By Syune Arakelyan
Lebanese haute couture designer of Armenian origin, Krikor Jabotian is known for his bridal and evening elegant gowns and beautiful embroidery pieces that demonstrate his unique aesthetics and reflect his Armenian heritage. Krikor says he has developed his love of embroidery during the period he had been working with world-known designer Elie Saab. Shortly after Jabotian established his own fashion house showing the world his individuality and talent.
The Lebanese-Armenian designer has dressed such divas as Hollywood actress Regina King, the queen of Jordan Rania Al-Abdullah, actress Lesley-Ann Brandt and many more. His recent collaboration is with the stunning Sharon Stone for the April issue of Vanity Fair Italy. It, by the way, is Jabotian’s second collaboration with the Hollywood actress.
In his interview for NEWS.am STYLE’s ArmenՅԱՆs, Krikor Jabotian speaks about his family, his connection and support towards Armenia, and his most memorable collaborations.
Krikor, you were born in Lebanon and raised there, but never forget your Armenian roots. How did you manage to be so close to Armenia while living so far away?
The Armenian diaspora, my family included, is known to be a tight-knit community. My sister and I went to Armenian school and were brought up in a household where pride in our culture and history was seeded in us from childhood. The younger generations are taught to love a homeland they’ve never visited to keep Armenian nationalism strong. However, I wasn’t simply indoctrinated to love my roots. I relate to the struggle of my people: their ambitions, their music, their cinema, their know-how, and much more. I have an active sense of belonging and connection to my “hayrenik”.
Who are your parents? Are both of them Armenians?
My parents are both Lebanese nationals of Armenian origin. My father’s ethnicity is Armenian, while my mother is half Armenian and half Lebanese. I’m 3rd generation Armenian.
Armenians living abroad have their own story of how their family left Armenia. Can you tell the story of your grandparents?
During the Armenian Genocide of 1915, my great grandfather fled Sis and settled in Karantina, Beirut, where he met my grandmother. He was a self-made man, establishing himself from scratch like most other Armenian immigrants. The correct spelling of my surname is Tchapoutian, but Lebanese officials documented it as Jabotian. Tchapoutian in Turkish translates to fabric leftovers, funnily cementing my vocation as a fashion designer.
Do you speak, read in Armenian, or keep any traditions now?
I went to an Armenian school where I was taught to speak, read and write Armenian. I make it a point to practice as much as possible with my father and other Armenians, as you tend to become less fluent with a lack of practice. Music is an important aspect of Armenian tradition for me. I love the music of Comitas Vartabed and Armenian Apostolic Church hymns as they bring about a sense of comfort and memories of childhood.
In your interviews, you have always mentioned that your love for the fashion world started in your childhood. Could you remember how it all began? Was it a movie character, a fashion show, or a designer that inspired you?
It was my mother. The matriarch of the family is always the most inspiring for me.
After graduating from ESMOD you joined Elie Saab’s atelier. Could you remember your first meeting with the famous designer and what you learned from him?
Elie Saab was the head of a jury during the final year presentation at my school. I was awarded a prize and a job opportunity at his fashion house due to my work. It was an eye-opening experience, namely for the world of embroidery I was exposed to. It was there that I first delved into embellishments, to later adapt them in different ways I saw fit.
People usually compare your styles, saying they have something in common. Do you think so?
Our style is quite different. I don’t see much in common.
Krikor, when you decided to start your fashion house you were very young, and maybe some young designers would find it a very risky step, especially when you had already succeeded in being in Elie Saab’s team. How risky that was for you and how did you decide to take it?
When you’re young you tend to be less risk averse. My goal was to be an independent designer and I went for it without really weighing the advantages and disadvantages of having one’s own business. It’s important to pursue what you believe in without too much overthinking, as the latter can sometimes be counterproductive.
Your first Hollywood collaboration was with the actress Regina King. How does it begin, and do you remember your feelings when you saw your dress on a famous actress walking on the stage of the Emmy Awards in 2015?
Regina King was nominated for her first Emmy that year and it was my first time dressing a Hollywood actor. She went on to win! No African American had won the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress in around 11 years, so it was noteworthy. It was her stylist who did all the work. She flew to Beirut and conducted several meetings leading up to the completion of the dress.
You always talk with the greatest pleasure about your collaborations with Queen Rania of Jordan; What kind of responsibility did you feel when you first were offered to make a dress for her?
It’s a great honor to have been able to dress Queen Rania, on more than one occasion, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. That being said, an immense sense of responsibility comes with any woman who entrusts me with the task of creating a perfect gown.
One of your latest collaborations is with the stunning Sharon Stone for Vanity Fair Italy. What dress she was wearing, and how long did it take to make that piece for her?
The red stole and jumpsuit Sharon Stone wore on the April 2022 cover of Vanity Fair Italia is from our 2021 bridal and evening collection. It was her second appearance in one of our pieces, the first being another red voluminous gown, worn in the October 2020 issue of Vogue Greece. It was a proud moment, as Sharon Stone is not only a fashion icon but a timeless actor who continues to exude confidence and strength throughout her career.
Krikor, every year you raise awareness about the Armenian Genocide, you have also supported Armenia and Artsakh during the war in 2020…What kind of impact that tragic event has had on you as an Armenian and as a creative person?
Many Armenians, similar to other subjugated people, want to show the world that they will continue to exist and thrive despite attempted extermination and genocidal denial. My strength stems from my Armenian ancestors, who have existed since time immemorial, and Armenians today fighting for their right to self-determination and peaceful and free life.
If I’m not mistaken, you haven’t been to Armenia, yet. Do you plan to come here soon?
Although I have yet to travel to Armenia, it’s a priority for me. I hope to be able to invest there one day and have a serene plot of land for my retirement.
You are an inspiration for a lot of young designers; What is your advice for them?
Passion is as important as talent. Carve out a place for yourself in the industry even if that place doesn’t exist. Never be complacent. Always strive to produce better work and be a better human being.
Photos from Krikor Jabotian’s Instagram, Fashionbizzle.com
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