Underestimate Eli Mizrahi at your own peril. While some may scratch their head as to why a merely three-year old label can be found ubiquitously on hangers in the closets of every supermodel, gracing the glossiest magazine covers, turning up the heat on red carpets, and selling like hot cakes commercially too—the answer to Mônot’s rapid success lies simply in its mile-a-minute founder. It’s not that Mizrahi came from nowhere per se—he’s been working like a Trojan since day one—but in order to get your head around the dizzying ascent of his brand, you really need to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth…
How are you?
I’m great! I’ve been doing a one week detox in Bodrum, Turkey to get ready for the awards. Body snatched, face snatched! I’m feeling good.
Wow, I want to go. I’ve only been to Istanbul, but I love Turkey.
Kate Moss introduced me to it. It’s about a 50 minute flight outside of Istanbul, closer to the seaside. I’ve been multiple times and the results are insane. It’s more of an inside-out cleanse. Very mental. You just shut off and aren’t bothered by anyone in the outside world. It is intense—and you’re supervised by a doctor—but by day three, you feel like superman.
How are you feeling about the awards?
I’m so excited, we have great names confirmed to attend too. It’s been busy. I’m planning a fashion show, plus I just bought a house in Paris and I’ve been doing the interior design myself.
Is interior design something you’d like to get more into?
It is! I bought my dream house, in my favorite neighborhood. I tried to hire an interior designer, but she said ‘Eli, you’re too good! I’m loving what you’re proposing, you don’t even need me!’ Then she asked if I wanted to work on a project she was working on. I don’t have the capacity right now, but I would.
What’s the house like?
Architecturally and interior-wise, from A-Z, every inch has been me. Art to fabric and furniture to the paint….I’m a bit obsessive! But it’s my baby, so of course I’m hands on. It’s very rewarding though. I’ve seen some crazy properties, and this is up there.
Is it a reflection of the brand?
Definitely. It’s sensual. But funny enough, you do see some color and there’s all different textures. No black! [Laughs] In the living room, it’s all textures of white, hints of yellow, marble, wood, some brass. A lot of sculptures and art. It feels like a crossover between a bachelor’s pad slash art gallery, with a hint of a grandma’s apartment. But modern, cool, and futuristic.
That’s a segway to what I was wondering—would you ever design a hotel or a gallery?
Gallery, no. hotel, yes. Well I guess never say no! As of three years ago, I wasn’t a designer. And I’m technically a pilot! I was a Muay Thai fighter too. I feel like in 2023, there’s nothing you can’t be so let’s not cross it off the list just yet.
A pilot!? Ok, we need your overall backstory. Was fashion always the end goal?
Growing up, I was always sketching dresses. But living in Lebanon, if you’re a male doing that, they’ll put you in a box. [Society] was pretty narrow minded. You could be a doctor, lawyer, or run the family business. But even from an early age, fashion for me was about the art of it—not about dressing up Barbies. I knew I wanted to be a designer, but from about 13-years-old onwards I paused the idea. I moved to the US, studied Political Science as I wanted to be an attorney….that didn’t work out, clearly!
So what happened?
I traveled the world and consulted for different fashion brands. I worked with Philipp Plein, Chanel, Carine [Roitfeld]. I was involved in curation and talent—nothing to do with design!—but I always voiced my opinion: ‘I f*cking hate this, I would change this!’ [Laughs] They thought, ‘Ok the kid knows his shit!’ But I never thought I’d launch my brand this soon.
What changed your path?
In June 2019, my dad was very sick. I realized that life isn’t guaranteed so I should just launch my clothing brand. I started sketching and planning. I was in Beirut for Elie Saab Jr’s wedding, who is a friend of mine, and someone suggested going to a showroom based in the Middle East. As an emerging brand, there weren’t many big showrooms going to sign me, so I took a meeting with those two girls who had the showroom. I showed up with just two sketches! They said, ‘Wait, you’re expecting us to represent you based on those?!’ They looked at me like I’d lost my mind and they left the meeting. But one called me back and said that it was the most interesting but weirdest meeting she’d had in a long time. She said the other girl didn’t want [to move forward] but something told her that she should [take a chance]. I said, ‘Let’s go our separate ways and see what happens.’ And they said, ‘Fine. We’ll take you!’
