Women borrowing clothes from their boyfriends is nothing new, but designer Rad Hourani wanted to take the concept a step further. So what better way to combine the best of both worlds than by launching the world's first unisex designer collection?
"I used to shop a lot but never found what I was looking for. There was always something missing - clothing was always categorised, whether it was tough, vintage, rock 'n' roll or gothic. I wanted to cut away everything and find something that couldn't be defined. Who says we can't cross boundaries with clothes? Fashion shouldn't discriminate," says the 30-year-old designer.
As a former stylist and model scout, Hourani has experienced all facets of the fashion industry. Born in Jordan, he used to tag along on his mother's visits to the dressmaker where he learnt everything about fabric, style and fit ("I always got mad when she went without me," he remembers). At 16 he moved to Montreal, Canada and became a model scout, before dabbling in styling at the encouragement of his friends. After conquering the local fashion scene he felt ready for bigger and better, and headed to Paris at just 23.
It was in the fashion capital that he really came into his own, working as a stylist with high-profile photographers and fashion houses such as Lanvin, Balenciaga and Chanel.
All the while at the back of his mind he began formulating an idea for his eponymous label.
"The way I sketch is almost like a psychologist - it's undefined. I don't limit myself because I'm not constricted by male or female. It took a year to perfect the unisex shape which I'd describe as a straight line that gives you a longer body. I am not attracted to clothes that make you look lazy - I like it sleek and sharp. There's a certain elegance that I am attracted to."
Launched in 2007, his label quickly caught the attention of celebrities like Jared Leto, and editors hailed Hourani as the new Rick Owens. His shows became a hot ticket during Paris Fashion Week not only because of his style, but also for his collaborations with renowned stylists like Patti Wilson and an edgy cast of models.
Using a predominantly black palette, Hourani's androgynous silhouettes can best be described as powerful and futuristic, punctuated with refined details and luxe fabrics.
Customers can choose from three sizes - one, two or three - depending on what suits their style or shape. Tailoring is the foundation of his work, with an emphasis on fitted jackets and coats.
"I like shapes that give me a shape but I don't like clothes that have to mould to the body. I have a look that is about structure - you are not obligated to wear it exactly as it's proposed. If you want to highlight your shape the way Mugler does, I am not the right designer. But if you are looking for something that can adapt to your wardrobe then come to me," he says.
Due to its success the brand has now evolved into two separate collections - Rad Hourani, which he describes as a more concept-based, experimental line with limited styles, and Rad by Rad Hourani, which was launched in 2010, and offers ready-to-wear. While both lines feature Hourani's signature shapes season after season, he mixes things up by using new techniques and adding details such as length, fabric and colour.
For autumn, for example, he has incorporated a palette of military green on tunics and jackets with origami-style inserts and lapels.
"The structure is usually the same but I extend parts like the collar or sleeve by making it longer or shorter. There are certain limits mathematically so I play with fabrics - I recently started using reversible fabrics. My clothes are very much about multi-functionality - one item can be worn two ways allowing the wearer to adapt their style to it. Everything I design, I design for myself which is why my silhouettes are extremely easy to change," he says.
Looking ahead, Hourani is anxious to expand his empire which is why he recently launched a shoe collection featuring stacked heel boots that have become a must-have among fashion conscious males. Also on the cards is a book titled Five Years of Unisex, as well as several upcoming exhibitions that incorporate his love of other creative mediums such as photography and music. One thing you'll never find him dabbling in, however, are trends.
"Trends are very destructive and helpless. There's nothing worse than someone dictating what you wear. You have to look at your body and what fits you best. There's nothing more difficult than doing the same thing and refreshing it each season.
"As a designer, the most important thing for me is integrity. Sticking to your vision is very hard but the most powerful thing. Perseverance is also important - to believe in your own voice, and to believe in it for yourself and not for others. My clothes tell a similar story of detaching yourself from everything you've been limited to," he says.
ONE FOR ALL
During the fall/winter Haute Couture shows in July, Rad Hourani debuted the first unisex couture collection featuring stark minimalist shapes made from luxe fabrics such as crepe, cashmere and silk (pictured top right). “It’s extremely minimalist and pure. While it looks simple, up close you can see all these 3D details that come to life like a sculpture. It’s complex but simple, pure and austere. Each piece takes one to two weeks to make, and everything is handmade,” he says.