Crowned by many fashion experts as a top bridal designer in the world, Reem Acra is by no means someone who ended up in fashion by chance. Her love for fashion is in her blood, encouraged and cultivated by her family since she was a child.
She was born in Beirut, Lebanon. Her parents devoted their life to medicine; her father was a prominent doctor and health expert. It was a well-to-do family that could afford such a rare luxury as a live-in seamstress, and luckily, had very modern views when it came to their children. Acra was very well dressed as a girl; she would accompany her mother on fabric shopping trips where her imagination took in the endless variety of shapes and colors found at a souk. She started creating her own designs when she was five years old. Fashion came into her life early, and it was definitely there to stay. When asked about a possibility of exploring other fields, the designer’s response was firm, “I always was in fashion and always will be in fashion. It is part of my life. I ventured off into the world of Interior design in my mid-twenties when I was searching for the next phase of my career. After a 3 year intensive experience in interior design I returned back to fashion. Fashion is who I am, where I belong, and where I will stay. Interior design is an extension of my brand.”
Acra’s parents always encouraged her to follow her dreams and approved of the idea to continue her education in the US. So after she was discovered as a student of the American University of Beirut by a fashion editor, moving to New York and pursuing her degree at the Fashion Institute of Technology seemed a logical thing to do. She later moved on to study design at the Esmod Ecole de Mode of Design in Paris. Everywhere she went, even as a student she received instant recognition as an outstanding fashion designer with her own distinct voice; she consistently received the most prestigious awards for her work. What is her secret? Many experts agree that one of her core strengths as a designer is knowing precisely how to show a woman’s body in the best possible way.
Says Acra herself, “I have a niche for eyeing a woman and knowing exactly what she should be in, what colors, what style, what fabric, what silhouettes. I apply the same skill set when it comes to Hollywood and celebrity dressing, I’ve had enough experience to know just what they need to wear, and when I see them walk the carpet in my dress, I know I was right.” Celebrities most definitely agree with her; her client list includes the biggest names in art, music, film, politics… To mention a few, Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, Olivia Wilde, Madonna, Eva Longoria, Christina Applegate, Jill Biden, Saudi princess Ameerah Al-Taweel and many other A-listers are among her loyal celebrity clientele. “It’s about making sure the two brands, my brand and the personality of the celebrity, blend together,” she said. “But I also have to be able to say to myself, ‘Would I wear this?’”
Reem Acra’s designs stand out among other bridal and evening wear with their beautiful, lavish yet tasteful embellishments. She balances “overabundance” and “just enough” so skillfully that her signature look has been undeniably changing the fashion scene and taking it to a higher level since she entered the industry. “Certain designers just know what makes an impact on the red carpet, and she is one of them,” the stylist Ilaria Urbinati said. “She nails a sparkly number, and she does great colors. Plus it fits clients of all body types.” Yet, as it often happens, the designer herself admits that she is “a busy woman, so my day to day style is practical chic, and I love to wear black.” When asked to give advice to women who are on their path to creating their unique style, Acra thinks it is crucial to put yourself first, “The most important thing is for a woman not to dress for someone else, but to dress for themselves. To begin, one should determine what colors and silhouettes they feel their best in.”
After opening her boutique in New York, Reem Acra has quickly become one of the leading names in the luxury bridal and evening wear market. Her collections are carried in more than 100 of the most exclusive retailers in the world including Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue as well as her flagship Manhattan boutique. She has had a fascinating career which seems to be constantly on the rise, but she is also very passionate about horses and finds time to be an active supporter of equestrian sports. Nature, in general, has been one of her major sources of inspiration since she was a child. Her 2011 collection was a bow to her father’s passion for studying amber.
Reem Acra’s ability to connect and balance the elements certainly helps her in the creative process, “The world is a magical, mystical place if you know how to look at it. If anything has changed since I helped my father collect amber as a young girl, it is the depth of appreciation I have for what nature provides. Horses are a wonderful example of this. Their understanding of humans, the relationship that we can develop with them, is one of the great mysteries that make life worth living.”
Photo: Courtesy of Reem Acra