An Interview with Basil Soda
Basil Soda has captured the attention of numerous international celebrities, such as Katy Perry, Emily Blunt and Cheryl Cole, who have championed the Lebanese designer’s uber-feminine silhouettes at red carpet events.
Flowing body-conscious shapes are the hallmark of Basil Soda’s designs, which marry structured silhouettes with the use of delicate embroideries, lace and beaded detailing. And the designer, who founded his eponymous brand in 2001, freely acknowledges that having a red carpet presence is important for his brand: “It’s definitely very important to boost a brand image and presence.”
For his Spring-Summer 2012, the designer consciously sent down the catwalk red carpet-ready long, flowing gowns that gently skirted the women’s bodies without ever constraining them. The fact that his 41 looks consisted exclusively of evening gowns was part of the Lebanese designer’s conscious strategic efforts.
“Our couture dresses are meant to be worn at parties and weddings, and in these events about 70 percent of woman wear long dresses,” he reasoned, pointing out that since his company had launched a ready to wear line in 2010 it was important for him to differentiate both offerings. “So I’m firmly taking couture into the direction of nightwear and party dresses, while the ready to wear is more daywear,” he explained.
Soda likes his women fierce yet feminine and for his Spring-Summer 2012 collection he admits he actually had a particular muse in mind, though he turns uncharacteristically coy when asked to reveal her name. “She’s a well-known fashion icon. She’s not young, but she has done a comeback of late and I’ve always liked her style and her choice of designers, like Alexander McQueen,” he said.
According to Soda, his muse has such as strong character (too fierce even for him) that he wanted to give her a more romantic side. “That’s why you see in this collection a lot of romantic touches,” he said, though he remained faithful to his principal of promoting strongly structured clothes.
Strands of lace were delicately pleated, creating rippling delicate patterns. Bustiers were decorated with detailing of straw–like strands of silk string banded together or antiqued gold metallic twigs. The overall silhouette was gently shaped with a thin metal belt marking the waistline while rounded shoulders were accentuated.
“Personally, I don’t have the habit of putting romance in my designs; it’s not something typical, mainly because I don’t like romantic women. I like a woman who is living her reality. A working woman who is decisive and is present in her real life; but in this case, I felt she needed a bit of romance in her life,” he says.
With this latest collection, Soda continued to build on his naturists themes from the previous two seasons, but decided to delve even deeper into nature’s minute organic details as if looking at them with a microscope.
“One important story in this collection is the idea of a second skin, a bit like a botanic exercise where you start peeling something away to reveal something else,” Soda said.
Often playing on the transparency of his fabrics, the designer used an unadorned silk web fabric to act as an outer skin that can be carefully turned back in places to reveal the intricately decorated inner body of a gown. On some dresses, silk strand detailing was used to echo the rib cage, on others beaded embroideries were used to create the galuchat-like effect of stingray skin. “I like to create texture with the fabrics through some kind of pliage. I preferred not to use fabric that has already been worked on,” the designer explained.
A pale palette of white, light rose and pearl grey tones dominated the collection with a few touches of sunflower yellow and cinnamon bringing a luminescence to the collection.
Wearability remains at the forefront of this designer’s creative aspirations.
“As a brand we started as couture and we are relying on our couture collection to survive. It’s not like some other fashion houses that make their money somewhere else and the couture is just a show, a marketing event. For us, couture is something we have to live out of, which is why we always consider that there is a woman out there that just has to wear our dresses,” he said. Ready to wear already represents 30 percent of the company’s overall turnover.
Soda believes that to survive, couture must firmly have an eye on the future by bringing some element of modernity while keeping its roots firmly in exquisite craftsmanship. This season, the couturier designed small translucent boleros made of acetate, that gave a contemporary feel to his evening gowns. “I felt I needed to bring some luminosity and lightness to the collection as well as a little bit of brilliance,” he explained.
As his dresses are increasingly seen at red-carpet events and the designer’s name becomes more internationally recognized, Soda is slowly plotting a future that also includes an accessories line. “The plan is to start within two years with jewelry, and then shoes and bags,” he said, revealing he is currently in discussions to have some of the jewelry made in Singapore.