In Conversation With...Ingie Chalhoub

A pioneer in the export of Western fashion in the Middle East, a businesswoman at the helm of the Etoile group, and Creative Director of the fashion house INGIE Paris, Ingie Chalhoub seems to have enough laurels to rest on. And yet, she never stops. Ingie was recently awarded the Légion d'Honneur in Paris; in fact, she and her husband Patrick Chalhoub were knighted by the honorable Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. The knighthood rewards their commitment to French luxury in the Middle East. We sat down with Ingie in Paris and discussed her commitment to French luxury in the Middle East and her latest endeavour: promoting young designers from the Middle East abroad.

Portrait of Ingie Chalhoub. Courtesy of INGIE Paris.

First off, congratulations again! Congratulations on the Legion of Honor.

Ingie Chalhoub: Thank you.

It’s recognition as well as a very important step in your career. What does getting this much recognition mean to you?

Ingie Chalhoub: It was a very emotional moment for me because the first thing I thought of was my family, my parents, who gave me this French culture, who allowed me to grow up and love this country that I cherish, that I adopted. So it’s true – there’s a very emotional, very moving side to it. It’s also recognition of all the people who have been there for me, who have helped me, encouraged me, gave me their support, believed in me. I managed to do things that people sometimes thought I couldn’t do. It was a long, hard road, with many obstacles, many hurdles, many difficulties.

For both you and your husband.

Ingie Chalhoub: Yes, absolutely. We’ve truly had times of both great happiness and great difficulty. We’ve been through tough, difficult times. But it’s also recognition, not only for me but also for all of my mentors, including Françoise Montenay, Bruno Pavlovsky, and others who believed in me, who gave me their support. In 2009, when I wanted to create INGIE Paris, I had support from Jean-Jacques Picart; I had support from Nathalie Franson-Pavlovsky. I want to thank all of these people who opened my career to new opportunities, who helped me grow! There is my husband, of course; my children, who have always been there for me, who are my greatest accomplishment; my husband, who is always by my side, who gave me a great deal of support, who believed in me; and all the women in the Middle East who believed in me too, and it’s truly wonderful. So I owe this recognition to a lot of people.

Courtesy of INGIE Paris.

You have been recognized for all the work you have done to develop and strengthen French craftsmanship abroad, especially in the Middle East. And now you’d like to do the opposite by helping export Middle Eastern craftsmanship to the West. So how is this part of your work progressing?

Ingie Chalhoub: For me, I would say it’s like giving back what I have been given. I’m trying to build this bridge, this bond between the two cultures. I was lucky to be surrounded by people who influenced my career. And now I’d like to give back, through various organizations, my knowledge, my experience, to help talented artisans in the Middle East and be a sort of mentor – if that’s what they want, of course – give them advice, encourage them. I also have the great opportunity to work with more official organizations such as the Arab Fashion Council, of which I am the Chief Creative Officer. And more recently, I have been contacted by other international organizations to export French and European expertise to the Middle East. Now, I want to give back what I was once given to talented young artisans in the Middle East. It’s wonderful, extraordinary, because it has allowed me to evolve, to support myself, to accept my double culture, and it strengthens my creativity within both of them.

Courtesy of INGIE Paris.

You have not only a dual culture but also a dual identity and a dual role. You are not only a businesswoman with the Etoile Group, but you are also the artistic director of your brand, INGIE Paris.

Ingie Chalhoub: Exactly. It’s like having two kids. You can’t say that you love one more than the other. The two complement one another. They have two different faces, but I love them both, and I make enough time for each of them. INGIE Paris’s head office is in Dubai, but I have many companies in the region: in Kuwait, in Saudi Arabia, in Bahrain, in Qatar, in Lebanon, and elsewhere. So I really have to work hard and be very, very organized to ensure the success of INGIE Paris. I like to surround myself with lovely, capable people and ensure that we can move things forward.

You have a lot of ambition for INGIE Paris. What’s new on this front?

Ingie Chalhoub: So we’ve just opened our first shop in the Dubai Mall, an INGIE Paris flagship store. It’s not the first INGIE Paris shop in the Middle East, but it’s the first shop of this caliber. It just opened in the new wing of the Dubai Mall. It’s a big moment for us because Dubai is becoming the fashion capital, with all the great luxury houses that have locations there. As for the rest, we’re putting out collection after collection, calmly and with attention to detail – I am confident for the future.