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steven khalil

Date with Kate, Fashion

Date with Kate: Steven Khalil

16th July, 2017

Enjoying lunch with fashion designer Steven Khalil at Bistro Moncur, Woollahra

Steven Khalil is one of Australia’s leading designers, specialising in red carpet and bridal gowns. His creations have been worn by the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Kylie Jenner, Kelly Preston and Jesinta Campbell. He also launched an e-boutique last month, and is launching a new perfume next month. Khalil, 39, chats to me about dressing celebrities to royalty, and shares his best advice for brides-to-be.

What was your childhood like?

I grew up in Sydney. I was raised by a single mother. I was the youngest of four children … I struggled at school because I was creative and I think back then they didn’t know how to deal with creative students. So I was always in trouble or never really connecting. I could never sit down and keep still. In the end, they had to keep paper and pen away from me because all I would want to do was sketch dresses in class. So growing up was a struggle, but I was a happy child and really positive and I think that’s what got me through.

Did you always want to be a designer? 

Yes, I decided I would make wedding dresses at the age of six.

 

One of Steven’s wedding dress creations. Photo: @stevenkhalil and photographed by @yervantphotography

 

What influenced your choice of career?

I was watching Princess Diana and Charles’ wedding and I remember being really excited about the wedding and my mum was really baffled by it and she said, “Why are you so excited about this wedding?” I didn’t know why, and then when I saw the gown I said to my mum, “I’m going to make wedding dresses when I grow up”… I got my first sewing machine when I was 11.

What route did you take to pursue your dream?

I went through high school and did textiles and design at school, I was very drawn to all the creative subjects. And then the minute I left school I went to college and I studied design, fashion and clothing production and manufacturing, and I got my first real job when I was about 19: I was making flower girl dresses for a company. Then I … got head-hunted to go and work in a bridal boutique in Double Bay, called Mark Holt Bridal, when I was 22 years old, and I was living the dream, really. My gowns were on the covers of all the magazines and I stayed there for about seven years, and then I opened my own store.

You’ve dressed so many celebrities and influential people. What has been your biggest pinch-me moment? 

When we dressed Kylie Jenner for the Grammys – it was very unexpected, although that dress was with Jennifer Lopez, so I was hoping she would wear the dress, but it didn’t fit her and so that dress was sent to Kylie.

You recently dressed the Crown Princess of Greece. How did that come about?

The next day after the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia show we received this e-mail [saying that the Princess Olympia of Greece] wanted to wear [a piece from the runway] for her 21st birthday.

Princess Olympia wearing one of Steven’s creations. Photo: @olympiagreece

 

What was it like to dress royalty?

Well, it’s a first for me … although it has been an ongoing dream for me to make a royal wedding gown because it stems back to the [Princess] Diana thing of me being so obsessed with her wedding dress. So to make a royal wedding gown would be the ultimate for me.

If you could dress anyone, who would it be?

I’ve always wanted to dress Cate Blanchett because she’s Australian and has done so well overseas.

What is the most expensive dress you’ve ever had to create? 

We did a wedding gown for a client in Dubai and she paid $54,000 for that gown. She had seen something that we had done for somebody else, but she wanted a grander version of it, so a lot of it came down to the detail.

What do you love most about being part of a wedding day?

A bride is like the centerpiece of the wedding, isn’t she? The anticipation of her arrival, everybody waits to see her gown. So it’s really special to be chosen to make the gown, it’s such a special honour to do that. So I just love being part of that process.

How do you deal with “bridezillas”?

Over the years I’ve started to realise that it’s so much bigger than me and the dress … You put out the best you can put out… [but] a lot of it is just being patient and they’re under a lot of pressure from their families, [and] under financial pressure a lot of the time, to have this beautiful wedding. So you’ve got to really stop and think about what’s going on for the person and try to be as patient as possible.

What do you think the secret is for a woman looking great on her wedding day?

A lot of it is confidence. I know it probably sounds cliche, but I think if you feel good in something and you’re carrying that really well, you’ll give a good vibe.