How long did it take to expand on those two sketches to your debut?
The show was on February 29, 2020—a leap year! So it went from the planning phase that previous June to the show, and all that time I was working on the collection and strategy non-stop. On January 28, a month and a day before the show, my dad passed away. Everyone asked would I cancel. In the Jewish tradition, when someone passes, you mourn in the cheapest outfit possible. When we went to the cemetery, everyone was all in black and white, looking very basic. I showed up looking like Diddy on a music video set in a fur coat and leather pants. I said this is how I think: me dressing down is not going to bring him back, I’m going to celebrate his legacy. I mourned differently, and I said the show must go on.
Back to the show!
The showroom I had signed with in Lebanon, I told them during the whole process that I wouldn’t share anything until the day of the show. The art of mystery! I said, ‘I’m not doing this for the money. I don’t want anyone’s opinion. I’m doing it for the art.’
And your debut show really made noise…
I managed to get Carine Roitfeld to style and consult. She’s been a supporter since day one. She’s also a muse; she’s iconic and she’s my fashion mother. Tom Pecheux did makeup, and Sam McKnight did the hair.
A very casual backstage setup for a new brand!
Exactly [laughs]. The reason I showed in Paris is that when I first reached out to editors for their support, no one wanted to take my meeting. I said, ‘If NYC isn’t going to support me, let me go play with the big boys.’ I also cast my own show. I’m like, ‘Trust me, I have the vision!’ It’s not that I think I’m a casting director, it’s just no one knows my clothes more than myself.
You had some huge names walking.
All the top girls: Jourdan Dunn, Yasmin Wijnaldum. People thought, ‘Who’s this kid?!’ They wanted to find out more. We had a huge celebrity presence at the first show: Demi Moore, Mick Jagger, Storm Reid, Teyana Taylor… I didn’t want people to come based on the attendance, so I didn’t tell anyone. It was super intimate, a salon-style show at a restaurant in Paris with a seated dinner for 60 guests. Now it’s really full circle—the house I bought is nearby!
What was the industry response like?
Everything was amazing, but when it came to editors supporting….Vogue US did show up and did a beautiful article, and there were a few smaller editors. Gabriella Karefa-Johnson who was on the rise back then, she showed up and supported. But bigger editors, even Vogue France…[they didn’t come.] Everyone wrote to me the next day and asked why I didn’t tell them about the celebrities who were coming! But essentially, the feedback from the show was great, from day two we had people start noticing the brand, and then on day three….we went into lockdown.
Boom. What was the first pivot you had to make?
We were all at home making banana bread, but during the pandemic while everyone was focused on God knows what, I was strategizing and plotting. I did a campaign with Kate Moss, Amber Valletta, and Alek Wek.
Again, so casual for a newcomer brand!
And we had no budget [laughs.] I asked a good friend of mine who I’d worked with over the last ten years who I’d made millions of dollars for. I said, ‘We don’t have budget, but Carine is styling it, the collection is great. Can you do it to support the brand?’ She said yes! Then she cancelled two days before, I got desperate, and knew there was only one person who I could call. That’s when I called Kate Moss and she said it would be her honor, then all the other [supermodels] said yes.
How do you know Kate?
I met her at a birthday party in London back in the day and we kept in touch. She’s been a great supporter.
Let’s talk about the clothes themselves—how were people reacting to the designs?
