Lebanese designer brings haute couture to Vancouver (w/gallery)

Published: July 17, 2013

THANDI FLETCHER
THE PROVINCE

Fashion designer Gianni Maanaki in his new store, July 17th, on Vancouver’s Granville street. He is a favourite designer for celebrities in the Middle East. (Ward Perrin/PNG)

Gianni Maanaki doesn’t want any Vancouver woman to ever experience the embarrassing fashion faux pas of showing up at an event in the same dress as another guest.

That’s where the Lebanese designer’s custom-made gowns come in.

This month, Maanaki opened his first showroom in Vancouver amid luxury retailers in the South Granville shopping district, believed to be the first haute couture atelier of its kind in the city.

Open by appointment only, the boutique allows customers to have a private consultation with Maanaki who collaborates with them to create one-of-a-kind dresses.

Born in Lebanon, Maanaki moved to Vancouver with his family in 1993. But until recently, the designer said he still spent most of his time back home where he worked as the exclusive designer for several Middle Eastern royal families.

This year, he decided to give up his prestigious 30-year career in Lebanon and set up a new shop in Vancouver. The heavy time commitment working for the royals didn’t allow him much freedom to design for other clients, he said.

“To be honest, I’m tired,” he said. “I want to be home and with my family.”

Maanaki said Vancouver is also experiencing an exciting fashion revival at the moment. He got a taste of that when he headlined Vancouver Fashion Week in 2009, and again this spring.

The show was a huge success, he said, with clients asking to buy the dresses straight off the runway.

One of those customers was Russian beauty Ioulia Reynolds of Real Housewives of Vancouver fame, who called the designer with a request for a custom gown to wear for the show’s opening sequence.

“It made me feel like, ‘Yeah, I should open (a store) here,’” Maanaki said with a laugh.

Maanaki said he dreamt of being a fashion designer for as long as he could remember, and wasted no time trying to break into the industry. At 16, he was enrolled in design school, and two years later, opened his first factory by himself.

It didn’t take long for Maanaki’s garments to grace the glitterati of the Arab World, like Lebanese singer Haifa Wehbe and pop icon and model Amal Hijazi.

Maanaki’s specialty is women’s evening wear, in which he combines Hollywood elegance with Middle Eastern influences.

Inspired by the female silhouette, his designs are a mix of sexy, with a lot of sheer fabrics, and exotic, with touches of texture like brocade and beading that conjure images of curvaceous belly dancers and colourful Arabian bazaars.

“When you mix the two together, it makes something ‘Wow,’” he explained.

Although his dresses are ornate, Maanaki has a love for simple, minimalistic lines, reflected in his vast and glossy all-white showroom. The only pops of colour are in the towering orchid flower arrangements and a regal-looking purple ottoman, a fitting choice considering Maanaki’s royal connections.

Maanaki, who considers himself more of an artist, said he wanted a simple backdrop to showcase his decadent dresses, which he sees as works of art. Clients often ask which dresses are his favourites, a question he said he never likes to answer.

“How can I say that? All of them are like my babies,” he said. “I create them all so I love them all.”

He declined to give exact prices, but said his dresses range anywhere from $1,500 to $15,000, the latter price tag being a floor-length Swarovski crystal-studded wedding gown.

Fellow fashion designer Shainin Hudda, who is also an instructor at the Vancouver Art Institute fashion design program, said Maanaki’s high-end gowns are a welcome addition to the Vancouver fashion scene, known for its casual, yoga clothing.

“It’s great to see high-calibre designers choose Vancouver as their base,” she said. “This will hopefully extend our reach to a place on the world fashion map.”

Maanaki said he has high hopes his showroom will be a success in Vancouver. However, the boutique had a rocky start this week with a break-in Tuesday when a thief smashed a glass panel beside the front door and stole an iMac.

Fortunately, none of their precious merchandise was taken, he said. Still, the irony was not lost on Maanaki who said he left the Middle East partly to escape the often-volatile region for the safety of Canada.

