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Cannes: Sabrina Elba, Jasmine Tookes and More Stars Stun in Tony Ward Couture


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Lebanese couture designer Tony Ward, who has been called the “Architect of Detail,” hits a major milestone this year as the fashion house, started by his father Elie, celebrates its 70-year anniversary in 2022. This moment also marks 25 years since Tony launched his own label within the company.

“25 years is a lot but it’s a small milestone compared to what my father achieved, so what will I do in my next 45 years is what comes to mind. I think the next 45 years is what I have in front of me, and I’m ready to fill the blank pages,” beams the designer, who has dressed celebrities on Cannes Film Festival red carpets, as well as stars at the Oscars, the Golden Globes and the Grammys.

Tony Ward’s creations on the runway shine with their lightness, transparency and precision, as he draws inspiration from contemporary architecture.

And now during the 75th Cannes Film Festival, there have been a number of stand-out Tony Ward Couture gowns on the red carpet. “I’m fond of the movies and the cinematography world and [Cannes is] an amazing hub from all over the world,” he says of the festival. “I feel that the buzz fashion creates during these events is as important as the beautiful movies that fill our screens. Seeing my dresses on notable women during such an outstanding festival is something I look forward to each year.”

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Urvashi Rautela

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Actress and YouTube star Liza Koshy stunned in a couture piece, a one-shouldered sheer white gown with colorful embellishments, and a thigh high slit for the opening ceremony, while Indian actress Urvashi Rautela was also in attendance wearing a white off-the-shoulder confection of a gown with layers in the skirting.

Elegant and dramatic Tony Ward Couture gowns were in the spotlight at the premiere of Top Gun: Maverick, where Tom Cruise walked the red carpet, as did models Jasmine Tookes and Josephine Skriver. Tookes wore a yellow dress with crystals flowing in one line down the bodice and pleated skirting. Skriver wore a black gown with white on the bodice, ruched skirting and a flamboyantly voluminous train.

On May 20, Sabrian Elba — accompanying husband Idris Elba to the premiere of Three Thousand Years of Longing — looked ethereal in a gauzy white Tony Ward Couture gown.

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Idris Elba and Sabrina Elba attend the screening of “Three Thousand Years Of Longing (Trois Mille Ans A T’Attendre)” during the 75th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 20, 2022 in Cannes, France.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Tony’s father Elie was known in his day as one of the city’s renowned tailors and dressmakers.

Young Elie began in the business as a child, starting out under a local tailor. His work was so good that he was able to launch his own business at the age of 16. With the designer refusing to travel to meet clients, they — especially women from Italy and parts of the Arab world — flew to Beirut to get fitted for their new Elie Ward gown. But when his son Tony showed interest in fashion design, his father was against it, refusing to fund his son’s fashion school studies in Paris.

As a result, Tony had to put himself through school. “I had to work to pay for my studies, I had to do a lot of PR and meet people. Luck had a major part in my start so the desire brought the luck, was met with a lot of work and here we are,” muses Tony, who worked under Karl Lagerfeld at Chloé, Claude Montana and Dominique Morlotti at Lanvin, and Gianfranco Ferré at Dior, gaining valuable experience at major European houses. “It was a learning process. I learned everything at Lanvin, Dior, and with Karl Lagerfeld at Chloé. I learned how to treat and be treated, how to create and do a couture piece, and how to start over. I learned about flou [working with ethereal fabrics], about tailleur [women’s tailoring], and fashion reflections.”

“These designers were very demanding and this was very important because being with such important icons of fashion helped me understand that there is no perfection, you’re always looking for perfection,” continues Ward. “So, until the dress is delivered you have to still work on them and try to find the right tune to finish it. They helped me look out of the box, not only clients wise, but also image- and glamour-wise. It was a very interesting time for me and prepared me for what I do today.” Taking seven years of knowledge from these houses back to Beirut, Tony launched his own label in 1997.

And even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the brand is still growing strong, leaning on digital mediums to present new collections. At the height of the 2020 global lockdowns around the world, Tony’s atelier gave back to Lebanese hospitals, making bedsheets and protective gear, while still making gowns and bridal wear for clients.

Having a renowned father as a dressmaker made Tony a sharper designer, he says: “During my 25 years, my father helped me a lot, especially with the jackets. He put a lot of his input in many of the pieces we have shown on the runway, not just with his head but with his hands. I think he’s proud when he sees my collections. He’s happy. I wish we could ask him this, but he has Alzheimer’s now, but the last thing I recall was seeing a smile on his face. Today, he doesn’t remember anything — me, his wife — he only remembers that he is a tailor. He’s got it in his blood and this is very unique.”

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