OK To Stare: Murad's Focus Is On Couture Details

By SAMANTHA CRITCHELL

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Zuhair Murad has the clients â¿¿ hello, Jennifer Lopez â¿¿ and the clout to put him on the path to becoming a force in fashion. It's OK, though, if it doesn't happen overnight. That just means more time to savor his tiny touches.

Go ahead: Take a good L-O-N-G look at the gowns he is most famous for. He has given them all a lot of thought, he says, and he doesn't really want you to miss anything.

"You have to see my dresses to see the details," Murad says. "When you see the dress, when you touch it, you'll discover the deep, deep details."

Since he was young, probably since the age of 5, he has wanted to be a designer. It wasn't exactly the norm for a little boy in Lebanon, but, no matter: He spent all his time drawing new styles and cutting fabric. It gave his family pause, but they were supportive.

"No one in my family is related to fashion," he says. "It was MY hobby."

From there, he was learning about fashion, art and theater at every chance. He doesn't seem to be exaggerating when he says that reading the history of Christian Dior changed his life.

"From the beginning, I'd draw the most glamorous gowns for famous women, for the stars," says Murad during a recent interview. "I am only interested in unique pieces â¿¿ I love shiny things, draped things and small details."

And it was such a focus that it left little time for other interests, he says. Travel is enjoyable, and New York is a particular favorite, but he'd rather be home â¿¿and Beirut is, once again, his home base after spending years in Paris â¿¿ with a good book.

He has turned the passion into a bona fide business, and now can boast that he shows on Paris' official haute couture calendar in addition to his ready-to-wear collections. An invitation to show a sanctioned couture collection doesn't come easily from the supervisory board of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, which is the gatekeeper of France's highest level of fashion.

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