“I feel more safe here … but now after they broke the door, I’m worried a little bit,” he joked.

tfletcher@theprovince.com
twitter.com/thandifletcher


Gianni Maanaki's designs


Picture 1 of 18

Models walk the runway for a Haute Couture fashion show by Gianni Maanaki to mark the opening of his store in the South Granville shopping district, Vancouver July 05 2013. Gerry Kahrmann/PNG


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,





Featured

1INDIA_MODI_218232180

Once shunned by U.S., India’s Modi rides wave of enthusiasm to White House for visit with Obama

JOSH LEDERMAN and DARLENE SUPERVILLE  THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON — Once shunned by the United States, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is riding a wave…
Continue Reading »

1PNG_0929N_CITY_INQUEST_218232808

Mexican woman sneaked into Canada through bushes, border officer tells coroner’s inquest

SUSAN LAZARUK VANCOUVER DESI A Mexican woman who committed suicide in custody awaiting deportation had sneaked into Canada through the bushes in Surrey, a coroner’s…
Continue Reading »

1WEATHER_EXTREMES_218229168

Some of 2013′s weirdest weather had the fingerprints of man-made climate change, studies show (w/ photos)

SETH BORENSTEIN THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON — Scientists looking at 16 cases of wild weather around the world last year see the fingerprints of man-made…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

White House: ‘We support the aspirations’ of Hong Kong democracy protesters

By Alexander Panetta THE CANADIAN PRESS WASHINGTON — Foreign governments expressed support Monday for historic protests in Hong Kong despite a pointed warning from the…
Continue Reading »

1PNG_0929N_CITY_INQUEST_218232808

Mexican woman sneaked into Canada through bushes, border officer tells coroner’s inquest

SUSAN LAZARUK VANCOUVER DESI A Mexican woman who committed suicide in custody awaiting deportation had sneaked into Canada through the bushes in Surrey, a coroner’s…
Continue Reading »

maple main

Remembering Maple Batalia: Surrey vigil marks three-year anniversary of SFU student’s slaying

CHERYL CHAN VANCOUVER DESI Three years after the murder of Maple Batalia, friends and family once again lit candles at Holland Park in honour of…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

British comedian John Oliver takes aim at Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's U.S. visit on his HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. YouTube/Screengrab.

British comedian John Oliver again covers Indian politics in HBO show, takes aim at Modi’s U.S. visit (w/ video)

VANCOUVER DESI British comedian John Oliver has covered Indian politics yet again on his new HBO show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. In this…
Continue Reading »

shah-rukh-khan-bn6a4756

Review: Was Shah Rukh Khan’s SLAM! The Tour worth the 3 hour delay in Vancouver?

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI After a nearly three-hour delay, Bollywood finally took over Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum Saturday night with a lavish evening of song, dance,…
Continue Reading »

Barbie

Religious groups angry over Barbie as Hindu goddess Kali, Virgin Mary (w/gallery)

VANCOUVER DESI Two artists from Argentina have given the legendary Barbie and Ken dolls forms of various religious figurines from Jesus and Mary to Hindu…
Continue Reading »

treatment

Villagers bury woman to cure her after getting ‘shocked’

CEN AGENCY Villagers in India sprung into action after one of their neighbours was suffered a high voltage electric shock – by burying her up…
Continue Reading »

Wedding dress

Gallery: Asian bride hopes to set record with world’s longest wedding dress train

CEN AGENCY A bride is claiming a new world record after commissioning the world’s biggest ever wedding dress for her big day – with an…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Sushmita Sen (L) and Hrithik Roshan (R) will be featured int he upcoming Mytra Fashion Weekend in Mumbai. Getty Images.

Sushmita Sen, Hrithik Roshan to glam up Mumbai’s Myntra Fashion Weekend

IANS Mumbai  – Former beauty queen and actress Sushmita Sen is set to scorch the ramp as showstopper on the opening day of fashion, beauty…
Continue Reading »

Tommy Hilfiger (L) says he is a fan of Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor (R). Getty Images.

Tommy Hilfiger fond of Bollywood films, favours Sonam Kapoor

IANS New Delhi  – American designer Tommy Hilfiger loves to watch Bollywood movies and appreciates the growing fashion quotient in Hindi movies and his favourite…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood

Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan’s #BangBangDare to Shah Rukh Khan, Ranveer Singh, Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar and Sonam Kapoor

VANCOUVER DESI Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan has taken a unique approach to promote his upcoming film Bang Bang — a #BangBangDare to his friends in…
Continue Reading »