What are the biggest fashion mistakes you see?

I think when you seen an image of somebody that looks amazing and you’re like, “I want that whole outfit,” but you always should make something your own. Don’t try to emulate what someone else is wearing because they might have a different body shape to you and the clothes might not fall the same way on you.

Have you got plans to open stores internationally?

I would like to, yes. So what we’re doing at the moment is just developing the brand more, creating more products so that we can then just open beautiful boutiques in chosen cities.

 

Some of Steven’s new jewellery line. Photo: Steven Khalil

How are you expanding?

We are adding more to the line, adding in jewellery, robes; we’re going to go into more beautiful lingerie as well … So we’re working on a new collection for that, because the first season of those christening gowns sold out so quickly… and we still have waiting list for them.

Tell me about the perfume. 

The perfume is really gorgeous and it’s going to be launched in [early August]. We’re just finalising all the labels and the packaging at the moment. The fragrance consists of rose, patchouli and lily of the valley… I want people to come into the store and be able to buy various products, not just the dress. So it’s kind of following in the footsteps of Elie Saab, Vera Wang, to create a really beautiful brand experience.

If you hadn’t gone down this career path, what would you be doing?  

You know, I have no idea because this was the only thing I wanted to do … when I was growing up, so many people were saying to me, “You can’t be a dressmaker, that’s not a real job.” What is a real job? So I thought about becoming a hairdresser or a lawyer.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

I love going out with friends to eat, I love Sunday morning breakfasts, I love being by the water. Yeah, I’m quite simple … I love to shop, I love beautiful clothing, I love going to art galleries.

Where do see yourself in five years?

I would love a concept store with sales people, beautiful products everywhere and just a really beautiful shopping experience.

BITESIZE

We went to Bistro Moncur, Woollahra

We ate Pan Fried Barramundi Fillet, Mashed Peas, Creme Fraiche & Confit Spring Onion, Sunflower Seed & Caper Beurre Noisett

We drank San Pellegrino Mineral Water

Steven wore Ralph Lauren shirt and jacket and Nudie Jeans

Kate wore a Hansen & Gretel top.

Photograhy Jessica Hromas, SMH.

Fashion

Getting married? Steven Khalil reveals his top tips for buying a wedding dress

12th May, 2015
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A bridal look from Khalil’s couture show at MBFWA

I know when I was trying to choose my wedding dress I tried on more than you can possibly imagine trying to find the perfect one. I ended up going with my first choice in the end but it was certainly a time-consuming process! To help make things easier, I asked designer Steven Khalil to impart his best tips for finding the perfect gown…

What are the key things brides should look out for when buying a wedding dress?
It’s very important for brides to be clear on their preferences. That and to be aware of their body shape, no matter what size and what styles, and silhouettes will flatter them. Fit is so important- it’s one of the biggest moments in your life so the gown should reflect that.

What are the top 3 things brides you wish more brides would do when it comes to picking a dress?
To choose a gown that they love, not what they think everyone else will love. To go for something a little unconventional or different and to listen to their heart and work with the designer on something special to surprise everyone on their big day…

What’s one look that’s flattering on most brides?
Simplicity works for every bride. A beautiful form flattering shape that skims their body and isn’t too tight.

What’s the biggest no-no when it comes to buying a wedding dress?
I think a big mistake is to copy another bride just because you like that gown. A wedding gown is so personal and I love it when I can work with a bride to design the perfect gown for HER – and only her.

What are the big trends brides should look out for?
A simpler silhouette is making a comeback- no long trains or huge skirts- simple silhouettes that are more form-fitting and less over the top and embellished. Textural fabrics are also coming through in bridal looks- more about the fabric details than loads of embellishment.

What’s the key to a timeless wedding dress?
To me a timeless gown has an element of simplicity to it. A beautiful classic shape that fits well and is tailored will last the test of time.

