Jun 30, 2010 12:00AM

Ziad Ghanem on Topshop

Labelled the cult couturier, Ziad Ghanem is taking bespoke design to London's underground scene. The Lebanon-born designer, who describes himself as a "punk couturier," has garnered a dedicated following. His avant-garde, street-style tailoring seems anti-tradition, yet it is created with a great respect for the craft. Jean Kemshal-Bell writes.

At London Fashion Week in February, Ghanem's Autumn Winter 2010/11 ready-to-wear line was given a standing ovation. The fashion industry, still mourning the loss of Alexander McQueen, were delighted to see that London was still producing designers who are prepared to push boundaries in the fashion world.

Ghanem's collection, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, got its name after a friend described Ghanem's designs as a "Hollywood musical on acid". Fittingly, drag queens, burlesque dancers and Ghanem's friends danced down the runway, engaging the crowd with their dramatic performance. Inspired by Federico Fellini, circus and the art of undressing, the collection ended with burlesque sensation Immodesty Blaize giving the audience a strip tease.

Having grown up around fashion since the day he was born - his grandfather owned a shoe factory and his uncle designed shoes, Ghanem says that becoming a designer was never a conscious decision; it just happened.

He describes his four greatest inspirations as "penguins, my mother, Gianni Versace and Madonna," and from a young age he would draw pictures of his mother wearing her designer and couture clothes. "Her never faltering glamour evokes so much of my creativity," he explains.

Moving to London in the late nineties, Ghanem struggled to find work because of his lack of formal training. "I was under-educated and over ambitious," he says. Known for his craftsmanship, Ghanem developed his refined technique by working with different couturiers from a young age.

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While living in Dubai, Ghanem learned about beading and haute couture textiles "by practice, self education and determination. Every day I learn something new. I am grateful for all my teachers in life."

With few job opportunities, Ghanem pursued his own designs. "I started making clothes with whatever materials I had around me and this is how my ethical approach to fashion started," he says.

Now, Ghanem is becoming the poster child for environmentally-conscious fashion, with almost all of his pieces made from the fabric of second-hand clothes. "Eco-friendly doesn't have to be a white rag on a hippie," he explains. "Couture is the luxury of having something made just for you."

Ghanem says London's multicultural society constantly inspires him. His junior line, Maiden Britain - a collaboration with graphic designer Robert Boon - is a celebration of London's vibrant street culture.

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A hybrid of bright colours, patterns and shapes reference what Ghanem calls London's "clash of cultures." The titles of past collections, such as The Immigrant, Masturbazar and Hell is a Paradise without Other People, highlight the rebellious, punk sensibilities of the label.

Ghanem is inspired, most of all, by individuality. You are more likely to see a transgender model in his show than a model from any agency. For his demi-couture, ready-to-wear line he constructs each piece to suit the model's character, size and looks.

It is his cutting-edge approach to streetwear that has seen Ghanem collaborate with Topman and denim label Firetrap recently. On the collaboration with Topshop, he says "It was sterile - a good chat-up line for the Chavs at the pub."

For the Firetrap seven-piece capsule range, The Immortalist, the Maiden Britain team reworked Firetrap denim into form-fitting pieces with playful three-dimensional shapes.

Couture though, is Ghanem's true passion. "Couture is about escapism from the ordinary," he says. "Meeting with my clients and models for fittings is always exciting. Seeing their first reaction when seeing themselves in the mirror always puts a smile on my face."

www.ziadghanem.co.uk

Photo Credits:

PHOTOGRAPHER / ART ILLUSTRATOR - Lefteris Pr

STYLIST - Aiden Connor

MAKE-UP - Michelle Webb using MAC

HAIR - Darren Fowler

JEWELLERY AND ACCESSORIES - Sergei Grinko

SHOES - Georgie Bee

For sales contact Alex on: info.ziadghanem@googlemail.com