Hany El Behairy

Photography Khaled Fadda
Art Direction & Styling by Maissa Azab

He is the groomed face of Egyptian fashion, a self proclaimed artist who helped change the image of the Egyptian khayat. eniGma’s  Shahinaz Nabeeh gets undone at the seams…

Hany El Behairy’s success didn’t come overnight. As a child he was first noticed by his teachers and members of his family because of his intricate drawings, his love of bright colours and his made-from-scratch dolls; complete with hair and dresses (much to the disapproval of his father). But Hany insists he never thought he would become the renowned designer he is today. “I was always interested in clothes, fashion and celebrities,” he says. “But I never imagined I could actually do it.”

It wasn’t until he spent a summer at home, slaving over a bolero for his aunt to wear to a wedding, that he realised fashion design was his calling. He went on to train with Boutique Habib, where he learnt his method and style. A few months later he was designing wedding dresses for a number of Egyptian socialites before jetting off to attend the Centre de Couture in Paris. There he not only learned about technique but was also inspired by the quality of materials, colour combinations, and the accessories used by other designers. “I learned the French practices and began to understand and appreciate the understated sophistication of their style,” he says. “No one should be ashamed to admit learning from the best.”

To this day, El Behairy insists his designs are implemented the traditional way; he has dressmakers working tirelessly to produce what he describes as individual pieces of original art, with every line and bead hand-stitched so intricately, he has often been asked if he creates the fabric as well. “I am not satisfied with importing materials from other countries and merely putting them together,” he says. “I want to be involved in every aspect of dressmaking.”

Despite the mammoth success he’s had over the last 10 years – dressing the Middle East’s biggest stars, royalty and socialites – he still talks about the ‘masters’ who inspire him. Masters such as the designer Valentino, “His designs are timeless, but I mostly admire his persistence. As an Italian he struggled to break into the French couture market for years until he finally proved himself and became a legend.” He mentions Versace for his daring feminine designs and Christian Lacroix for his unique mixes of colours, materials and accessories. “This is what I aspire to do, create designs that are enduring, feminine and sensual without being vulgar or over-exposing.”

It’s little wonder Arab women flock to him for their Grande-soirée, cocktail and wedding dress needs. He’s even managed to sway the Saudi market and was the only Egyptian designer to showcase his work on a runway for Saudi Arabian designers. “Arab women are exposed to the world of international fashion now more than ever, they want to experience it and be part of it and I want to give them that dream. I want them to fit into this world while maintaining their ethnicity and traditions.”

Next month, El Behairy will be taking part in Alta Moda Roma, Rome’s second biggest fashion event, for the ninth consecutive year with a collection of 40 dresses for winter 2011/2012. “Expect bright colours, pinks, whites, fur, feathers and leather; wearable designs for every age and every shape,” he says excitedly.

El Behairy insists every dress he makes is his baby and is adamantly against mass production and ‘prêt-a-porter’ collections. “Each dress is unique and one of a kind,” he says. “It’s not just about the razzle and dazzle. I’ll only continue designing if I know I’m making the perfect dress for the woman who wears it.”