Khalil Zein

Stylist for the Stars

Growing up, Lebanese stylist Khalil Zein lived between Beirut and Africa. He studied fashion at Central Saint Martins School in London, after which he moved back to his hometown of Beirut, where he started out working exclusively as Haifa Wehbe’s stylist for five years, after which he became a coveted freelance stylist, with many Arab stars and celebrity clients relying on his super styling skills and incredible fashion sense. We have also had the pleasure to work with Zein on several of our eniGma shoots, most notably those with our celebrity cover stars, Hend Sabry and Maya Diab. Most recently, besides his work as a celebrity stylist, Zein has been the host of the Arab rendition of the iconic TV series Say Yes to the Dress. eniGma’s Rawya Lamei got the chance to chat with Zein to find out more about his intriguing journey in the world of fashion. Here are excerpts from the interview.

What made you get into fashion?
I’ve always loved fashion. I absolutely love my job, and because of that, I’ve been very successful. My style is mostly out of the box and avant-garde. I don’t like to play it safe, because that’s just boring to me. Whenever I dress anyone, not just celebrities, I want people to say, “It’s definitely Khalil Zein who dressed her!” However, while I have my own style, I also like to reflect the personality of the person I am styling. For instance, I’ve had the pleasure to work with Dina El Sherbiny and she is now one of the celebrities that I work with regularly. I’ve also worked with other icons such as Nancy Ajram, Nadine Njeim, Myriam Fares, Ghada Abdelrazek, Angham, Stephanie Saliba and Rahma Riad.

What was it like working with brides for their big day on the program, Say Yes to the Dress?
I actually cried in one of the episodes! Getting married is a very emotional time in a woman’s life. So the brides were very excited coming in, all wanting to look perfect. At times it was very tough to convince them to “say yes to the dress!” Additionally, I only had one brand to choose from, namely Hazar Couture, which was an additional constraint. But thankfully it all went well. Of the twenty-five brides I worked with, twenty-four of them said “yes to the dress” I picked out for them. There were sad moments and happy moments, and it was so wonderful. I’m very excited for the second season of the program to be confirmed!

Since people come from different cultural backgrounds, what’s your approach when the stereotypical white gown is not what the bride needs?
We’ve worked with people from many different backgrounds. For South Asians, for example, the typical white dress is not really suitable. At times the bride even has to pick more than one dress. With each bride, the way I see it, it’s about making her unique personality stand out. Perfection comes from the confidence you exude, regardless of what you’re wearing. And as you know, ever since Covid-19 broke out, weddings have been getting a lot smaller and people increasingly go for simpler looks. It’s very nice to put together simple outfits with a touch of Khalil Zein.

What advice do you have for people who want to get into fashion but are afraid to take the leap?
I would say, go for things that are easy. If you’re looking to become a designer, start with things that are safe and casual. When you’re starting off, it may be difficult to get people to buy anything that is over the top. It’s a lot easier to reach a wide crowd with ready to wear clothes. Go for things like blazers or summer pieces, which are easier and it’s fun. Look at more accessible brands like Zara. At Zara it’s easy to put together any kind of outfit, whether casual, dressed up or sexy. So my advice is not to start off with haute couture and big gowns. Play it safe at first, and then you can grow from there.