An Iconic Designer: Robert Abi Nader

A strong determination, passion for fashion and commitment to success has propelled Robert Abi Nader to be the first designer from the Middle East to present a collection during the Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week. Today, almost two decades later, the talented couturier continues to inspire beauty with his own unique style.
Born in Lebanon, Robert Abi Nader went to France at a young age to study fashion and graduated in 1985 from the prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne. While still studying fashion, his talents were spotted by the late Yves Saint Laurent who selected him for an internship at his fashion house. Abi Nader later joined other prestigious labels including Claude Montana and Christian Dior before striking on his own. In July 1999, Abi Nader had the privilege of presenting his own collection during the Paris Fashion Week alongside Yves Saint Laurent. “Having my designs paraded on the same catwalk as the legendary Yves Saint Laurent was a dream come true,” he says.
Abi Nader’s Middle Eastern background and Western education came together beautifully to inspire designs that were unique in their cut, color and style. With every collection he gained more and more recognition for his exquisite creations and innovative style that combined Eastern sophistication with European flair. His gowns are luxurious, graceful and utterly feminine, making him a go-to designer for women who love to stand out from the crowd. 
Abi Nader has managed to position himself as a major player in the fashion and haute couture industry while deftly reaching iconic status. His designs, with preferred choice of bold and bright colored gowns, warmed their way into the hearts of fashion devotees at a time when French catwalks were predominantly ruled by neutral colors. With every collection the designer gained critical acclaim and was praised by international fashion critics. In 2003, he defied tradition once again when he became the first Middle Eastern designer to create evening gowns for the Miss France pageant – a highly coveted position indeed. “It was definitely a struggle,” he says, “however, having studied design in France made it a little easier for me to be accepted.”
So what made him succeed against such odds? “My determination, I think. When I want something, I work hard until I get it. The journey was never easy but I was ready to put in whatever it would take to achieve what I wanted,” he reminisces. By the time Abi Nader presented his third collection, he had already been contracted to design the interiors of private planes for wealthy clients in Switzerland and for Hollywood celebrities. His list of international clientele kept growing, attracting members of the royal families in the Arabian Gulf, and loyal clients from France, Russia, Japan, China, and the US. Some of his fervent followers include Catherine Deneuve, Amanda Lear, Patricia Kaas, Sophie Marceau, Helene Segara, Céline Dion, Monica Belluci, Penelope Cruz, Sharon Stone, and Mouna Ayoub, to name a few.
Ambitious, yet humble and grounded, Abi Nader is very aware and accepting of his own imperfections and strives to achieve more and do better every day. His label has grown phenomenally over the years yet he refuses to commercialize his designs, insisting on designing each piece himself. With fame came great demand, but Abi Nader has chosen to design his own creations instead of expanding to include junior designers to grab a bigger market share.
Though Abi Nader is a success story, I wanted to find out what success specifically meant to him. “For me, success is being happy and satisfied with what I do,” he responds, pointing out that perfectionism has perhaps been his best friend. “Every collection I presented had to be better than the one before. There was always a deep desire in me to exceed what I had done previously. I was my own worst critic and that has pushed me to do everything bigger and better every time.” The designer also attributes his success to his mother, whose inherent grace was his first lesson in elegance. After the young Abi Nader accompanied his mother to various tailors, he realized that he liked the world of fashion and knew at a young age that fashion was going to be his calling. But fame and success never come without a price and the designer has had to make his fair share of sacrifices along the long road to success. “Getting here was not easy, but I am happy with what I’ve accomplished and I’m glad that I was one of the first Lebanese designers to enter the international market and open the door for future designers.”
Abi Nader recently launched a new prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear) collection in Salam Stores to cater to clients in Qatar. “My designs are often inspired by the client’s character and style and often spurred by a feel for their personality,” he says. Having spent time in Qatar during its launch, the designer reveals that he has been extremely inspired by the Qatari women’s taste and style, which will surely reflect more prominently in his upcoming collections.
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