Rad Hourani is a Canadian designer, filmmaker, and artist, who launched his first unisex high-end brand in Paris in October 2007 at age 25. In his youth and creativity, he is the fashion world’s equivalent of Quebec-born filmmaker Xavier Dolan. In January 2013, Hourani became the first designer invited by La Chambre Syndicale de La Haute Couture in Paris to design a unisex haute couture collection. In the fall of 2013, Hourani presented his Seamless – 5 Years of Unisex exhibition in Montréal, which elevated him into the pantheon of Canadian and Montréal celebrities. He was kind enough to take some time to answer a my questions about fashion and Montréal:
K.S.: Montréal generates a lot of innovation in fashion. Why do you think that is? Does it have to do with its history, its fashion schools, its diversity?
R.H.: I guess it’s because of Montréal is a young city of not more than 150 years old. Its history is still young and new to the world.
You are one of the few Canadian designers who has established his brand in Europe. What were the advantages of being a Montréaler in Paris?
There’s some similarity in Parisian and Montréaler’s way of being, but I think the most important thing is not where you come from, but what you have to offer in creations, ideas and concepts. You can be from anywhere but do things right.
What do you think is different/special/unique about Montréal fashion? And Montréal as a fashion production centre?
Montréal is one of my favourites cities in the world and I think the freedom of it and the easy life is what makes it desirable. I guess that can be reflected in its art, music, design, film and more…
What does it mean to be trained as a fashion designer locally? Are there advantages that Montréal fashion schools provide? Or Montréal as a city?
I never been to any school after high school in Montréal. I think the best school is the school of observing and finding your own style and vision. I guess that local Montréal designers went to school to study fashion but it’s not the only way to be trained to become a fashion designer. It’s the same how I learned photography and film, I did it on my own, learning by myself and developing my own aesthetic.
What are the challenges of establishing yourself as a fashion designer in Montréal vs. Paris?
I established my unisex brand in Paris in 2007 and I’m still based there, except that I produce my ready to wear in Montréal as I like to know that my products are made by people who have a comfortable life and that they are well treated and paid. I guess the big challenge for a Montréal designers is exposing themselves to a bigger market, you have more visibility when you are based in Paris or New York to the world. Montréal is still a young city, and we can’t compare it to Paris in that sense.
How do other artistic spheres interact with the Montréal fashion scene? How do designers, artists and musicians inspire each other? How do their interaction participate in constructing Montréal’s fashion identity/uniqueness?
I’m not aware of everything that happens in Montréal in all these scenes, but I know for sure that music, art, cinema and design must meet at one point and they for sure inspire each others. That’s why things move forward in general.
What inspired you to create a unisex line? What are your gender politics?
I always asked myself where all these gender codes of dressing came from and what there’s no full Unisex collections that can be for any gender and style ? I was looking for something that did not exist and I had to create it for my own wardrobe first. Unisex is about freeing your self of any kind of limitations, gender, age, race, religion, boarders, and time.
How do you understand innovation in fashion? And does Montréal play a role in it?
Unisex is already a great innovation for me and I understand it as it’s a reflection of myself and my lifestyle. I think growing up in Montréal gave me the freedom to come up with the unisex concept in Paris and to become the first unisex designer in custom history to ever design a couture unisex collection.