Elie Saab (Arabic: إيلي صعب) (born July 4, 1964), sometimes known simply as ‘ES’, is a Lebanese fashion designer. His main workshop is in Lebanon, with additional workshops in Milan and Paris.
Elie Saab is the eldest son of a wood merchant who raised five children in Damour, a southern coastal Beirut suburb.
Born to Maronite Catholic parents in Beirut, Saab is self-trained and began sewing as a child. At the age of eight even early as age 6 his attention was already turned to fashion. He used to cut patterns out of newspaper and searched his mother’s closet for any lace he could find. He used his sister as his model, raiding his mother’s closet for anything he could drape upon her. However, his family was pleasantly surprised when he turned out a blue and white striped gown for his sister.
In 1982, Saab launched his Beirut-based fashion label when he was 18 years old with a team of 15 employees. At first, his atelier was specialized in bridal couture making wedding dresses and gowns using rich fabrics, lace, detailed embroidery, pearls, crystals and silk threads. In Beirut, his reputation grew from dressing the women in his neighborhood, and was soon enhanced by high society women who began sporting his designs.
Elie Saab’s style is a unique fusion of western and eastern culture. He uses noble materials such as taffeta, organza, noble and satin paired with more fluid and light fabrics.
In 1981 he moved to Paris to study fashion, but ended up returning and opening his workshop in 1982.
In 1997 Saab was the first non-Italian designer to become a member of the Italian Camera Nazionale della Moda, and in 1997, showed his first collection outside Lebanon in Rome. In 1998, he started ready-to-wear in Milan, and in the same year, he held a fashion show in Monaco which was attended by Princess Stéphanie of Monaco.
In 1999, Queen Rania of Jordan wore Elie Saab for her enthronement. One of his dresses—somewhat less demure, presumably, than Queen Rania’s, and thickly embroidered with emeralds and diamonds—was reportedly sold for $2.4 million.
He became an overnight success after he became the first Lebanese designer to dress an Oscar winner, Halle Berry, in 2002. Berry wore a burgundy gown by Saab to the 2002 Academy Awards when she won for Best Actress. After this night, the designer was bombarded with interviews and appeared on at least 5 TV networks. Berry later wore another dress by Saab, this time a gold dress, to the 2003 Oscars.
In May 2003, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture invited him to become a member, and he showed his first haute couture collection in Paris in July 2003. His first ready-to-wear collection in Paris was the Spring-Summer 2006 collection, and Paris is now his permanent ready-to-wear runway.
In 2010, Saab dressed 102 international celebrities for key global events, up from 40 in 2009. The figure for 2011 up until March was 88. His creations can be found all over the world, with boutiques located in Beirut, Paris and London. Elie Saab has 60 retail outlets all over the world. His designs are sold in 22 countries. In 2011, Elie Saab launched his first fragrance “Le Parfum” which became an overnight bestseller in 15 countries, including the UAE.
Saab met his future wife Claudine when her mother bought one of his designs. They married three years later. They are the parents of three sons who live in Geneva.
Saab has three houses in Lebanon: an old house in Gemmayze region of Beirut, a house in Rabieh and a chalet in Faraya. He also has properties in France and Switzerland.