Born and raised in Damour, a coastal suburb of Beirut, Elie Saab began teaching himself how to sew before the age of 10, dressing his sister in scraps of fabric from their mother’s closet that he would sew together. By 1982, at age 18, he had launched his own label in Beirut, after a brief stint at design school in Paris. Despite the civil war that broke out in Lebanon in 1975 that displaced many people, including Saab’s own family, he insisted on opening his dressmaking studio in his native country. Combining Western silhouettes and shapes with a Middle Eastern flair for ornamentation and embellishment, Saab’s eveningwear quickly caught on, earning him fans from all over the world, particularly brides-to-be. He is also popular with royal families in the Middle East; Queen Rania of Jordan famously wore one of his gowns for her coronation ceremony in 1999. On the red carpet, Halle Berry put Saab on Hollywood’s fashion map when she accepted her 2002 Academy Award in a sheer embroidered gown with a crimson taffeta skirt. Since then, a pipeline of notable figures have donned Saab’s artisanal gowns including Beyoncé, Priyanka Chopra , Celine Dion and Angelina Jolie.
Increasingly sought out by celebrities, a Saab dress was worn by the Israeli actress Gal Gadot attending the 2018, National Board of Review Awards. This sparked a momentous flash of outrage among Lebanese social media users, given the Israeli-Lebanon conflict that erupted in 1948. Saab has quickly risen household brand status in Beirut, and Saab has made repeated appearances as a judge on Project Runway’s middle eastern 2016 edition. Saab spearheaded the eponymous company’s growth trajectory through opening boutiques in the fashion metropoles, London, New York and Paris which offer his couture collections, while his ready-to-wear range and perfumes are sold in over 160 international locations, including stockists Net-a-porter, Matchesfashion, Mytheresa and Farfetch. He became the first non-Italian designer to be accepted into the Camera Nazionale della Moda, the country’s governing body for Milan Fashion Week, where he debuted his ready-to-wear line. Shortly thereafter, in 2003, he was invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris to be a member and still remains one of the few officially ordained haute couture labels in the world. Saab’s company is now based in Paris. He splits his time between Lebanon, France, and Switzerland, with his wife Claudine. In April 2019, Saab announced his expansion into interior design, designing luxury interior for a gated beachfront property in Dubai, in partnership with the real estate company Emaar. It will also include boutique fashion stores, galleries and cafés featuring the Saab edit.