People started noticing the brand. Talent started loving it! They said, ‘It’s what we want and it doesn’t exist on the market.’ These past seasons, a lot of designers seemed like they had a lot of Mônot references….. At first I was disappointed. We’re a young brand and some of these brands have billions of dollars. It’s f*cked up, but it’s part of the game. Part of me can be pissed off, but there’s flattery at that level. We can say it’s a coincidence, but it can’t be mistaken. The cutout, our signature, immediately became a trend after we started! But in terms of commercially, on the red carpet, and editorially—people were receptive.
Speaking of red carpet, your fan base is next level. What do you chalk that down to?
The Mônot army has kept growing! During the pandemic, we did a digital show with Tiffany Haddish and that got a lot of buzz. I could have asked a million other celebrities, but I chose her because she’s a very vocal, strong, opinionated woman. And her body…she represents everything that a MONOT woman should be! She’d just started working with Law [Roach] then. We had no sales that season, but we still kept the momentum going by doing something.
It made a big splash at the time for sure.
Considering the [lack of budget] we had, I thought the end result looked like a sci-fi movie. It was all about improvising, cutting corners, using water and different elements…it was a milestone for us.
Since then, you’ve gone back to traditional shows. How has that helped the brand’s profile?
Season after season, the attendance and interest in the collection has grown. And the casting is more elevated. We’re at the level now where girls who don’t do many shows and whose agent will say no, if we reach out to the [models] directly, sometimes they’ll say yes because they are their own person and they want to do it. It’s important: talent and models and brands discovering each other and helping each other. I like to have both high profile supermodels and young fresh faces.
Have you got something huge planned for September then?
There’s someone in the pipeline. With the top three supermodels of our generation…we’ve bee going back and forth, I’m keeping people on their tippy toes! It’s fun; the process of strategizing and creating, design, and handling production myself. Every little thing! We’re still young and independent, there’s only three of us [at the brand]. I just do the job of 30 people!
When do you sleep?!
I sleep two hours a day!
You do seem like you have insane energy.
I have crazy energy. I hate sleeping—I feel like I’m missing out on valuable time! I did a sleep study and they said, ‘You’re the 1% of the 1%.’ [who doesn’t need that much sleep.]
Checks out! Where do you think your drive comes from? Does it go back to that immigrant mentality of arriving in NYC at age 13?
It’s a few things. My dad was self-made. He created an empire and did amazing for himself. He was an orphan from the age of 16, but he worked his way up to building a multi-million dollar business. People think I come from money, but my family cut me off at age 21, so from then onwards, I’ve taken every penny I’ve made and invested it into this brand. My work ethic comes from my dad, being the underdog, being hungry, and wanting to make it. When I moved to New York, my English wasn’t great and I was left back in kindergarten at age 13. I was with the kids eating Twinkies! But my English improved, and in a matter of months, I was back in Eight Grade [with kids my age]. You know, people see Instagram, they think it’s glamorous. But the work and details that go into it, I don’t share that part. I will show you the version you want to see. You’ll see the private planes—they’re not mine!—but really, I’m in H&M sweatpants working from 5AM-2AM. And I enjoy every second of it.
How important is recognition to you?
Recognition and acceptance and inclusivity from the fashion industry is important. Breaking boundaries in industry is really important to me too. I’m not going to call myself a trend-setter, but I’ve been in fittings and on set when people use Mônot as an adjective. “That’s so Mônot,” while referring to an outfit that’s sexy and striking. That’s huge to me. And I’m just three years into making this brand, if you think of it. COVID years have being very productive. I’m very grateful for the brand being appreciated and valued.
I know your brand is underpinned by supporting others too.
The reason I’m in Lebanon is because I hire refugees from Syria and I train them [in production]. It’s very hands-on. They’re great at what they do; they work on sampling. While the brand has evolved, I’m not going to let them go. We don’t leave soldiers behind. We’re building an army, a Mônot army, and the army is here to stay. If I’m here, they’re with me. And I never take no for an answer, so get used to seeing us.
Copyright : https://fashionweekdaily.com/eli-mizrahi-of-monot-doesnt-sleep-hes-too-busy-building-fashions-most-scintillating-brand/