January 25, 2013

When Rad Hourani tells me his favorite author is Ayn Rand, I wince. The last mouth I’d heard that come from was 2012 Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s.

“What’s unique about what’s happening today in government, in the world, in America, is that it’s as if we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel,” Paul Ryan said some years ago, before he backpedaled on his Rand idolatry when her atheism seemed to affront his Evangelical voter base. Ayn Rand, to me, means capitalism as morality, selfishness as virtue, fiscal conservatism, and all that that’s recently come to be parcelled with, i.e. the Republican pain in my uterus. Of course, I’ve never actually read Rand.

And that’s precisely the point. Rad Hourani aims for first principles. He aims to strip away the chaos of received knowledge, of prejudice, to create from a clean slate. He reads Rand cover to cover, his way, dismissive of the claims of the Paul Ryans of the world. In that way, he is like Howard Roark, the protagonist of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, her first major novel, the least political, and (in his defense) the only one that Rad has read. “My work, done my way,” is Howard Roark’s motto. He is an individualistic architect with a progressive vision of design who would rather strive in obscurity than compromise his principles.

“The book is about people being individuals. And it’s about making your life, making what you are and what you do…” Rad pauses to rephrase, “Don’t do it for the existence of others. Don’t live in the eyes of others. If we were to all live in our own eyes, that would create a much more advanced society, in terms of food, architecture, medicine, all human endeavor. You know what I mean?” Rad waits for me to respond. My anti-Rand prejudice runs too fierce, but I am convinced of the purity of Rad’s interpretation. I want to tell him that I want to know everything he means. Instead it’s, “Let’s go back to your upbringing.”

Rad Hourani was born in Jordan in 1982 to a Jordanian-Canadian father and a Syrian mother. His father had grown up in Canada and, when Rad’s older brother, the eldest, finished high school, his father wanted him to move to Canada to study at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. The family would follow—mother, father, Rad, and his five siblings (the one elder brother, one younger brother, and three younger sisters) all moved to Montreal. Rad was sixteen at the time.

Shortly after graduating high school in Montreal, Rad started scouting for a modelling agency. From there—from within the small Montreal fashion community and based off of Rad’s intuitive refinement and personal taste, which he exudes necessarily, like the rest of us breathe—he started to receive styling requests. He shifted to full-time styling and soon, at twenty-two, which brings us to 2005, was drawn to Paris to continue the pursuit. In Paris, Rad found himself shopping exhaustively without ever finding the clothes he was looking for. “Sometimes, the fit would be too tight or too short. Or the neck was too low or too high or the fabric was not right for the cut.” He knew precisely what he wanted. And so he started sketching.

“Everything happened really organically. I never sought a client for a styling job. With design, I never called a magazine or a buyer to come and see my clothes. Everything just happened,” he tells me. What’s everything? The wardrobe he started sketching turned into a collection, which lead to the launch of his namesake label in 2007. “After I launched that collection in Paris, it was like a tornado hit… All these different things came.” Like, the launch of a second, ready-to-wear line, RAD by Rad Hourani; the opening of a gallery in Paris; photography, art direction, filmmaking, travel; a scent called Ascent; and, most recently, an invitation into the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and his first Couture collection, the first unisex Couture show in history, which debuted yesterday in Paris to great acclaim. Rad Hourani clothes are currently sold in 130 stores across 30 countries. He has a dedicated legion of Houranians, rad customers who “get” his (initiate the press standard adjectives) minimalist, austere, monotonal, architectural, asexual luxury creations.

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