Racil Chalhoub

BY Anum Bashir

In 2015, Racil Chalhoub set out to change the world of women's suiting forever. Her namesake label, "Racil" has fast become synonymous with fun, tailored, beautifully structured suits for the woman who has places to go, and people to meet. In her own words, Racil strives to create, "a feminine world where elegance is first and foremost an attitude, and where modern and personal style convey a cosmopolitan soul." Loved by many of fashion's most sought after insiders, Racil continues to grow season after season - adding accessories, dresses, and separates to her coveted lineup. This month, we're getting to know someone I'm proud to call my friend, and who's clothes always pair well with a big beaming smile!

AB: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

RC: I was born in Beirut, but grew up in Paris like many Lebanese who fled the war. I later moved to London where I attended university.

AB: What was your childhood like? 

RC: I grew up alone with my mother in Paris as my father stayed back in Beirut. It was a very laid-back and cozy upbringing; Mum and I had our little habits, and I loved it. We would fly back to Beirut to see my father, and the rest of the family every holiday, and spent the summers together in South of France (my grandmother and brothers would come along too) which was always so nice and full of fun and love!

AB: Your earliest fashion related memory?

RC: I grew up with a very glamorous and stylish mother so I guess my earliest memories are of her getting ready to go out. She is always at the heart of my mood boards, and continues to inspire me daily. Having said that, I remember one day when my grandmother came to visit us in Paris, and walked into our home wearing flared flannel pants and a bomber! It was so avant garde for someone of her generation at the time. I have that image of her imprinted on my mind.

AB: Childhood dreams/ heroes? 

RC: I had and still have endless dreams! My hero was Mickey Mouse and I wanted to marry Louis de Funes because I thought he would make me laugh every day! (I cried so much when I realized he was already dead!)

AB: When did you know you wanted to become a designer and launch your own label?

RC: When my mother took me to my first fashion show which happened to be at the Georges V in Paris. We then went backstage; I think I must have been about 10 years old, and I knew from that day that I wanted to become a fashion designer, and have my own brand one day. 

AB: How did that journey start? How did Racil come to be?

RC: I had gotten to a crossroads in my career and was contemplating going back to university to do an executive MBA. I was accepted to do the course but I couldn't follow through because of a visa issue. As I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and remained hopeful that something else would come along. Then while on a family holiday in Lebanon, I thought it was probably time to finally take the plunge and do what I always wanted to do, which is design my own line and the idea of the Tuxedo came to mind! I always had a love for tailored jackets and was looking for my next purchase, when I realized I had enough black blazers, I thought the next upgrade would be a Tuxedo. When I couldn't find what I wanted, I decided to create it! It felt right, I moved back to London a week later and started my venture. 

AB: Take us inside your design process?

RC: It all starts the day after we show a collection! I usually already have a small thread to pull and start by gathering all my ideas in a folder or in my head, and then put together a mood board, which I will keep updating along the way. I then spend time at home where I quietly sketch at night while I have Sex and the City playing on repeat in the background. Once all the drawings and direction of the next season are on track, I sit with my development team and we start fabric research. We then start developing patterns and create a collection plan to sample, which keeps getting edited and adjusted until the day before we are ready to present! It's quite exhilarating when you're constantly evolving an idea up until the very last minute!

AB: What makes Racil tailoring so special and unique?

RC: I guess you can say our fit and attention to detail is quite special. Although it is a suit, the RACIL pieces are very feminine in the way that they sit on the body. All the details such as the piping or special buttons, and also the use of color makes it all a little more special. I want every woman / girl to feel like her RACIL suit will never let her down. It is elegant yet nonchalant, and will carry you from day to night (or night to day) ha!

AB: What is the toughest part of being a designer?

RC: The whole process is quite an adventure and challenge. When you have a goal or vision in your mind that you want to execute a particular way, there are bumps and learning curves that come with that process. It's of course very rewarding, but the finishing processes and fine details are where I spend a lot of time. You also want to keep a recurring theme (in my case, suiting) fresh, relevant and desirable.

AB: You've recently added accessories to your lineup. What's that been like and why?

RC: I started making accessories because I realized that in all my sketches the mannequin would be wearing earrings so it was only natural to make them myself. I am mostly a fashion designer, but love to design the accessories to compliment or complete a look. It's that little finishing touch which I think makes all the difference.

AB: What are some of your favorite pieces you've designed over the years?

RC: My tuxedo jacket of course! I never travel without my black double breasted one. I love the Geiko too, which is a simple slip dress that I can never get enough of, and everyone who buys one comes back for more colors. I also love the velvet pieces, and the Rita dress from this AW18. Oh and all the accessories! I want Racil pieces to live in wardrobes for a long, long time.

AB: What is your usual daily routine like?

RC: I wake up at 6.45am everyday, and aim to leave the house by 7.30am for a workout. I grab my coffee on my way back home, and then start getting ready. I put the music on quite loud and cook my breakfast everyday, which usually consists of fried eggs with avocado and tomatoes - I leave them to cook while I shower! I answer urgent emails and then make my way to the studio, unless I have meetings around town. Once I get to the studio I make my second cup of coffee, go over all my emails, and then I will sit and work with all the different departments. I sometimes go out to have lunch with a friend in the area (since Notting Hill is a lovely area to be in!), or most days I will go out for a walk, grab my lunch and come back and eat at my desk. I tend to stay at the studio quite late. If the weather is nice I will walk back home through Hyde Park or meet some friends for a quick bite. Once I’m home I try to unwind a bit before going to bed. Then I fall asleep in about 3 mins! 

AB: Favorite color at the moment?

RC: I love so many colors: White, Green, Pink, Yellow….Hard to choose.

AB: Favorite food?

RC: Home cooked Lebanese meals at my parent’s house.

AB: Vices?

RC: Too much coffee and chocolate

AB: Pet peeves?

RC: Someone picking from my plate before I have even started. Anyone flicking through my fresh magazines before I've had a chance to read through them, and people who don't answer messages!

AB: Who do you design for? Who is the Racil woman/girl? Favorite women in fashion? Muses?

RC: I design for the woman of today, she is cosmopolitan, fluttering, feminine and playful yet remains elegant at all times. She is a bit of a chameleon and needs the versatile wardrobe to match.

Favorite muses are Bianca Jagger and Iris Apfel!

AB: Best advice anyone ever gave you?

RC: When you make a choice or a decision, look forward, and move on with it. Never look back to wonder what if… (sage advice from my dad)

AB: If there's one place in the world you could be, where would it be?

RC: A Greek Island

AB: If you weren't a designer, what would you be?

RC: Probably a dancer, or the owner of a chain of novelty coffee shops!

AB: A solid piece of advice you would give to fellow budding/ aspiring designers?

RC: Be prepared to be very dedicated as this really becomes your life! Don’t be scared or shy to ask for advice. Listen to everything and learn how to filter, but then only trust your gut!

AB: What's next for Racil (the brand)?

RC: Let’s see! I hope it grows and develops organically; slowly offering more to the RACIL girl.

AB: A fun fact about you no one knows?

RC: I am obsessed with bathroom signs! Love seeing how each place shares their take on the female/ male signs.

Check Out More Stories Here...

Share On