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

TK

Wounded teen drives himself to Surrey hospital after being shot multiple times

NICK EAGLAND VANCOUVER DESI A 17-year-old male drove himself to hospital in Surrey after being shot multiple times in Newton on Sunday night, according to…
Continue Reading »

DEVGAN

Bollywood film that was to shoot in Alberta ‘indefinitely postponed’

ERIC VOLMERS CALGARY HERALD Don’t brush up your Bollywood dance moves yet, Alberta. Shivay, a Hindi film that was set to start filming in the Rocky Mountains…
Continue Reading »

File photo: The new Surrey City Hall in Surrey, B.C., December 29, 2014. Arlen Redekop/PNG

Surrey named one of top seven most intelligent communities in the world

AMY REID SURREY NOW SURREY — The City of Surrey has been named one of the Top 7 Intelligent Communities of 2015 by New York-based think…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

Canada should look overseas for growth amid falling oil prices: CPPIB CEO

By Alexandra Posadzki THE CANADIAN PRESS TORONTO — The head of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board says oil’s sharp decline has highlighted the need…
Continue Reading »

TK

Wounded teen drives himself to Surrey hospital after being shot multiple times

NICK EAGLAND VANCOUVER DESI A 17-year-old male drove himself to hospital in Surrey after being shot multiple times in Newton on Sunday night, according to…
Continue Reading »

DEVGAN

Bollywood film that was to shoot in Alberta ‘indefinitely postponed’

ERIC VOLMERS CALGARY HERALD Don’t brush up your Bollywood dance moves yet, Alberta. Shivay, a Hindi film that was set to start filming in the Rocky Mountains…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

Vancouver-BC

Raise your hand, send us a selfie and make a statement against racism (with video)

VANCOUVER DESI Vancouver Desi’s digital anti-racism campaign, Raise Your Hands Against Racism, officially kicked off Thursday, with people across the Lower Mainland sending in selfies…
Continue Reading »

miss canada

Miss Universe Canada scores big buzz online with outlandish hockey costume (w/ photos)

THE CANADIAN PRESS MIAMI — Chanel Beckenlehner is hoping to take home the crown at the Miss Universe pageant, but win or lose, she’s scored…
Continue Reading »

A herd of wild elephants from the nearby Amsung reserve forest roam in a paddy field in search of food, in Hajong Bori village, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Gauhati, India, Thursday, March 22, 2007. AP Photo/ Anupam Nath

Tourists trampled to death in India after flash of camera sends elephant in ‘mad frenzy’

VANCOUVER DESI An Indian couple has been trampled to death and a tour guide injured after the flash of a camera sent an elephant in…
Continue Reading »

shiamak

Bollywood dance guru Shiamak Davar gets Canadian dignitaries grooving with a dance lesson

VANCOUVER DESI A number of Canadian dignitaries got their very own personal dance lesson from the guru of Bollywood dance himself, Shiamak Davar, while attending…
Continue Reading »

FILE PHOTO: A nine-year-old Palestinian girl  suffering from scoliosis sits as her mother shows her back x-ray as she is treated by U.S. pediatric orthopedic surgeon Hugh Watts (L) February 18, 2004 at Al-Quds hospital, in Gaza City. Abid Katib/Getty Images

Seven-year-old Scoliosis patient in Western India cured by revolutionary surgery

IANS Mumbai  – A seven-year-old girl in Mumbai suffering from Scoliosis is the first in Western India to successfully undergo a new and revolutionary procedure…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

PK-Bollywood sex-desi boobs

Anushka Sharma refuses body double, performs her own stunts in upcoming thriller

JIGAR SHAH HINDUSTAN TIMES When actors don the hat of a producer they don’t mind going the extra mile for their own film. This is…
Continue Reading »

Messenger of God

India’s censor board clears controversial guru’s film MSG

HINDUSTAN TIMES The Censor Board has cleared Messenger of God, the controversial film by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh – self-styled spiritual guru and chief of…
Continue Reading »

Trumpeters from the Indian Border Security Force's Camel Mounted Band play their instruments while riding their camels during the nation's Republic Day Parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as US President Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Bollywood celebs salute Republic Day parade

IANS Mumbai  – On the country’s 66th Republic Day on Monday, a host of film celebrities not just recounted their memories of watching the annual…
Continue Reading »