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Racil Chalhoub: The Lebanese Designer Constantly Reinventing the Tuxedo in a Playful Manner

The fashion designer’s colourful, tailored and gorgeously structured tuxedos are perfect for the holiday season.

Racil Chalhoub - image by Erik Melvin 

We owe a lot of thanks to Yves Saint Laurent and his Le Smoking tuxedo suit, which revolutionised the way we approached getting dressed for special occasions and offered versatility. These days, designers like Racil Chalhoub are adding their own spark with innovative tailored designs. Chalhoub’s attention to detail on lapels, lining, colours, fabrics and buttons make her tuxedos fun and feminine rather than androgynous, and perfect for the modern woman, whether she’s wearing heels or trainers.

We caught up with the London-based designer who is helping change the world of women's suiting, and we heard a little bit about her successful journey.

Versatile, modern elegance
Chalhoub fell in love with fashion at a very young age. Unsurprisingly, growing up in a city like Paris with a very elegant mother did influence her career choice tremendously. “My mother used to take me to boutiques and fashion shows, and that is when I became highly mesmerised by the fashion world and dreamt to have my own fashion brand one day,” she says.

AW18 - "Tales of Obsidian"

With this aspiration in mind, she moved to London where she studied Fashion and Marketing. Right after that, she started working on her tuxedo designs, knowing she was creating something timeless and ever so chic. More importantly, she had the business knowhow. “It might be stolen from a man’s wardrobe but it gives a woman so much power and elegance as well as understated glamour,” she says. “In a tuxedo you are neither exposed as overdressed nor underdressed; you can wear it from day to night and vice versa. I love how easy it is to wear yet will never fail to turn heads.” 

AW18 - "Tales of Obsidian"

Just within a year of launching her London-based tailoring label, RACIL, known for its tailored, seductive tuxedo suits, she struck a chord with customers who were hunting for a tuxedo that had a lively vibe. “I think the reason my brand is by and large sought-after today is because it’s so focused. More and more women want to wear a tuxedo and now they sort of know where to look for it,” she explains. “The RACIL tuxedo has a cool flair to it, it’s sharp but not stiff, it’s versatile and playful, it fits today’s lifestyle. I wear mine during the day and evening alike.” Her opening show during Paris Fashion Week in 2015 showed how perfect her day-to-night collection is for the modern woman.

AW18 - "Tales of Obsidian"

All her creations are an embodiment of the three cities (Paris, London and New York) she keeps travelling to, and she feels lucky she is able to do so. “I get a different kick from each place and I love that. I love how elegant Paris is, how eclectic and homey London is to me and the madness and rush of New York,” she says. It comes as no surprise that her style is quite eclectic. As she puts it, “it is modern, bohemian-boyish, yet very feminine at the same time.” 

Suits that suit us all
Since Chalhoub designs for every type of woman out there (which she knows is not easy as everybody is different), it’s very important for her to draw a woman’s figure in her head first. “I design with real women in mind. I want to create pieces that women can wear easily, so I always tend to visualise them, how differently they would wear their tuxedos and where to,” she says.

SS18 - "Memories of Gion"

Her grand tuxedos are for every woman who thinks of becoming a RACIL one. Individual experimentation is endless as it can be a 20-year-old’s first ever tuxedo, a working woman who packs it on all her work trips or a fashionista who will style it differently every day. “It could even be my own mother wearing it in the most elegant style the old fashioned way,” she says. 

AW17 - "Tux Decadence"

Colourful Moments of Inspiration
While her inspirations can crop up from anywhere, like a trip abroad or someone on the street, or even the colours in a bouquet of flowers, she mostly looks at men’s vintage clothing with more enthusiasm and openness. “I love the freedom found in the clothing of the 1920s and 1970s. Bianca Jagger in her Studio 54 days is always at the heart of my mood boards,” Chalhoub reveals.

SS17 - "Rock Legends & Wives"

Her mother has always been a main attraction because she taught her the basis of fashion and is by far the most elegant woman she knows today. Apart from her, there are lots of other women she looks up to, solely for never letting their unique styles vanish. “One of my big time idols is Iris Apfel, I love how original and individual she looks. That freedom of wearing whatever you like is something I have a lot of respect for,” Chalhoub says. 

AW16 - "Dreams and Constellations"

There is definitely a warming feel to her creations as they are made using men’s tailoring wool mostly, as well as satin and velvet. When it comes to colour and the pivotal role it plays in her collections, let’s just say she breathes it all the time. “I love and live in colour, so it was vital for me to have great colours and colour combinations in my collection. My use of colour is a way of breaking the rules for tuxedos,” she says.

SS16 - "Les Smokings Part 2"

“People obviously assume a tuxedo has to be black midnight blue or white, but why does it have to be this way only? I think it can be made in as many colours as you want,” the designer says. Sticking to her tenet, Chalhoub has used lots of colour for her autumn 2018 collection, which sees her branching out into suits. The diverse cuts come in hues like red, bright pink, yellow, green and blue. She has also added accessories, dresses and separates to her popular brand.

AW15 - "Les Smokings Part 1"

Supporting an Eclectic Mix
With success steadily knocking at her door, Chalhoub wants her tuxedos to be worn by high profile celebs like Beyoncé and Rihanna. “I would also love to dress Meryl Streep and Bianca Jagger of course,” the designer says.

AW15 - "Les Smokings Part 1"

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