My List | 24 Hours With Elie Saab

BY Harper's Bazaar Arabia / Nov 10 2015 / 14:10 PM

As he reveals a new face to front his signature fragrance in Paris this week, Bazaar shares the Lebanese designer’s life by the numbers… Highlights include 4 cups of coffee, 6 couture appointments and 2 Jack Russells

My List | 24 Hours With Elie Saab
Jason Lloyd-Evans
Elie Saab backstage during his A/W15 show in Paris

6:00 A.M. I wake up at 6 o’clock, but don’t get up until 7am. I know that once I’m out of bed the long, hectic day will start, so this hour is both precious and peaceful. My personal trainer comes at 8.15am and I work out for an hour every day on the treadmill and using back and cable machines. 9:15 A.M. I’m not at all obsessed with products or brands; for my shower, they just need to be natural and fragrance- and soap-free. I switch between fragrances, but I’m loyal to L’egoiste Platinum de Chanel, L’eau Sauvage Extreme de Dior, Aqua di Parma and, from Elie Saab La Collection des Essences, I wear Vetiver in the summer and Amber in the winter. I’m not into facials but a body massage is a necessity. I’m not self-obsessed; in fact, I focus more on others’ wellbeing. I don’t give any importance to choosing what to wear either. How funny when you’re in a business where you work months on creating a collection for women, who usually spend hours choosing what to wear, but you just need a few minutes to decide your own outfit. I’d say my style is very basic, no sophistication. Despite being surrounded by many shades, embroideries and beadings, I am a classic person in black, blue, white and grey. During the week, I go for a plain Ermenegildo Zegna shirt, a pair of Prada jeans and Tod’s shoes, then add a Zegna blazer for meetings. For weekends, I go casual with a Dolce & Gabbana T-shirt and Nike or Prada sneakers to be comfortable. I love YSL and Hermès and go to Lanvin and Ermenegildo Zegna for made-to-measure suits. I’m a watch collector and my mood can influence my choice between Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Rolex. 9:30 A.M. Breakfast is always with my family: my wife Claudine, and children Elie Jr, Celio and Michel. I think breakfast should be colourful, rich in variety, and well-presented. I am not a big eater so it’s usually healthy – fruit is a must. I also nibble on slices of cheese or labneh bites and occasionally have fried eggs. I have two drinking habits for coffee. In the morning, I drink two cups of Turkish coffee. While they cool down, I’ll listen to music – I love Fairuz – and read the local daily newspapers, such as Le Figaro, The Times or L’Orient-Le Jour, depending on the country I’m in. During the day, I have two American coffees. I might add some water, but rarely finish it. Finding a cup of coffee present on my desk throughout the day has become a ritual. 10:00 A.M. I’m always rushing to my office for the morning brainstorming session. It’s not a coincidence that work and home are in the same area, so it only takes 10 minutes to drive. In Beirut, I live in Gemmayzeh and my office is in Downtown; in Paris, my apartment and office are in the 16th arrondissement. The first thing I do is turn off the AC, as I’m not fond of it, then I check my schedule for the day, greet the team, and inspect the gowns, followed by business meetings, workshops and couture appointments. You can barely find a pathway through the office, with different Stockman mannequins, fabric rolls, embroidery samples, moodboards and sketches all spread around. It’s always busy with creative teams, chef d’ateliers, accessory units, journalists, celebrities… if the office is vibrant, the energy is higher. When you have employees who have been working for you for more than 10 years, it’s quite a good indicator of being a successful manager and boss. We usually work 10 hours a day and more than 15 during shows, which creates a strong bond and family spirit. 11 A.M. I don’t know how many emails I get a day, you’d have to ask my PA, who updates me twice a day with important requests. I only take urgent phone calls, as I bounce from one meeting to another. I love every aspect of my job. What bothers me the most is that I can’t control my schedule. It is so intense that I cannot dedicate a moment to certain tasks as I often get interrupted. Because I’m on the move a lot, WhatsApp is a great tool to stay updated with progress at the workshop. My team constantly share pictures, drawings and detailed embroideries so I can approve things quickly. I am a globetrotter and don’t stay more than a week in one country, flying from Paris to Beirut to London to Geneva to the US to Asia... I am inspired by everything that will catch my attention; a book, painting, sculpture. It may sound strange, but the most frightening things might trigger creativity. However, the woman remains my main source of inspiration, as I always aspire to make women look beautiful. I like a woman with character and confidence, regardless of their age, shape or size. 1:30 P.M. The only relaxing moment is during lunch, but I am never alone. Actually, I need company while I eat, usually my co-workers so that we can discuss business-related matters. I am lucky to be pampered by my mother who sends food to the office, such as kibbeh bi laban. In Paris, my cook, who travels with me, also serves a variety. I like to start with a crab salad, followed by Lebanese dishes like sayadiyeh or burghul. I crave desserts, such as cheesecake, but I do my best not to be tempted. I am not a diet freak but I try to be healthy, though sometimes I overeat when a temptation is staring me right in the face.

I like a woman with character and confidence, regardless of their age, shape or size

German model Toni Garrn was revealed as the new face of Elie Saab Le Parfum this week in Paris

5:30 P.M. In the afternoon I’ll take a coffee break, eat some fruit and scan international magazines, like Harper’s Bazaar, W or Hola. After another meeting, I’ll usually have a massage, as my days are so stressful and tiring, so I like to relax and be totally disconnected. In Paris, I go to the Four Seasons, and when I’m in Beirut, my therapist comes to me with a customised massage session. Does it sound strange if I tell you that my work is my hobby? It is seriously the case. I always look for inspiration, check latest trends, think of different gowns. So even if I have a day off, I am working, otherwise the day seems endless and I feel frustrated. 24 hours are never enough to complete the day. Had the day been longer, with extra hours, I still wouldn’t get enough done. 8:00 P.M. I usually leave around 8pm, though before collections not until 2am. I admit I am a workaholic, and being around my team gives me more energy and better productivity. I would feel very guilty throwing out my ideas and leaving them working all night without assistance. When there are no plans, I go home, do a few phone calls with family and friends, have a light dinner, usually a grilled halloumi sandwich and salad, and briefly watch TV – Fashion TV or a comedy – then straight to bed. I rejoice by the idea of being in bed by 10pm. If I have dinners or a social occasion, I go straight from the office to keep up the energy. I receive lots of invitations but I will only grant a few. When I have late nights consecutively, my system stops functioning properly and I get drained quickly. I prefer smaller gatherings with a close circle of friends. After a long day, this crowd is the best way to unwind. I like to host my friends at home or go to laid-back places, like Hotel Costes in Paris or Balthus in Beirut. Claudine and I have a small weekly gathering at home and 10 big parties every year. 10:00 P.M. Books are not my companion at bedtime; when I go to bed, it means straight to sleep. I have a huge library filled with different design, architecture and fashion books in the living room that I take pleasure in reading during my free time. My favourite book is The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I remove my watch, put my phone on silent, say a short prayer and fall asleep. My mind doesn’t stop, so I sometimes check my phone in case of emergencies and seize the occasion to make sure none of my family who live abroad need anything. The secret to waking up feeling refreshed is the quality of sleep. I would be grateful for four uninterrupted hours. 

—As told to Emily Baxter