PARIS: Lebanese designer Tony Ward has made a return to Paris runways after a decade of showing his glittering couture collections in Rome. “I lived here in Paris for six years,” Ward told The Daily Star Tuesday morning, a day after debuting his eponymous label in Paris. “This is where I learned. I have two sisters living here, all of my team studied here. I know the streets. I know the smell of the croissants.”
Ward, like most of Lebanon’s high-profile couturiers, did his training in Paris, where he started by dressing models and moved up to drawing gowns for fashion houses such as Dior and Lanvin. He later returned home to Beirut to open his own fashion house with the help of his father, himself a dressmaker who operated an atelier throughout the Civil War. For the past 10 years, Ward had chosen the Altamoda event in Rome to showcase his couture collections twice a year, making this the first time his fashion house has presented its couture collection in France.
Paris, however, has been an important market for Ward. He hosts an itinerant show during ready-to-wear month and chooses to present those collections in New York, Milan and Paris.
Part of the couture collection move was driven by the desire to return to his fashion roots, he said. But the city – as the world’s haute couture capital – also offers more exposure as the fashion world comes together each January and July to watch the pinnacle event in the industry. This week, members of the exclusive Chambre Syndicale – including old houses such as Chanel and Dior – present their most extravagant creations.
Ward has amassed a diverse clientele spanning from Western Europe to Russia, China and the Middle East. His move this season didn’t seem to upset the usual guest list as his most loyal followers flew to Paris for the show, he said. “A lot of people came from Italy,” he said. “We had people flying in from Ukraine and the Middle East.”
To honor the big move, Ward’s team adopted an unusually architectural theme for the house: Origami.
The Japanese art form found expression in unique and slightly futuristic embellishments. One such look was a skirt and jacket combo in a grayish taupe covered in 3-D triangles. The unique texture – which feels like little pillows – was created by cutting dozens of foam triangles that were then hand sewn into soft georgette fabric.
Other geometric elements included colorful triangle designs decorating the side of a white column dress and full-bodied skirts made from cascading, asymmetrical layers. The collar of a white gown had folded silk so accurate, it could have been plucked off and used as an origami fortune teller.
Origami is in its very nature a minimalist form of design, relying only on the folding of a single piece of material. But Ward – whose collections tend toward the more extravagant – added in the glittering beadwork and detail characteristic of his gowns, in addition to the geometric elements. His most exquisite dresses took up to 400 hours of work, he said.
The finale wedding dress, for example, included feminine embellishments like laser-cut flowers and a full-skirt, while the bodice was built from an origami-inspired rose.
That extravagance is what keeps Ward’s faithful clientele coming back. One of the more popular pieces among buyers Monday was one of his most embellished: a black dress with a sheer side panel along the leg, covered in black beading. He sold one after the show, he said.
In contrast, the media have been drawn to the more futuristic pieces, he said. He’s been approached by magazines interested in shooting looks with the 3-D embellishment found in the gray skirt-suit. If there was restraint this season, it was in the color palette, which was muted to black, white, gray, light lilac, yellow and blush hues.
Ward had little time for reflection. “Now, I have to think about my ready-to-wear collection. I have to keep moving forward.”