“My heart is in Paris, but my mind is in Shanghai,” reflects IFA Paris’ precocious young design talent Elias Moussa.  After winning our 2011 scholarship by impressing instructors with an accomplished collection at last year’s undergraduate Fashion Show in Paris, the 24-year-old Lebanese designer enrolled in our Masters/MBA in Luxury Brand Management program, which took him on a journey from Paris to Shanghai, to his current residence in Florence.

Nearly one year later, Elias Moussa shares his sartorial success, which culminated with his debut collection last June.  Dedicated to the chosen theme ‘Memory of the Man in Movement,’ the Swedish-born designer says he “wanted to create a story of cultures being encountered, capturing today’s global society.”Citing poetry, Arab proverbs and paintings by Jean-Léon Gérôme as sources of inspiration, one particular phrase resonated with him throughout the design process and ultimately informed the direction of the collection: ‘On the day of victory, no one is tired.’

Aptly titled ‘Regalienne,’ the culturally cognizant collection explores two worlds and two cultures through a dynamic juxtaposition of traditional silhouettes and modern materials. Black body-conscious bases find innovation through elegant tailoring, mesh cutouts, and sequin and feather embellishments, all triumphantly adorned with opulent headpieces and shoes handmade by the designer himself. Inspired by traditional wedding jewelry from North Africa and the Middle East, his tribal headgear captures the essence of royal stature and grace without ever feeling overly literal.   For Moussa, “the collection signifies the old and the new – silhouettes that take us back in time, along with new, modern material. It creates the story of a meeting between what was once seen and what is yet to come.”

Moussa’s talent lies in his ability to convey multiple interpretations of archetypal images without adhering to obvious stereotypes. His designs personify the mystic power of the contemporary woman through a warrior who is simultaneously strong and regal, but also compassionate and elegant. “She is a majestic woman in the war of today’s society, wearing different outfits for different occasions with the clothes as her shield,” explains Moussa of his poetic vision.  “For her, life is about celebrating different occasions.  Others admire this woman and she knows it.”

Composed of a predominantly all-black colour palette, Moussa’s cotton-based fabric selection, commonly used for window displays, proved difficult at times. “It was not easy to work with, as it’s not normally used for clothing, so ironing it was impossible as it melted and everything had to be handmade and ‘pressed’ by hand,” describes the designer of the added laborious peculiarities. Of course, the design process is never predictable, and unexpected challenges always arise within the creative process, but they also often inspire the subtle nuances that shape the thematic sensibility of the final product, making it unique.  His final looks relished in the ingenuity of his craft where handmade couture techniques complimented ready-to-wear design practices, resulting in bespoke texturized fabrics. 

Moussa credits IFA Paris’ instructors for his strong foundation in ready-to-wear based techniques (having come from a background in haute couture), but more importantly for supporting his creative vision.  “Surely, different ideas came along on this journey and it was not easy to get all the ideas into the collection in order to get it too out of focus. The instructors were very helpful, patient and respectful with my ideas and me, guiding me into a successful direction.” And, like any artistic medium, his collection started as a vision and evolved naturally along the way.  “The real end result, with the Regalienne-series, created by Pascal Bünning, Momo Sabah, Bastien Caërou and Sonja Wanda are beyond what I expected from the photo shoot. These images are representing the woman, the mood and the essence of the collection created by just a number of fantastic talented people. I am forever thankful to them,” says Moussa of the finished product.

Now versed in Paris, Shanghai and Florence, what’s next for the upcoming graduate? “I believe that Paris is the capital of fashion. It is the platform of the origins where it once started,” says the budding designer.“But Shanghai is a contemporary city that’s booming in a rapid pace in fashion and in luxury where I can see a future in this field,” he continues.“IFA Paris has made me more confident to encounter, present and represent myself since my period in Shanghai with its program in Luxury Brand Management.”

Equipped with a comprehensive perspective of both the new and old worlds, Moussa feels ready to embark on a design journey with his greatest competitive asset: himself.  “It’s a very competitive industry but I believe everyone’s got a story to tell,” he says earnestly.  “Try to look into yourself, where you come from, your culture and your own story. Simply, I wanted to tell a story. My story.”