Dubai: From the Valentino dress worn by TV presenter Raya Abi Rached to the BAFTA Awards in London in March to singer Balqis Fathi’s on-stage outfits and costumes for actress Mona Zaki, Dubai-based Lebanese designer Cedric Haddad has created show looks for some of the Arab world’s most famous Names.
His impressive portfolio also includes designing for MBC programs such as “The Voice Kids” and “Arabs Got Talent”, conducting design sessions for luxury brands including Louis Vuitton and Valentino, and teaching at the FAD Institute.
Haddad’s fascination with fashion started early – as a child he would spend hours in the mall looking at models.
“It was like heaven to me,” he told Arab News. “You can put me in the shops, and I’ll be the happiest child.”
Design was a hobby that turned into a full-time profession for a blacksmith. Things really took off when he was asked to design TV presenter Hilda Khalife. “I say it’s my luck charm – it opened everything to me,” he says.
Haddad became one of the few fashion designers from the Middle East who regularly participated in the Cannes Film Festival.
“The Festival de Cannes has always been magical and a complete experience in itself,” he says. “The last time I was chosen by L’Oreal for its ambassadors’ costumes, I also dressed up several celebrities for Chopard parties.”
Being behind the scenes in Cannes may seem magical, but Haddad says, “It’s not La Vie en Rose at all. I always want to create something new while respecting the identity and personal style of the celebrity I work with. This balance can be difficult to achieve.”
There is very little room for error. “The moment they got in the car, my heart started beating. I have to make sure everything is in order – makeup, hair, jewelry and accessories. I need to make sure they are posing correctly and I know how to show their clothes properly because it is all about their appearance” .
His talent captured the attention of the style set not only on a regional level but on an international level as well. Donatella Versace specifically asked to meet him in Dubai. “I have worked a lot with Versace in the Middle East and on one occasion I got a call that Donatella Versace is in Dubai and would love to have dinner with you. We had one of the best dinners together, a moment in my life that I will never forget. I have a great relationship with her and the brand” .
The nature of Haddad’s job means he can never stop working. Although there is a dedicated team in different countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, it is still the one who makes the final call.
“It’s very difficult because I’m responsible for the entire celebrity image. One mistake and it’s on me and not on her. With my team, I can delegate some things to save time, but in the end the celebrity wants the lead stylist, which is me.”
Add in short schedules, rage flares, and last-minute bombardments, and it’s clear why a blacksmith’s job is such a high-pressure job. He remembers an incident from his MBC design days when a celebrity’s zipper broke.
“We had three minutes until we went live, and there was no backup option. I got a thread and a needle and started sewing the zipper myself. I remember my fingers were bleeding because I was trying to sew a metal zipper!”
On another occasion, he called a pilot traveling to Beirut from Paris to bring a dress for the finale of The Voice Kids.
The whole Arab world was watching this episode! The dress was in Paris, and I told the pilot he had to somehow bring it in. He actually stuck it in the cockpit with him on the return trip.
While most of his work takes place behind the scenes, the “Beauty Challenge” on Abu Dhabi TV has Haddad in front of the lens.
“I’ve been working with some amazing talent and have been able to help them show up. We have a lot of creative people in the Arab world, and they really need that little push to get out there and someone to guide them. My host (Sarah Sophie) and I had a great harmony, so it was a great experience.” ,” he says.
At the moment, Haddad has been busy working on another major career achievement – this year’s FIFA World Cup.
“They are producing three music videos for the official FIFA song, which will be released when the tournament starts. I design the celebrities who will open the music video,” he says, without revealing his identity.
As his career is so challenging, with so many projects always going on, Haddad is full of gratitude.
“The happiest moment in your life is when you realize that your passion and hobby has become your career,” he says. “You just wake up and enjoy every second.”