Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Blog

By Dalal Hillou

2012 Spring Intern

There’s a good chance that you may have, in your lifetime, seen a Rami Kashou gown. You may have seen it within the pages of Vogue, Elle or In Style. If you watched Madonna’s Superbowl halftime show this year, you saw his Greek-Egyptian-inspired pieces at the very beginning of the performance. You may have seen photos of stylish celebrities like Jennifer Lopez or Penelope Cruz wearing timeless pieces by him, or you may have tuned in to watch Rami on the hit show “Project Runway” in past seasons. In all these settings, he has stood out as a Palestinian designer whose gorgeous designs are one of a kind.

Rami Kashou was born in Jerusalem and raised in Ramallah, in the West Bank. The son of a former Miss Jordan, Rami was constantly drawing in his sketchbook and experimenting with fashion during his childhood and teenage years. With his family’s encouragement and support, Rami took his first peek into fashion during high school and began creating gowns for the ladies of the town, working with traditional Palestinian embroidery. After high school, he decided to move to the United States to pursue his dreams of a career in fashion.

After a short time at a fashion school, Rami decided to pursue a different experience through the retail sector. As a buyer for a well-known L.A. boutique, he traveled to Europe several times, and during his last few years of work there, he began teaching himself how to sew. By taking apart pieces of clothing that he would attain through vintage stores, Rami taught himself their construction and patterns, and he began to develop his signature style of draping. “My love for draping is an unconventional way of constructing,” Rami says. “It is outside the box of what was taught in school.”

Rami’s unique style of draping was highlighted during his two seasons on the hit show “Project Runway”, an experience that Rami describes as “surreal.” “It was great advertisement for my brand; it was definitely something that I had to reprogram my way of thinking about it, with a business rather than personal perspective. It put my name on the map and gave me global exposure; it helped me learn that my designs are more commercial that I realized and opened a lot of avenues.”  One of those new avenues was the Home Shopping Network, where he sold out in minutes during his first release; Rami also got a lot of Middle Eastern press. “People saw this Palestinian designer on a phenomenon of a show, they saw someone who is fluent in English, speaks eloquently, and is passionate and talented,” Rami says. He received emails of support from the Arab communities of all countries from people who were happy to see someone “breaking the stereotype”. Even though Rami was first runner-up of his first season on “Project Runway”, he believes that “the prize came in so many forms after the fact”.

One such prize was meeting Queen Rania of Jordan, who read about Rami and asked him to design for her. “She’s very supportive,” Rami quips, “The moment when I met her was a very surreal and genuine moment; there was a real genuine bond between us, and it was a moment where I was no longer aware that she was the Queen.” He describes the experience as being one of his greatest accomplishments, though his most current accomplishment is his new bridal collection for Bebe. “That was proving the point that I can deliver and can add a new value, and sort of elevates another brand which helps my brand grow as well. I’m very proud of that collection; it was extremely well received in the press, it was very embraced. I proved a point to myself that I’m capable of doing something this big.”

Currently, some of Rami’s projects include the development of another project with Bebe, which is still in motion; a sixth gown for the stationary brand Papyrus, for which he has created a line of elaborate paper greeting gowns, inspired by love, for an upcoming Vegas event; his next collection; opening an online store; and, potentially, a reality show for which he just shot a pilot.

“My muse is always women; I think femininity and sensuality and strength and the hourglass figure are always the key inspiration and essence of the Rami Kashou brand. I redefine and outline the female figure in each collection; there’s a theme that may change with each, but the essence of the brand is romance and elegance and sophistication and mystery and softness that isn’t seen often in today’s fashion which is an aggressive route. [My collections are] edgy with a twist that has classic elements and that’s timeless.” Rami is also inspired by his upbringing and the women of the West Bank. “It’s in the draping – there are a lot of women who are draped, whether it’s veils or longer dresses, and I always saw beauty in the way the fabric moved… The women I grew up around dressed with elegance; presenting yourself with a certain way in public is very important in the culture that I come from, and it’s always present in my work, but my work is not limited to one culture. It’s global, and there’s a sense of freedom in that because in a way it can allow other people to wear my clothes as well.”

To other Arab-Americans who may want to get involved with fashion, he says that they must find out the core of what makes them distinct, because as a designer or artist, that is what would become the essence of the brand. From that will come the opportunity to manifest one’s own sense of style, so it is important to know what makes one’s work special and unique. Rami also says, “I would encourage everyone to dream without limits, because that’s what dreams are made for.”

 For more information on Rami and his work, visit his Facebook page or his website.

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