Elie Saab is best known for his stylish wedding gowns and haute couture dresses designed to flatter and enhance the feminine silhouette. A favored designer among many of the world’s most high-profile women, Saab’s clothes mix a Western sensibility with a Middle Eastern flair. For more on Elie Saab, here are some facts:

1. Saab grew up around war.

  • Lebanon was in the beginnings of its 15-year civil war when Saab was just a child.
  • His family moved to Beirut after the destruction of their hometown of Damour by the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

2. Saab was already a talented fashion designer at a very young age.

  • At nine years old, he would design dresses for his younger sisters using patterns cut from newspapers, lace, and clothes from his mother’s cabinet.
  • At 18, Saab dropped out of college in Paris to start his own atelier in his neighborhood. With 15 employees, Saab’s designs were warmly welcomed and soon attracted the notice of high-society women.

3. Saab has a lists of firsts under his belt.

  • He is the first non-Italian and the first Arab to become a member of the Italian Camera Nazionale della Moda, or the National Chamber of Italian Fashion, in 1997. That same year, he showcased his first showcase outside of Lebanon in Rome.
  • In 2003, he became the first Arab to be admitted to France’s Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the governing body of the French fashion industry.

4. Famous women have helped catapult Saab and his designs to worldwide recognition.

  • His reputation in the Middle East was cemented when Queen Rania of Jordan wore one of his gowns to her coronation in 1999.
  • Saab entered the wider American and Western consciousness when Halle Berry accepted an Oscar Award for Best Actress wearing one of his creations. Her speech was watched by 10 million viewers around the world.

5. Though self-taught, Saab believes in giving aspiring young fashion designers a chance through formal education.

  • He worked with the London College of Fashion and the Lebanese American University to open a bachelor’s degree in fashion design.
  • He also offers internships in his ateliers to students of the course.

6. Saab will be passing down his business to his three French-Lebanese sons.

  • In an interview with Vogue, Saab has said with regard to his sons and his business: “I have not pushed it for a second, but it is they who want it.”
  • The eldest, Elie Saab Jr., became brand director in 2013. He is also his father’s manager.

Elie Saab has blazed a trail for aspiring Middle Eastern fashion designers in a largely Western and rapidly globalizing world. Though he only burst into the world spotlight in the early 2000s and no red carpet these days is without his creations, he is best loved in Lebanon, where he was worked and to which he has given back for 20 years.