Designer Focus

Designer Focus: Azzi & Osta

When it comes to crafting mesmerizing couture pieces, the Beirut-based design duo George Azzi and Assaad Osta surely know what it takes to bring both elegance and rarity to any design. With the advent of their namesake couture house, Azzi & Osta, the two designers take their deeply rooted passion and longtime experience to create inspired collections that are true works of art.

How did you get into fashion?

Both of us have grown up influenced by our mothers and grandmothers. They used to sew clothes for themselves or others, and we were always around learning. We’ve also been inclined at an early age towards the artistic fields and we’ve received a lot of encouragement from our families to go into that. So it was a natural move we would say!

What made you decide to start your own label?

We started working at Elie Saab in 2007, after having graduated from ESMOD, as his Assistant Designers. After a couple of years learning from the master of Haute Couture in the region, we started taking on freelance projects on the side. And with time, we had more and more clients asking us for designs. So we just took a leap of faith and did it!

How do you define your particular style and aesthetic?

We’d say our sculptural volumes, somewhat asymmetrical cuts, and fabric manipulation. All in while respecting simplicity. Of course, there’s always a touch of embellishments and a vintage-y element.

Who or what are your inspirations and muses?

Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux, and Natalie Portman.

Tell us a bit about your recent collection. What’s the story behind it?

For our Spring/Summer 2018 collection, we built on our passion for the arts and the Baroque period. The collection is inspired by the life of Marie de’ Medici, exuberantly drawn by the Baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens’ in his prominent Marie de’ Medici Cycle. And so, the collection is called Marie De’ Medici, and every dress has an element of Rubens’ paintings. The collection is defined by contoured silhouettes, intricately cut fabrics, conceptual volumes, as well as a warm color palette of whites, purples, pinks and golds, all perfectly re-imagining a modern-day Marie de’ Medici. The elegance comes to life through the use of rich silks, satins, tulles and elaborate embroideries translating the grandeur of the XVII century. We utilized fabric manipulation and swirly voluminous designs to add an elegant contemporary twist to the collection.

Do you think you have a responsibility as a designer to respond to the social and political issues of our time?

Design is a form of art, of self-expression, a message we want to send out to the world. And so responding to social and political issues of our time using fashion is key for us.

In your opinion, what’s the problem with fashion today?

The fashion industry nowadays is quite saturated with preexisting designers as well as a vast number of new ones. This can make it harder for up and coming brands and fresh talents to survive and make their marks in the industry. But what’s also an issue is how fast the industry and market are changing, so we have to keep up with it at all costs.

Has your relationship with clothing changed as you delve into the fashion world?

Definitely! Our experience with colors, textiles and proportions left its print on how we dress on a day to day basis. It’s normal, all experiences and learnings you go through shapes your life accordingly.

What are some of the trials and tribulations you have experienced being an emerging designer?

Making a name for ourselves. Finding a white space in the industry and owning it. Creating a unique identity for the brand.

In fashion's current protean landscape, what do you feel are the most important ingredients in building a brand?

Having a clear identity, a strong vision, and an exquisite aesthetic. And, most importantly, lots of patience and perseverance.

How would you describe the creative scene in Beirut?

Beirut’s creative scene has always been quite dynamic, eclectic, and inspiring. It’s a city of creators, in all industries. And that by itself is a driving force to keep creating.

What is the biggest misconception about being a designer?

That’s it's all about glamour and glitz! That we’re always surrounded by models, photographers and influencers. Truth is, we run our atelier like any other business; rigorously working against deadlines to surpass expectations and make every client feel special. Now, we definitely have glamorous moments, but the bulk of it is hard work and sleepless nights!