shirt, a handbag. I enjoy dark colors as well as bright ones, it would depend on my mood to be honest. Stand out pieces don’t scare me, on the contrary, I think it is important to implement one element that boosts the whole outfit, however, I hate getting bored of my clothes, so I always choose garments and accessories that are easily adaptable and can be styled differently. These reasons would lead me to say that my style is similar to that of my brand, and I am definitely one of my customers. I feel it’s a blessing to have the same wants and needs as most of Céline Haddad’s customers : Having a deep understanding of your client is primordial to success.
Is there a quote that you live by? If so, how does it relate to your brand?
CH: Several quotes indeed, but my favorite at the moment is “ Begin your day with an “I get to” mentality instead of a “I have to” thought process… I GET to go to work. I GET to have a busy day. Whatever it may be. We often dress our opportunities as stress, but they are in fact blessings.”. This quote changed my life on so many levels: I’ve always been a very grateful person, but ever since reading it, I truly see blessings in every single thing, even the things I once disliked. This quote relates to my brand because it made me learn to appreciate and value all the challenges and difficulties I may face. The tasks I had to do that once felt like a burden feel like a pleasure now. This quote made me realize how lucky I am and it gave me a positive push.
What advice do you have for other people that dream of working in fashion and creating their own brand?
CH: I would tell them to start asking themselves if it is really what they want before jumping in. Having ambition is great and necessary, sure, but determination and self-discipline are musts in this industry, whether you are working for someone or for yourself. Are you ready to face all the challenges that will lay ahead of you? Do you truly and deeply want to embark on this journey? Are you a doer or just a dreamer? Does decision-making come quick and easy to you? Are you good at planning and organizing? So many questions to be asked. Fashion is far from being glamorous and shiny, you must love it unconditionally.
You have already accomplished so much and have created a beautiful brand, what’s next for you and your brand? What else do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?
CH: Now that I’ve gotten the name of my brand out there, I am working on the production of my collections and working on my sales strategy in depth. Not rushing through the process is important for me, good things take time. In the next five years I hope that my brand would have reached world renown and that it will be featured in big magazines and publications. I also hope that I will be spotting Céline Haddad designs on celebrities and to be showing at major fashion weeks such as Paris Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week. I’m hoping that, by then, the brand will also have its own boutique and atelier. But most of all, I truly hope that I would have achieve my major goal, which is giving back to society and supporting noble causes such as empowering women and encouraging sustainability. Being able to do good around me simply by working and doing what I love is what I hope to accomplish the most and is my major motivation every day.