MOD Meets

Trail Blazer

In just two years Racil Chalhoub has cleverly managed to charm the industry with a chic, unique, slant on tailoring and take the tuxedo transitional


Words by Elle Timms

Photography by Moez Achour • Fashion direction by Sally Matthews

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Savile Row fabric blended with elegant Parisian tailoring techniques and a decidedly fun, Lebanese twist captures the spirit of Racil. A global melting pot of a viewpoint – much like that of its creator, who originally set about making it all happen from a place of need, over pure artistic fantasy. “I have a very bohemian style personally, and basically one day – while I was trying to sketch for my own brand that I always knew I wanted to create – I suddenly thought what about the tuxedo?” She explains. “I had always wanted to own one, but everything was too stiff. I needed something I could wear with trainers during the day and then swap into heels and go out. Whether it’s dressed up or down, a woman wearing Le Smoking means business. She owns it.”

True to her words, Racil sits chatting to The MOD in her Notting Hill studio space, black jacket over the back of her chair and Converse under the desk. “And I have the jacket… So I’m good to go.” It’s peak French cool-girl attitude. “I grew up in Paris and the women there were always so elegant whatever they wore – usually with a little jacket over a skirt, or pants and so on. Always looking so chic and put together.”

Racil’s launch into the fashion sphere with a capsule collection of just 15 designs referencing the three-piece Le Smoking received a positive reaction back in 2015 – and the introduction was all her. “I had no team for my first season, it was honestly just me, setting up fashion week rails and so on.” Today, the collection – and the team – has expanded. Spring/summer 17 includes dresses and relevant accessories, things Racil has built upon in that original core offer, “I realised I need a cumberband here, a skinny scarf there… It’s all been a natural progression.”

Bianca Jagger is referenced in the conversation often – a look that Racil describes as being at the “heart of every moodboard,” of the aesthetic. One sits behind her, merging faces of Prince and David Bowie, this season’s starting point. “They, plus Mick Jagger, were proper rock legends. Men on stage just don’t dress like that anymore – they has such presence, they wore amazing outfits.” She expands, “They were gender fluid in a way – much like the tuxedo is, being stolen from a man’s wardrobe – back then for them everything crossed over, which I really like.”

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A woman wearing Le Smoking means business. She owns it.

The Racil creative team played the entire Rolling Stones back catalogue as they worked the collection, and some Bowie, of course. “Space Oddity is actually one of my favourite songs ever, it was quite the playlist.” The season’s silver lamé fabric used on the ‘Prince Blazer’ is named after the track, and there’s also a Purple Rain colourway in play for other pieces.

“They’re all versatile designs, made for a global girl who lives in the fast lane.” It’s apparent that the customer reflects Racil’s own worldliness, she’s proud of a her Middle Eastern heritage and describes feeling Lebanese in a sense of tradition and work ethic, yet Western in her way of thinking. In our opinion, it all works perfectly, proof of which when she describes, “The Racil girl travels everywhere and anywhere, and she can easily pack a few pieces that go together and mix and match it up.”

Global and classy, modern, transitional, contemporary and demure – all influenced by some of the most stylishly rebellious personalities in pop culture. It’s a compelling topic to explore. “I think that you can choose to dress in a modest way, as a way to rebel against what can be quite tasteless.” In discussing the concept of covering up, and conformity, Racil is clear that it’s really all about one thing.

Elegance. “It’s keeping an aesthetic in place, and that sense of class. It’s a choice too, that’s really the most important point of all.” Easily going on to talk about the current global movement looking towards modesty as perfectly valid and not some ‘trend’, Racil is enthusiastic, “It’s popping up everywhere now,” reeling off references to Vogue Arabia, Halima Aden’s soaring rise, and that positive platforms are happening in a world of unrest. “It’s good to show the flip side – ‘I can be a woman and dress cool, and cover my legs and my arms and that’s that.’ A lot of people dress modestly and don’t have to talk about it either, there isn’t a need to justify it.” And that is cool with us.


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