Writer: Farah Aljundi
On Rad Hourani’s stage, silhouettes are sharp, bold and monochrome, seasonality is ignored, women model menswear and men model womenswear.
As Ayn Rand once wrote: “Anyone who has new or valuable ideas to offer stands outside the intellectual status quo. But the status quo is not a stream, let alone a ‘mainstream’. It is a stagnant swamp. It is the innovators who carry mankind forward.” Iconoclastic and unconcerned, Rad Hourani is one of those innovators. Breaking the chains of gender, time and race, his collections are an honest extension of himself in a world that lags behind.
You’ve had no formal training in fashion. Tell us more about your academic background; how did you finally end up in design?
I kind of knew ever since I was 12 years old that one day I’d be designing my own clothes. I have had no formal training in anything, I just couldn’t wait to finish high school to go after what I wanted. I became a model scout at 19 and a stylist at 20. When I was 25, I launched my first collection in Paris. If I hadn’t become a designer, I sometimes think that I would have become an architect or maybe even a politician.
How would you say your Jordanian-Syrian background affected your aesthetic vision? Do you feel it united all your different experiences and led to somewhat of a rebellion against labels and stereotypes?
My father is Jordanian and my mother is Syrian. I was born in Jordan and grew up between Amman and Montreal, moving to Paris at 22 and then to New York City. Today, I don’t spend more than a couple of weeks in one place. It’s a great way of seeing the world and understanding that we live in one universe. I feel like I am from nowhere and everywhere, taking what I can from all these different cultures, without being limited by them.
Your approach seems almost holistic in theory, aesthetics, execution and timing, addressing the illusions of perfection yet being an adamant perfectionist yourself. Do you think you can ever come full circle? Or will it continue to be an organic flow of subtle change, as portrayed in your collections?
That’s a good question. I think I just try to keep doing what I feel is right for me without really questioning myself. My work is not just about clothes or fashion. It’s about a way of being and living.
You stated you’d have loved to be an architect and there’s something almost architectural about the way you design. Without reference to gender or race, focused on sleek lines, comfort, functionality and timelessness. Which kind of buildings or architects do you admire?
Architecture is one of my favourite things on earth. I love timeless buildings. They can be made by anyone and it’s not about the name, but the look and functionality of it. I especially like Mies Van Der Rohe and Zaha Hadid, but there are many more.
Your clothes are not only unisex and anti-season, but also transformable, a testament to your flexibility and experimentation as a designer. The monochrome black, white and neutral greys seem to be the only rule you adhere to. Why?
Timelessness is a very important adjective for me. I also find people simply look better in these colours; leaner, healthier and more defined. Rather than trying to see through all sorts of prints and colours, my palette is unisex, timeless and season-less. They are the colours I choose to wear personally as well.
The fashion world’s schizophrenia continues to split in different directions; those who continue to chase trends and those who stand firm on neutral grounds. What changes do you see fashion taking in the coming years? Do you find yourself at all affected?
To be honest with you, I have no interest in fashion, I design what I feel like wearing and after five years of unisex collections, it’s been working really well for me. I just hope to see more people developing a signature style in the fashion industry, as I don’t see many. It is very important for me to have the kind of style where the label does not have to be seen in order to know that it is one of my designs behind it.
Whether or not your audience agrees with or understands your work, you seem to be way ahead of your time. Do you think the fashion industry will catch up with your aesthetic vision? Or do you believe that it will stand alone?
I have received requests from some universities regarding the gender-neutral need to promote the well-being of children, by helping them to instead be judged on the content of their character. Clothing plays a huge cultural role within early gender socialisation and I feel wonderful when I receive letters like that, as it goes beyond fashion. It’s for the whole world to catch up to a vision that I have given everything for.
It seems your views and ways are of those of a distant bystander, watching the industry’s rat race while you stand firm in your world. Do you find it to be a lonely place? And more specifically, what are your views on solitude?
What a great way to describe it, thank you! It’s an honour for me not to be like everyone or to fit in any category. It’s not lonely at all; solitude is a great place to be!
If you could master any one skill, what would it be?
Yoga, meditation, running, swimming and nursing.
What is Rad Hourani doing on a day off?
For me, there is no ‘day off’, my work is my life. Doing nothing does not exist in my world, except for maybe seeing my close friends in the country and cooking. But even then this is still a form of creation as we are always looking to create new dishes.
Where was the last place you went on vacation?
To Tulum in Mexico this past December where I filmed some footage for my upcoming film. It is incredibly beautiful there.
Who or what was your very first inspiration?
If you could dress three people of your choice, living or dead, who would they be?
Michael Jackson, Mother Teresa and [the American photographer] Robert Mapplethorpe.