Lebanese Fashion Designer In Paris Accused Of Rejecting A Model For Her Nationality

Rabih Kayrouz is a Lebanese fashion designer, creator and founder of the fashion house Maison Rabih Kayrouz, established in Paris in 2008. He was described by International Herald Tribune as “an architect in a world of decorators.”

Early this month, Rabih Kayrouz officially received the prestigious haute couture label, which less than 20 grand fashion houses are said to carry officially, according to Fashion Network.

His fashion house is now officially listed, as of January 2020, on the haute couture calendar as a permanent member, after having been the guest since 2016.  

Less than two weeks later, Rabih Kayrouz and his professional reputation were a target of false accusations. An Israeli model took to social media to claim that she was rejected by the designer because of her nationality, which triggered conflicting public reactions.

Maison Rabih Kayrouz, which will be launching soon its new website, was prepping up for his fashion show this Monday, January 20, at the Paris Spring/Summer Fashion Show 2020.

As the usual process goes in that line of work, fashion model agencies present their models for selection. Hence, Maison Rabih Kayrouz had that day a line-up of models from all over the world for both the website and the runway show. 

One of the models in the line-up was an Israeli model named Arbel Kynan, chosen by the agency and not by the designer himself.

According to the story deliberated by Kynan, she was escorted for a photoshoot and ‘was told’ that she will be walking the designer’s show during Haute Couture Week in Paris on Monday.

The model stated later, “Many times, people ask us, models, where we are from, and on the day of the shoot they asked me where I am from and I, of course, answered with a big smile that I am from Tel Aviv.”

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ארבל קינן הייתה אמורה להשתתף בתצוגת אופנה בפריז, אך נדחתה ברגע האחרון רק בגלל שסיפרה בגאווה שהיא מישראל "האמת… עדיין קשה לי לעכל… לפני כמה ימים הגעתי לפריז להצטלם לחברת אופנה מאוד נחשבת שלוקחת חלק גם בשבוע האופנה של ההוט קוטור. עוד לפני שהגעתי לפריז הם אמרו שישמחו שאקח גם חלק בתצוגה. הגעתי ליום הצילום באנרגיות אש, אני חולת עבודה! כל יום צילום מבחינתי זה לא רק עבודה לשם עשייה אלא גם הנאה. הרבה פעמים שואלים אותנו הדוגמניות מאיפה אנחנו, וגם ביום הצילום הזה שאלו אותי מאיפה אני, ואני כמובן עניתי עם חיוך גדול שאני מתל אביב. היום המשיך כמו בכל יום צילום, סיימתי כרגיל שעות לפני המצופה. עברו מספר ימים מהעבודה וממש לפני כשעה קיבלתי מייל מהסוכנות שלי לפיו הלקוח הוא לבנוני והוא לא מעוניין שאקח חלק בתצוגה כי אני גרה בתל אביב, בישראל – זה ממש תוכן המייל שקיבלתי. אני כותבת את כל זה כדי להעביר מסר: בסופו של יום כולנו בני אדם, לא משנה מה המוצא שלנו, צבע העור הגזע או מה שזה לא יהיה. תהיו בני אדם! זה הכי חשוב!" #arbelkynan

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Few days after Kynan’s photoshoot, and according to her claims prior to the Lebanese fashion designer’s knowledge of her nationality, Kynan received an email from her agency explaining that Kayrouz is a Lebanese fashion designer and he refused to work with her because she is an Israeli and because she lives in Tel Aviv.

As a way to gain some public empathy, the Israeli model posted on Instagram her story saying, “Truthfully … it’s still hard for me to digest. At the end of the day, we are all humans, no matter what our origin, race skin color or whatever. Be human! This is the most important!”

Lebanon has a strict Boycott Law that prohibits any natural or legal person to interact, in person or through an agreement, with bodies or persons residing in Israel or affiliated with them by their nationality or working for or on their behalf. 

However, and according to Annahar and Al-Akhbar newspapers, Maison Rabih Kayrouz insisted in a statement that the allegations Kynan has claimed are fabricated and completely false.

According to both newspapers, Maison Rabih Kayrouz said that the photoshoot done with Kynan was for their new website to be launched soon and had nothing to do with the Paris fashion show. The model was picked from groups of applicants via agencies.

The House of Rabih Kayrouz also said that they had never spoken with Kynan or her agency about her participation in the Paris fashion show, stressing that they choose models to walk on runways according to artistic measures and not according to race, background, or ethnicity. 

The story continues to have its shares of opposing reactions. While negative from one side, they have been positive from another.

While Kayrouz denied the accusations, he is being nonetheless praised for taking a stance against years of Israel’s illegal occupation of the south of Lebanon, as well as many wars and casualties Israeli has caused Lebanon.

Rabih Kayrouz is very loved by the Parisian public and beyond. A French Instagram user has this to say about him: “I adore his clothes and the values of this creator, zen attitude, [he] doesn’t love the trends! He loves the people.” 

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