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


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.


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: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


New Westminster shooting Sikh Wedding

Sikh wedding shooting trial postponed for a year due to “matters that arose”

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI The trial over a prominent Surrey broadcaster’s connection with a shooting at a 2010 Sikh wedding came to an abrupt halt…
Continue Reading »


SAFA brings “India Live” to Vancouver’s block party on Granville Street

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI Vancouver’s not-for-profit South Asian Family Association (SAFA) is bringing a new kind of festival to the downtown core that will offer…
Continue Reading »


Indian women’s hockey team beats Canada 4-2 in Glasgow

IANS Glasgow – The Indian women’s hockey team beat Canada 4-2 in the opening match of the Commonwealth Games here Thursday. The match started in…
Continue Reading »


Today in History – Aug. 7

Advance THE CANADIAN PRESS Today in History for Aug. 7: On this date: In AD 117, Roman emperor Marcus Trajan died at age 65. His…
Continue Reading »

Today in History – Aug. 6

Advance THE CANADIAN PRESS Today in History for Aug. 6: On this date: In 1623, Anne Hathaway, wife of William Shakespeare, died. In 1691, Henry…
Continue Reading »

Today in History – Aug. 4

Advance THE CANADIAN PRESS Today in History for Aug. 4: On this date: In 1586, a plot to kill Queen Elizabeth I was uncovered. Anthony…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

child abuse

Indian kidnappers agree to handover boy to parents on condition of swapping him for his sister

CEN AGENCY In a bizarre demand, parents of an Indian boy who has been kidnapped, were told that they could have youngster back if they…
Continue Reading »


Tipsy British tourist asked to leave church after mistaking it for a disco

CEN AGENCY A tipsy British tourist had to be asked to leave a church in Crete where he started dancing after local kids told him…
Continue Reading »


Private tutor mercilessly beats child, CCTV footage sparks outrage (w/video)

IANS Kolkata – A shocking video of a private tutor mercilessly beating a three-and-a-half-year-old child, caught on CCTV footage, has sparked outrage across the country….
Continue Reading »

BC Sikhs

Frustrated Port of Metro Vancouver truckers want government to push companies to comply with action plan

THE CANADIAN PRESS VANCOUVER — Drivers servicing the country’s largest port urged government on Monday to take swift action against trucking companies, which they say…
Continue Reading »

Rashida Samji

B.C. Securities Commission finds Vancouver woman who ran a Ponzi scheme committed $100 million fraud

ALMAS MEHERALLY VANCOUVER DESI VANCOUVER – A B.C. Securities Commission panel has found that a Vancouver woman and two companies she controlled committed a $100-million fraud….
Continue Reading »

Bollywood Latest

Desi beauty

Gallery: Bollywood beauty Aishwarya Rai at Commonwealth Games opening ceremony

VANCOUVER DESI Longines Ambassador of Elegance Aishwarya Rai Bachchan attended the Opening Ceremony of Glasgow 2014. Take a look at photos from the opening ceremony….
Continue Reading »

Slam! The Tour  poster Horizdesi

Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone gear up for Bollywood extravaganzas in Vancouver, Toronto and the U.S.

IANS New Delhi – Superstar Shah Rukh Khan is ready to shake a leg with his fans in the US after a gap of 10…
Continue Reading »

Actress Alia Bhatt attends the Highway premiere during 64th Berlinale International Film Festival at Zoo Palast on February 13, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.Clemens Bilan/Getty Images

Alia Bhatt feels she’s too young to team up with Bollywood’s Khans

IANS Mumbai – Bollywood’s reigning Khans are in their late 40s and 21-year-old Alia Bhatt feels she needs to look more matured to look convincing…
Continue Reading »