BEIRUT: Lebanese Italian fashion designer Tony Ward recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of his eponymous fashion brand and the 70th anniversary of his father’s establishment, Elie Ward’s Ateliers.
A pioneer of Lebanese haute couture, Elie opened his own label in 1952 at the age of 16, dressing Lebanese high society during the country’s golden age. His timeless suits populated the wardrobes of the Lebanese elite.
Strengthened by this heritage, Tony chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and presented his first collection in 1997. Despite training in France in the most prestigious fashion houses, he never forgot his origins or the history of his family. He went on to set up his boutique and workshop in the heart of Beirut because “inspiration changes and creations evolve, but heritage remains.”
A few days after the anniversary exhibition, which was held in the elegant headquarters of his Beirut studio, Tony spoke to Arabian Weekly about his father’s legacy. An eye for detail, boundless creativity and a sense for beauty are among the many attributes that Tony declares owing to his father.
“Elie Ward was a pioneer, one of the pillars of the industry during the great Beirut era,” said Tony. “Known and recognized for the perfection of his tailoring techniques, he always designed clothes according to the rules of the art.”
This is precisely what we see in the documentary entitled “Forever Forward,” screened as part of the exhibition and directed by Zoya Ward Issa El-Khoury, Tony’s sister, a renowned filmmaker. This film not only retraces the history of the Ward house, but it also presents the sewing techniques, exploring the label’s phases of evolution and reflection.
Tony does not allow himself to be carried away by his success, of course. The designer and his wife, Anna, a photographer and partner at the fashion house, are deeply invested in helping their community. In 2020, at the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, they decided to transform their sewing workshop — shut down due to the pandemic — and manufacture bedding for the government hospital in Beirut.
What advice would Tony give to young people who want to get into the business?
“There is a place for everyone. You must learn, gain experience and make mistakes, and you should not be afraid of failure. You should be humble and listen to your customers,” said the designer.
Tony concluded that his biggest wish today is to “see the international clientele come back to Lebanon.”