What have been your fave celebrity bridal looks of all time?
Grace Kelly when she married Prince Rainier
Kate Middleton
Princess Diana- my inspiration to start my business
Jennifer Lopez in lace Valentino
Peaches Geldof
Caroline Bissett Kennedy

 

Fashion

Steven Khalil on 20 years in fashion

4th May, 2015

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Fresh from a successful show at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia, Steven Khalil is going from strength to strength and just celebrated 20 years in fashion. I caught up with Steven to chat about showing for the first time at MBFWA, who he’d love to see wearing one of his designs and what’s left on his fashion bucket list…

You’re celebrating a big milestone this year! How does it feel to have been in fashion for 20 years?
It is a huge milestone for me. I have worked very hard over the past 20 years to get the business to where it is today. I can’t quite believe it to be honest! I love what I do so to me it doesn’t feel like 20 years but I am very grateful to still be doing what I love for so long and I am so excited for the future of the brand…

What inspired your collection for Fashion Week?
Inspiration comes from everywhere for me for any of my collections. It could be a fabric, an embellishment, colours or even places. This season my focus was on texture and tailoring, I really wanted to highlight detail and let the fabric be the focus. There are cocktail dresses, blouses and skirts in this collection to fully cater to a couture customers complete wardrobe needs, not just red carpet gowns.

For you, what’s the highlight of designing a collection?
Design is an everyday occurrence for me in my work- with every client but designing a collection for the runway lets my mind wander and go to places I don’t normally get to develop in my work with clients. I love being able to take a look to a new dimension or work with a fabric that isn’t considered safe or traditional. I also love to create new silhouettes and styles for the runway- it is a really creative and interesting process for me.

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What’s that toughest part?
Waiting for the design to go from concept to reality – I’m very impatient! Working from a sketch to going into fabric and hoping the design is as successful in reality. Sometimes it needs to be modified or changed but usually it works out beautifully…

How would you describe your latest collection?
The 2015 Couture Collection to me is a representation of where the brand is going but also remaining true to my work and aesthetic. This collection is all about texture, tailoring and has a Parisian feel to it- very chic silhouettes with couture embellishments. The colour palette ranges from nude, salmon and mushroom to navy, black and white- I wanted this collection to symbolise a more modern take on red carpet dressing but also to show that I can design couture pieces for everyday wear too.

Who would you love to see wearing Steven Khalil?
I love that I have women the world over wearing and wanting my designs so I have been very lucky. But I would love to see Cate Blanchett in one of my designs- I think she is so chic and timeless but also quite daring and confidant in her choices on the red carpet.

What’s on your bucket list as a designer?
I want to expand my brand and to take the label to the next level. Celebrating my 20th Anniversary is a milestone but I want to move forward and grow as a business and as a designer. A more global focus for 2015/16 and to hopefully see the brand evolve in a positive direction.

How long does the process take to take an idea and turn it into a collection?
It really depends on how inspired I am or how quickly I want to work- an idea I have can quickly materialise or it can take a while- this collection came together quite seamlessly as I had a clear idea of what I wanted to present.

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What are your essentials for Fashion Week?
Valium! No only joking…Organisation is so key to any event and I have a great team to help me realise my concepts and collection. And always have contingency for anyting to go wrong- as it usually does! This was my first time showing at MBFWA so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I could not have been happier with the outcome- I was really pleased and everyone worked really hard to make it all come together.

Who inspires you as a designer?
Everything, anything and nothing. This isn’t evading the question I think it’s true with any designer or creative- it really does depend on where you are at with a collection or design at the time, or your own personal experiences and situations.

If your brand could be synonymous with one thing what would it be?
Quality and desirability- that’s two things! But I can’t separate the two. I pride myself on the attention to detail of a garment, it’s construction and fabric and I want women to want to wear my designs- for many, many years to come!

What’s one thing you wished you could have told yourself when you first started out as a designer?
That patience is key. Looking back over the 20 years I have been in business I have certainly learnt a lot- what to do, what not to do and what to focus on, and to me being patient and letting the work and designs speak for themselves and to trust my instincts a lot more has helped me take my business to where it is today.