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YASMINA HATEM November 5, 2012 Underneath the Dress: Reem Acra It all started when she was five years old. Her mother would take her shopping at the old Souks, buying fabric by the weight. There, the little girl would immerse herself in the beauty of colors and fabrics, climbing up and down the ladder, always looking for the most difficult ones to reach. She had a live-in seamstress, Salma "Al-Khayata," and very early on she began designing her clothes and those of her mother. Every afternoon, after school, she would spend hours doing fittings with her seamstress, stopping at every detail – except on Tuesdays where there would be no cutting of fabrics allowed, she's not sure why. But from that very young age, the only things she wore were signed "Reem Acra."
One day, when she was still a teenager, Acra had a party and, of course, she was wearing one of her dresses. A woman she met there was so amazed by her talent that she insisted on introducing her to the modeling club at the American University of Beirut.
It was then, in June 1982, that Lebanon witnessed its very first fashion show by a Lebanese designer. Two thousand people were gathered around the AUB's green oval to witness Acra's very first show.

"Send me to New York," she told her mother.
"I will be a fashion designer."
American University of Beirut, 1982. First Fashion Show in Lebanon by a Lebanese Designer (Reem Acra), with some 2000 people in attendance. Reem Acra at the American University of Beirut, 1982, during her Fashion Show at the Green Oval. In her mind, there was no doubt. And so began the hard work. She studied fashion at FIT in New York City and at Esmod in Paris. Upon graduating, she immediately got a job as a designer in Hong Kong and Taiwan, designing mainstream clothing lines with a touch of luxury. At 25 years old she was responsible for a 30-million-dollar project – but she soon realized it wasn't what she wanted. After seven years of living between the Far East and New York, she returned to Manhattan with the sole purpose of opening her own business. "It was a hard decision" she says, "but I had a hunch, a belief that I could make it." The company thus began with a wedding dress she made for a friend in less than three weeks. "Almost immediately, one dress turned into 30 dresses, and before I knew it, I was making 5,000 dresses a year!" And with the business expanding, so did the company and its structure. In 1999, she had her first fashion show, and the press dubbed it as "taking the industry to a different level." She had taken simple luxury and made it "couture-like."

It's only been 15 years since that first wedding dress that started the "Reem Acra" fashion label, but celebrities all around the world are proud to wear her label, from Angelina Jolie to Madonna, and many others in between.


And Lebanese brides are not immune to her talent, entrusting her with the most important dress they will ever wear.
"A woman always chooses a wedding dress that personifies her," she says. "And I am blessed in being able to figure out a person in five minutes."

Whether a bride likes to be treated like a princess or loves to show off her body, Reem Acra knows how to make the dress she designs fit her client in every way. When she meets a bride-to-be for talks about her dream gown, Acra doesn't need to be told what to do. A brief encounter will usually suffice, and almost instantly, Acra can grab her sketchbook and design a dress a woman didn't even know she wanted. And that is just one of her many gifts.
The first bridal dress made by Reem Acra, for a friend of hers, in just 3 weeks. Lebanese bride wearing a custom-made Reem Acra dress, on her wedding day in 2011
Reem Acra Sketch
American University of Beirut, 1982. First Fashion Show in Lebanon by a Lebanese Designer (Reem Acra)
Reem Acra at the American University of Beirut, 1982, during her Fashion Show at the Green Oval
The first bridal dress made by Reem Acra
Lebanese bride wearing a custom-made Reem Acra dress