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03-08-20 Profiles

Art & Culture

From red carpets to Red Sea, the surprising journey of a designer

Christophe Beaufays, designer

Milan, Paris, New York… It is commonly accepted that the fashion capitals are in the West and that to make a name for yourself in the design microcosm, you have to establish yourself in these epicentres. Christophe Beaufays, for his part, has chosen a different path, in the East, in Saudi Arabia to be more precise.

This 48-year-old Belgian designer has been working in Jeddah, on the shores of the Red Sea, for 8 years now, after having done his ranges at Jean-Paul Gaultier’s in Paris : a unusual trajectory for a European designer, but a choice of the heart for this lover of Arab culture and the Middle East.

Out of love for the Arab culture

“After six years of working with Jean-Paul Gaultier, I needed a big change in my life,” explains the designer. At the time, I often travelled to the Middle East (…) and I really fell in love with Arab culture.” From then on, Christophe decided to combine his passion for the Arab world with his designer’s resume. He was offered an opportunity in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: the Dubai branch of the Ecole Supérieure des Arts et Techniques de la Mode (ESMOD). The famous Parisian school that trains in the fashion industry gave him a position as artistic director and trainer.

“I didn’t feel satisfied, I felt a bit empty. For a year, I didn’t create anything, I just gave ideas.”

Christophe Beaufays

“I thought it would be a good first step,” he recalls. His mission in Dubai was to raise the standard of the school, which is a young branch of the French institution. “I think it has been a success,” says Christophe. But the UAE adventure will only last a year for the Belgian, who regrets a lack of stimulation. “I didn’t feel satisfied, I felt a bit empty,” he regrets. For a year, I didn’t create anything, I just gave ideas.”

Frustrations and happy coincidence

Christophe then chose to leave his position at ESMOD with the hope of continuing to work in the Middle East. His ambition soon came up against a harsh reality: opportunities in the fashion industry are ephemeral in the region. “I decided to return to Paris,” he admits. But that was without counting on the happy coincidence of a meeting with Loai Naseem and Mona Alhaddad, the two founders of Lomar, a Saudi ready-to-wear brand based in Jeddah.

“Lomar was the first brand to modernize the thobe, the traditional Saudi men’s garment,” explains Christophe. The avant-garde nature of the brand aroused the Belgian’s interest. The two entrepreneurs, for their part, are looking to incorporate a Western touch to their creations. The trend is going well and Jean-Paul Gaultier’s former protégé finds himself a few weeks later in Jeddah with the mission of “perpetuating the philosophy” of the brand.

Some great challenges to take up

For more than 8 years now, Christophe has held the position of Senior Designer and Associate Art Director of the Saudi brand, a position he wouldn’t change for anything in the world. “I am very happy here”, assures the designer who actively participates in building Lomar’s notoriety “by breaking the rules and traditions” of standardised Gulf clothing. Christophe now wears Arab culture on his body, literally. The Belgian wears only stylized thobes, fruit of his creations at Lomar.

“There is a growing interest in fashion among young Saudis, but there are not yet enough brands in this country. But that means that there are things to do, and beautiful challenges to take up.”

Christophe Beaufays

The Belgian also sees her in Saudi Arabia, playing an active role in the development of fashion culture in the country. There is a growing interest in fashion among young Saudis, but there are still not enough brands in the country,” he admits. But that means there are things to be done, and great challenges to be faced.”

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