Scent IOrange Blossom
As the first in a series to highlight each olfactory essence captured by
ELIE SAAB Le Parfum, The Light of Now brings forth the orange blossom to understand its subtleties, symbolism and seduction upon the senses.
Blooming in early spring, the evergreen bitter orange tree becomes dressed in thousands of luminous white, five-petalled flowers. Two tons of these hand-picked flowers yield a kilogram of essential oil, neroli absolute, which form the top notes of ELIE SAAB Le Parfum.
Orange blossom is a natural starting point, as Elie Saab holds childhood memories of the sweet heady scent of orange blossom lingering in the air of Lebanon and magnified by the warm sun.
In Greek mythology, Zeus offered Hera orange blossoms when he took her as his wife, and ever since the flower adorns wedding bouquets and crowns as a symbol of abundance and eternal love; the soothing effect of its aroma is believed to calm brides. Arriving in Europe from the Middle East, the Italian Princess of Nerola introduced its flowers’ fragrance to Roman society in 1680, using it so much that Neroli essence adopted her name. In England in 1840, Queen Victoria wore orange blossom flowers in her marriage crown.
“It is a flower bouquet where orange blossom is the center point,” explains leading French perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, the “nose” behind
ELIE SAAB Le Parfum. “There is orange blossom and cedar wood, around which different types of jasmine gravitate.” His process was, “to take in and out each ingredient and to rebalance it in the formula,” to render orange blossom ever more sophisticated amongst other olfactory elements at play.
The waist declares the statement of the feminine silhouette; the center of a woman’s movement, the point from where a designer begins his art. “It is the body that dictates, not the pencil,” Elie Saab has described.
Pantsuits conform to the body with easy definition, grosgrain ribbons trim the seams in architectural lines to align shoulder and waist with rigor, and most looks are signed with a thin line belt in the ELIE SAAB Ready-to-Wear Spring Summer 2014 Collection.
The evolution of European fashion is told by the waistline. In the mid-1800s, the corset reigned supreme with a ‘taille de guêpe’ or ‘wasp waist’ defining the ideal, which was achieved through corsetry made of whalebone or bodice lacing that serrated the waist from the garments’ interior. Around 1900, couturiers Nicole Groult, Paul Poiret and Madeleine Vionnet followed the natural line of the waist in their designs, shifting the trend entirely.
Today, a woman’s natural waistline is the point of origin of Elie Saab’s design. It dictates a dress’s equilibrium and its volumes as the most delicate yet definitive contour in fashion. And so is the way of the waist, a curve variably refined, respected and elegantly rendered.
As the daughter of celebrated gallerist Giuliana Medda, one could say that Ambra Medda was born into the biz, having grown up in marketplaces, attending art openings and auction previews.
Geometric Mirror - Elizabeth Garouste
Beauty Mirror in Silver - Michael Anastassiades
ETSHA WEAVERS - Peter Mabeo
Model 2084 Chandelier - Gino Sarfatti
Tip of the Tongue - Michael Anastassiades
After studying Asian art, Chinese archaeology and Chinese language in London, Ambra moved to New York to become an art dealer, quickly heading south to Miami where she co-founded the prestigious Design Miami salon in 2005. As director, she saw it grow over six fruitful years until departing in 2010. She's not stopped moving, with 2013 bearing the fruits of Medda's latest project - an international, digital design hub she dubbed L'Arco Baleno, which she heads up with CEO Oliver Weyergraf and a committee of international heavyweights from Pharrell Williams to art director Patrick Li and industrial designer Tom Dixon. The Light of Now sat down with Ambra to talk light, and love of design.
Tell us about L'Arco Baleno, the rainbow...
I wanted a name that was very joyful. I felt like our world needed a jolt of light and the rainbow stands for design in its entire spectrum. We launched the site in July last year – it is both commerce and culture dedicated to design, a curated collection of crafts and collectible pieces with a lot of editorial, and within the stories you can buy pieces that are related to them. We like to talk to emerging designers, collectors and curators to frame what is happening today and to also reach back into the past to put our collection into context.
And how would you describe your design philosophy?
I think I am always looking for quality. When you are exposed to so much, you develop a sense of what you do and don't like. I'm quite curious and I think I'm very open-minded – I think you can't get too attached to a specific flavor or style. You have to look at things and give them time, and look into them a little bit deeper so as not to get stuck in one aesthetic.
What design material come to mind when you think of light?
For L'Arco Baleno, lighting and glassware are very popular, particularly in America. Glassware is like jeans; it never goes out of style! Light and glass are so connected; looking at glass through light is such a magical experience.
What associations come to mind when you think particularly of the designs of ELIE SAAB?
Three words: extraordinary, feminine, and craftsmanship.
So, where to next?
Botswana! I'm working with Peter Mabeo who works with furniture, who is going to introduce me to some craftspeople, weavers in particular, as I am going to develop some baskets with them. I have ventured into a world that is very new to me, and I am very open for it to take on new and exciting avenues.
An expression of a woman made sublime begins in black and white. An ideal, a gesture, a handmade sketch in black ink that is then pinned with fabric and embroidery samples. It becomes patterns, then volumes, then the finest of details and perfect fit across 800 to 1000 hours of work comprising the realization of a haute couture wedding gown. Follow its journey – from an idea to an illuminated expression.
From Inspiration to Dimension
Two pattern makers translate a pen-and-paper sketch to a life-size dimension, anticipating a dress’s movement, precision and balance.
Texture – luscious silk organza, the finest lace, mousseline, shantung and tulle are some of the materials chosen in delicate, shaded hues reflecting the nuances of daylight.
