Reem Acra, seated right, poses with model wearing a gray embroidered tulle gown from her Soirée collection. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
Reem Acra shaved tulle evening gown. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
Models in gray evening wear from the Reem Acra Soirée collection. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
Reem Acra V-neck evening gown. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
Reem Acra evening gown with beaded detail and matching coat. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
Reem Acra V-neck embroidered evening gown. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
Reem Acra gray embroidered evening gown with criss-cross bodice. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
Reem Acra bustier evening gown with pleated skirt. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
Reem Acra sheer V-neck evening gown. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
Reem Acra evening gown with jeweled bodice. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
Reem Acra gray gown with train. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
Reem Acra one-shoulder column gown. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
Reem Acra evening gown with jeweled detail. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
Reem Acra strapless gown with jeweled detail. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
Reem Acra strapless gown with fitted waist. (Photo courtesy of Reem Acra)
NEW YORK — With a gleaming new showroom located in the heart of Fifth Avenue and a lovely new collection called Soirée that elevates the idea of glamorous evening wear for in-home entertaining, Reem Acra is poised for a post-pandemic renaissance.
The soft-spoken designer, who usually lets her couture-quality designs speak for themselves, admits it’s been a challenging time for her as it has been for all fashion creators. She credits her team for being nimble during the pandemic and taking on different tasks to keep production going.
“People who love to work and who love fashion and who love crafts, they wanted to continue doing what they loved to do,” she says during an interview in her new showroom across from the New York Public Library. “Like everybody else, we have to rethink the way we work and accept what is upon us and then move forward. One has to always be positive and stay positive.”
To adjust to pandemic times, Acra created a new collection of glamorous clothing that can be worn to a gala or while entertaining at home.
“It’s called the Soirée and it’s meant to be embracing events that are done at our homes, whether they are casual or not,” she says. “I’m seeing a lot of people throwing their events in the gardens at home and this is something I was brought up with anyway.” Acra is referring to her upbringing in Beirut, Lebanon.
“And I’ve always loved home parties,” she continues. “I feel like we’re going towards that.”
The collection, which will be available in Houston at Elizabeth Anthony, was photographed at Acra’s house and in her gardens, by her brother Fadi Acra, to emphasize the party-at-home spirit.
Working with a pastel and gray palette, Acra merged classic details with clean, modern lines for the collection, adding intricate embroideries and bead work. The designer says she juxtaposed delicate chiffon with harder-edged metallic embroidery to represent the strength and beauty of New York City’s Deco skyscrapers near her new headquarters.
And she continues to emphasize the technique of design. A gown of shaved pink tulle, which occupies a prominent space in the showroom and is a highlight of the Soirée collection, took many hours to create, Arca notes.
Dipping Into the Reem Acra Archives
For other intricate creations, Reem Acra worked with embroidery from her archives, which made things a bit easier during the pandemic.
“I have bins numbered with embroideries that I collected throughout the years,” she says. “It’s my library so I can always go back and pull out things that match the collection. A lot of things are from that. They are numbered, photographed, we know where the source came from, when we did it, photographs, how many we have left, everything. I work with them and reworked them.”
Acra also designed a series of looser-fitting kaftan-like gowns that are more forgiving to the body.
“I don’t want to call them kaftans. They are very easy dresses in beautiful colors, but each one has a different detail,” she says. “(The wearer) could stay at home, they could go to a wedding. It’s a woman that’s young or old, she’s going to a big event.
“Or she could be the hostess. Young for me doesn’t mean age-wise. She could be 70, I don’t care, she’s young. She has to have attitude.”
While giving a run-through of the collection, Acra also points out an embellished evening gown with prominent cut-outs in the back. “Now she has to be young to wear that,” the designer says with with an impish smile.
Reem Acra also offers some less blingy creations for the customer who wants to dress down a bit nowadays, as well a long gown with matching long coat that has proved to be popular.
“It’s one for two,” she explains. “It’s in a way trying to be careful about how you spend your money.”
Business is picking up again, Acra is pleased to note. She points out recent research showing that more engagement rings are being sold now than before the pandemic.
“This tells us that there is a movement toward engagement and toward union, however that is,” Acra says. “And that people want to be together, which I think is what COVID did to us, it gave us the sense of family. I think that always translates into weddings at the end of the day.
“There’s a big difference (in sales) between this month and six months ago. But there are multiple reasons for that. We opened the new showroom, the location is new, it’s an easier location for customers to come and see us. We were able to make bigger collections, but it’s very focused as well.”