Joelle Behlock Nader: A Passion for Fashion

Best known for winning the Miss Lebanon title in 1997, former beauty queen Joelle Behlock is much more than just another pretty face. Her beauty is only surpassed by her intelligence, grace, and strong sense of drive and focus, and is topped off with a healthy dose of talent and creativity. With so many notable achievements already under her belt, Behlock is now ready to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion designer and embark on a journey of a lifelong passion.  
Drawn to the magical world of colors and art for as long as she can remember, Behlock’s first award for her creativity came in the form of a first-place prize for a drawing she made in elementary school in Paris where she used to live. As a teenager, the pull from the glamorous world of fashion was irresistible to Behlock who was in awe of the world’s top designers like Karl Lagerfield, Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gautier, Gianni Versace and many more. 
Behlock’s first taste of the world of fashion was the age of 16 when she was elected 1st runner-up for Elite Top Model in Lebanon by the international Elite agency jury. Only a year after, she was crowned Miss Lebanon, and the rest, as they say, is history. 
Her face has endorsed many prestigious cosmetic and jewelry brands, and she hit the most glamorous fashion scene in the world as a guest on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival 2003. Behlock also landed her own fashion program on MBC Style with Joelle, and this year it is her turn to finally realize her one dream of unleashing her creativity and doing what she loves the most – designing fashion.
Behlock, now a busy mother of two and an up-and-coming name in the fashion world, sat down with Today’s Outlook to reveal her brand new summer 2011 collection, the beginnings of her new path, and her hopes and dreams for the future.


How and why did you choose a career in fashion?

When I was fresh out of university I was offered managerial positions in international firms which, although quite flattering, made me realize that I just couldn’t see myself in that sort of career. I’m more of an artistic person; my passions are art, beauty and colors, not something you find sitting behind a desk. So, despite graduating with high distinctions and being offered several appealing positions, I had to heed my true calling.  Back then I met Adel Nader, the man that would become my future husband. He encouraged me to pursue my passion and go back to school.  I did just that. I went for another four-year degree: I spent three years studying fashion design and manufacturing at C.A.M.M Fashion Academy, and one year studying accessory and jewelry design. 


How do you feel being in the spotlight and working in the world of fashion and beauty will help you today?

My fashion program presented me with challenges and opened up a lot of doors for me. Through my program, I came into contact with international designers, I went into their ateliers and workshops, and I acquired a lot of knowledge through these experiences. I also discovered a lot of resources that I might need in my work. It also enriched my taste and my knowledge of fashion. Notably, it enabled me to help women develop their style, choose clothes that flatter their bodies, learn how to pick colors that suit them, and make fashion choices that bring out their best attributes. 


How did you choose the name of your company and brand?

The company is JBN, which stands for Joelle Behlock Nader. The haute couture brand is Joelle Behlock couture because it’s known as a name, and I should capitalize on that. At a later stage, I will have a different brand, more ready-to-wear, more casual day-to-day lines.


How long have you been designing now?

I started more than a year ago, but I had to slow down due to my pregnancy. Now I’m ready to forge ahead and my collection is ready and available to my customers – it’s the spring/summer 2011. 


You have two toddlers and a new business on your hands, how do you manage?

With a lot of planning! When I come to the atelier, I focus on nothing but the tasks at hand. I spend half a day there unless I have clients coming later in the afternoon. I then head home and take some work with me that I can do around my kids, like sketching, designing, sometimes pattern cutting. The rest of the afternoon is devoted to my kids; we play and do whatever they like. I am the one that feeds and bathes them and tends to their needs, it’s very tiring, but also very rewarding and I love it. I’m enjoying every day of my life; fashion design is my passion and my family is my joy – they give me a sense of balance and stability. My kids are an inspiration to me in so many ways.


What kind of woman do you have in mind when you create your designs?

I am diversifying with my collections. I don’t want to be limited to a certain category of age or taste. I like to respect the shape of the body, the woman herself, and, at the same time, create pieces that are modern and unique. I don’t like my designs to create a sense of déjà vu; I want them to be instantly recognizable as one-of-a-kind and as my designs. I try to achieve this uniqueness in the cut, the style of embroidery, the textiles, the mix of colors and accessories; it’s just details here and there that make a big difference in making my work unique.


What colors did you choose for your collection this season?

My palette of colors for this summer is quite warm and striking, but not to the extreme of funky colors. The shade and intensity of the tones influences my choices. For weddings, I go for pastels and softer colors, especially for bridesmaids’ dresses.


How can you describe the Lebanese woman’s taste in fashion?

I have noticed something quite intriguing when I’m shopping in Paris or London – when I’m picking out a pair of shoes, the assistants at the store immediately ask me if I am Lebanese. I am always surprised as to how they know my nationality. When I inquired, the answer was, of course, pleasing; it seems that Lebanese women are easy to spot because they are known to have a great sense of fashion and truly exceptional taste, they follow fashion. Lebanese women dare to follow trends, although personally, I opt for items that suit me instead of simply wearing something because it’s a current trend. 



Do you customize your designs to appeal to customers around the region?

I do. I take into account the varying tastes, but I do it all without losing my personal touch.  Nowadays, I think that women around the region are unanimously becoming directed towards a more modern, westernized, and highly-fashionable look. 


This is a very competitive industry; how do you intend to deal with all the competition?

I don’t look at the world of fashion and beauty from the point of view of competition. I think when you shop, you’re out to mix and match brands to find what you like, so I’m not here to compete; I’m here to complete because I think we all complement each other. 


What can we expect from you 10 years from now?

Right now I’m not looking too far into the future, but of course I would like to become an international designer. For now, I am living the moment, living each day to the fullest, giving my all to my new business and to my family. I am not in a rush to get to the top quickly.

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