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Dubai-Based Designer Romy Hourani Gives Vintage Glamour a Modern Twist

The pieces that come in a multitude of different prints and luxurious fabrics offer options for every occasion this summer.

Romy Hourani in the 'Georgia' jumpsuit

A study carried out by Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School, and three other researchers, found a clear positive correlation between the amount of time fashion designers spent abroad and their creative output, especially if there’s engagement, immersion and adaptation. And with Romy Hourani’s international background that increase in cognitive flexibility, a key component of creativity, must be at peak levels.

Hourani grew up in Rome, where she learnt the importance of quality finishing and investment pieces that can be worn season after season. She’s lived in Miami, where femininity reigns, something that undoubtedly comes across in her work. And her visits to her father’s homeland, Sweden, instilled the beauty of keeping things pretty minimal. Plus, the Dubai-based brunette, who has also lived in Riyadh, has come to appreciate the confident look Arab women exude. 

The designer was born in New York and moved there later to study fashion styling at the famed Fashion Institute of Technology and then work as a stylist. While there, Hourani, who also has a degree in English Literature, used to spend weekends in The Hamptons, the summer state that inspired her newest collections, “Hampton Feels” and “Hampton Feels PT2.” And the glamorous, elegant and standout pieces, which are breezy and light, are perfect for the searing summers the Arab region is known for, a region Hourani, who is married to a Lebanese, considers home and loves.

The imaginative choices from Hourani, the former owner of online store Liliro, prove she understands what women want. Whether you’re enamoured of vintage prints, polka dots, colourful blooms, monochromes or have a soft spot for yellow, there’s something for you in “The Hampton Feels” collection. Plus, the floor-sweeping gowns, jumpsuits and separates, which come in materials like silks and chiffons, easily take you from day to night, making them handy vacation staples.

With inspiration from American socialite and fashion icon Edith Bouvier Beale, from her white debutante gown to her love of leopard print, the “Hampton Feels PT2” adds more old Hollywood glamour to the mix. The second collection sees Hourani using sequins and tulle, as well as incorporating her signature vintage prints, featuring pops of turquoise and sunburnt orange.

We talk to Hourani, who has regional It girls like Karen Wazen Bakhazi on her client list, about the collections, her love of layering and her biggest fashion faux pas. 

You’ve lived in different places like New York, Rome and Miami and have parents from different backgrounds. How has all this defined your style aesthetic?
Great question, I think first and foremost having parents from complete opposite places, one from Sweden (cold weather) and one from Haiti (tropics), has greatly influenced me in so many ways, because we vacationed in both countries and the differences were huge! The Swedes are very minimalistic in their dressing, accessorising and even in interiors; simple is so chic and sexy. In Haiti everyone is very concerned with their looks, their hair. Going to the salon on the weekends is a thing! Growing up in Rome influenced me in quality and workmanship. The Italians prefer to buy fewer items, but high quality ones than buying several pieces that may be of lesser quality but have to buy again the following season. And Miami is just sexy, the women love to show their femininity.

 I think my designs incorporate all my experiences and the different places I have lived. My pieces are always feminine and sexy, which I take from my Miami experience. Quality is extremely important for me and finishing is the most important, something I learned from growing up in Rome, as well as not making pieces that are trendy and can only be worn for one season. The pieces can be worn for years and still be chic and sophisticated and feminine. And I think the fabrics and prints that I choose are never over the top but always minimal in a sense from the Swedish side. I never like to over accessorise or over dress, just be dressed enough. 

The 'Mickey' shorts

The breezy pieces from the “Hamptons Feels” collection seem to be just what we need to keep us cool during the region’s scorching summer temperatures. What other aspects makes them perfect for the region?
The pieces are definitely light, breezy and perfect for the weather in Dubai. What I also love about the pieces is that they can be layered, which is perfect for the region. The long, flowy dresses also look beautiful under abayas. 

So tell us about your love of layering.
I do love to layer. I love layering a sheet piece above a slip, or the complete opposite, wearing a sheet dress or pants with a jacket or oversized shirt on top. It’s so feminine, and you feel covered, but at the same time very light. 

How about the materials you’ve used?
The fabrics I love to use are silks, chiffon, jersey, crepe and voile. For “Hampton Feels PT 2” I used tulle, which I absolutely love. For the next collection we will be bringing in some new fabrics. I just love using fabrics that will fall on the body and move as you walk, it’s so beautiful. 

The 'Ashley' blouse and 'Racquel' pants 

As discussed before, you’ve lived in various places. Why did you turn to The Hamptons for inspiration?
Being born in NY and living in NYC, I always spent weekends in the Hamptons. I love the Hamptons. Last summer I took my kids for the first time, and they absolutely loved it. We went fruit and vegetable picking. It’s so beautiful and so inspiring. I had watched the documentary “Gray Gardens” years ago, and when I returned to Dubai I watched it again and was inspired even more for “Hampton Feels PT 2.” 

The pieces are so versatile. Any style tips for women who want to move seamlessly from a day in the office to an evening event without changing?
The items work perfectly for day to night. That’s what I love! For example the “Lizzie” dress can be worn with a blazer and simple shoes with a nude lip and a loose bun for work. And for night, just remove the blazer, darker lip and add a heel! 

The 'Cara' dress

For the “Hampton Feels PT2” American socialite and fashion icon Edith Bouvier Beale inspired you. What do you like most about her style?
Eddie is so inspiring. I had watched her documentary of how she and her mother were living. And underneath everything you still see that beautiful debutante underneath. Her life, her style, her story is just so inspiring. Even the way she layered her swimsuits was inspirational. She loved leopard, and I love leopard. I love the way she wrapped her hair in the silk scarves or even white towels and used crystal brooches to secure them. 

What’s the biggest fashion faux pas for you?
The biggest fashion faux pas for me is wearing too many designer labels at once. Fashion should be about individuality and mixing and enhancing yourself, not trying to wear all the “it” pieces from that season at once with labels showing. It’s a bit tacky. 

The 'Elizabetta' jumpsuit

You’ve lived in Riyadh and now you’re based in Dubai with your Lebanese husband, daughter and son, so you have strong ties to the region. What have you learnt style-wise from being here?
I’ve learned a lot from living in this region, and it’s home now and I absolutely love it. What I learned here style-wise is confidence. Being confident in your skin and confident in your look and to own it, top to bottom. The women here are very confident in themselves and it shows in their style. 

Would you consider designing a collection of abayas or kaftans?
I would love to design abayas and kaftans! I actually did a few kaftans for a pop up we did in June. And they did very well, so maybe something for the future!

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