Detail – one dress can occupy a team of embroiderers at their looms for three months, as they adorn delicate materials with paillettes, pearls, flowers in relief and cabochons gemstones.
The model is chosen; the wedding gown is fitted to her silhouette. On the day of the Spring Summer 2014 Haute Couture fashion show in Paris, every detail is verified for an overall sense of exalted femininity and delicate brilliance. The day has arrived; she assumes her moment and steps into the light…
View the ELIE SAAB Spring Summer 2014 Haute Couture fashion show here
This luminous silver-grey, fully-embroidered gown, from the ELIE SAAB Fall-Winter 2012/2013 Ready-to-Wear collection, magnified Celine Dion’s star presence on stage, as she received her award at the BAMBI 2012 ceremony.
This elegant Prussian-blue, silk chiffon gown, from the ELIE SAAB Pre-Fall 2012 Ready-to-Wear collection, was worn by ZHANG ZIYI at Elton John’s exclusive Oscar Viewing Party in Los Angeles.
This fully-embroidered, plum evening gown, from the ELIE SAAB Fall-Winter 2011/2012 Ready-to-Wear collection, was worn by SHU QI at the prestigious opening of the Piaget flagship boutique in Hong Kong.
This romantic, nude crepe georgette gown, from the ELIE SAAB Spring-Summer 2010 Ready-to-Wear collection, was worn by FAN BINGBING at the glamourous opening of Cartier’s flagship store in Hong Kong. The corsetry and pleating of this dress sublimed her silhouette.
ELIE SAAB presents a constellation of gowns on high, to tell the tale of stars come out to play.
Like poetic muses suspended above, eleven iconic ELIE SAAB red carpet gowns are on exhibition until April 30th, 2014 within the central atrium of Hong Kong’s Lee Gardens Mall, the city’s central shopping destination where ELIE SAAB recently opened a boutique.
In a breathtaking arrangement, the gowns are positioned at a height of over 15 meters, in concentric circles and in syncopated rhythm across three levels. This dramatic presentation suits the former life of these sensational pieces, which have appeared on the red carpet with actresses and performers such as Shu Qi, Sarah Jessica Parker, Fan BingBing, Celine Dion and Michele Yeoh; the gowns have travelled all the way from Beirut, Paris and Los Angeles to appear here, and in due time for the Hong Kong Film Festival running March 24th to April 7th, 2014.
Each gown is presented with its original studio sketch describing its exact moment in the spotlight. From the seductive silk chiffon gown with black cobweb lace worn by supermodel Anja Rubik, the face of ELIE SAAB Le parfum, at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, to the dashing red gown of Taylor Swift while receiving the Woman of the Year award at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards, these are the actual dresses worn by the celebrities. And here they are on high, in their regal reach to the skies.
Until April 30th.
33 Hysan Ave, Hong Kong
To coincide with the exhibition, a collection of eleven limited edition ready-to-wear pieces from the Spring Summer 2014 runway is available in the Lee Gardens boutique exclusively at this time.
Two dramatic ELIE SAAB gowns illuminated the radiant, feminine talent of actress Angelina Jolie and singer Pink at the 86th Academy Awards ceremony on March 2nd, 2014 in Hollywood.
Angelina Jolie evoked the figure of a classical goddess, appearing in a long-sleeve tulle gown, intricately embroidered with paillettes and crystals descending like a sun shower of brilliant rain. With true grace, she escorted Sidney Poitier for the presentation of the Best Actor award. Though Jolie has lately favored darker ensembles and, in 2014, interprets Disney’s most iconic female villain in the film ‘Maleficent’, the actress appeared nothing of the sort in this ensemble of delicacy and elegance, qualities more characteristic of her real-life role as mother to six children and a dedicated humanitarian. This comprises a decade of work as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations, and the founding of at least eleven schools across Asia through the Jolie–Pitt Foundation.
At the heart of the ceremony’s proceedings, Pink performed Judy Garland's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from the 1939 Oscar-winning film The Wizard of Oz. She paid tribute to Dorothy’s magical slippers with a long, sparkling ruby red gown embroidered with silk thread and sequins. The Grammy Award-winning singer’s performance finished with a standing ovation.
Two women in the spotlight, both for their style and substance; and two haute couture gowns delivering their talent in sparkling, show-stopping form.
There is romance in the darkness – silk printed with shadowy, wilting blooms. Black and blush pink rising triumphantly from forest green and wine tones. A series of 1950s and 60s inspired silhouettes are with infused with movement, ease and opulence for the ELIE SAAB Ready-to-Wear Autumn Winter 2014-2015 Collection.
The iconic “Color Field” paintings of American painter Mark Rothko (1903 – 1970) were the starting point for the collection, with their hues that fade into one another in magnetic associations. The colors themselves are the figurative focus of Rothko’s works, as his rich chromatic fields evoke emotions by their many layered dimension; it is not exactly clear where one color begins and where another ends, before fading into black.
The mysterious boundary between volume, color and texture is equally elusive in the collection: a dégradé shade upon a gold-framed mink clutch, a black fox coat fading into mineral green, or the waist of a cocktail dress pronounced in a gradient from black to pale rose.
In a final touch, Rothko’s signature blocks of multi-dimensional color are sublimated as long, rectilinear crystal pendants, as centrepieces of cinched belts, and in the jewel-toned adornment of handbags in exotic leather. They altogether articulate a new vocabulary of ELIE SAAB accessories that speaks in the tone of the season, a shaded opulence that finds vivid illumination in the dimensions and the details.
View the Autumn Winter 2014-2015 Ready-to-Wear Collection at ELIESAAB.com
Mark Rothko No. 12 (Black on Dark Sienna on Purple), 1960
© The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles