Mouna Ayoub’s idea of heaven — and favorite earthly activity of all — is to be fitted for an haute couture outfit, something she has done thousands of times, requiring as many as four to six sessions for each of them.
“I am addicted to it,” she enthuses. “I love the atmosphere of a couture salon…to be surrounded by all those magnificent women who are so professional, so nice and so talented.”
“For two reasons really: Number one, they don’t fit me anymore,” she explains over Facetime from her apartment in Monaco, where couture garments are boxed and stacked nearly to the ceiling. “Number two, I really want to give the young generation that didn’t know Karl and didn’t have the chance to own any haute couture pieces by Karl to own them and wear them and love them like I did — especially since most of them have never been worn.”
Ayoub, a former waitress who wed Nasser Al-Rashid, a billionaire adviser to the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, explained that during their marriage — which ended in 1997 — she was not allowed to wear garments that revealed her limbs or her décolleté. Back in the day, she kept her couture wardrobe in a vast, glass-walled closet in her office in Riyadh so she could admire the clothes while working.
“For the short dresses, you need to be young and pretty and unfortunately time went by and I never wore them,” she laments.
“It was very difficult to decide which pieces I was going to part ways with, especially since I really love them all,” she confesses. “But in order to have a successful sale, I had to choose the best pieces.”
Maurice Auction will raise the gavel on Monday at Pavillon Gabriel in Paris, with one evening coat — embroidered to resemble the ornate Coromandel screens that founder Gabrielle Chanel so treasured — estimated to fetch between 150,000 and 200,000 euros.
Ayoub wore that coat only once — to attend an opera at La Scala in Milan. Ditto a gold lace, heavily embroidered dress from the summer 1996 collection, donned when she attended the Bal de la Rose fundraising gala in Monte Carlo, with Lagerfeld at her side that night.
Ayoub took loving care of her exceptional Chanels, purchasing many of them for their sheer beauty and exceptional craftsmanship. All were stored in museum-calibre storage conditions.
The public can view them free of charge on Sunday and Monday, while the public auction will take place live on Monday at 6:30 p.m. Paris time and online at drouot.com and invaluable.com.
Ayoub plans to donate part of the proceeds from the sale to Fondation des Femmes, an organization that champions women’s rights and freedom, while combatting violence against them.
A well-known society figure and jet-setter originally hailing from Lebanon, Ayoub works in real estate, buying and selling properties in the U.S. — and plowing the lion’s share of her gains into her bulging, gently used couture wardrobe.
Even after parting ways with the 252 beloved Chanels, she still will possess about 2,500 haute couture pieces — and more are on the way. She has haute couture orders in progress at Chanel, Schiaparelli, Fendi and Dior.
“I’m very particular and a little crazy in that and nobody understands it,” she confesses. “If I was given the possibility to buy a piece of jewelry for 200,000 euros and a dress for the same price, I always go for the dress. Because I like to encourage the high fashion industry. I’m not very much for fast fashion. I’m actually opposed to it.”
Indeed, in addition to her own healthy orders, Ayoub encourages her friends to buy haute couture to help preserve the rarified enterprise and its exceptional know-how. Echoing words Lagerfeld frequently uttered, Ayoub says she is happy to reward the devoted, painstaking work of seamstresses and tailors and support an industry that creates employment and, in her estimation, art.
Ayoub placed her first couture order in 1990 after discovering Lagerfeld’s Chanel couture designs in Vogue, and she’s never stopped.
She says she tends to order more spectacular pieces these days, debuting them on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival each year.
Her daytime wardrobe might surprise you: mostly leggings and sweaters in winter, and simple cotton dresses in summer. But she’s also a big client of Chanel ready-to-wear, lauding that the French maison’s dresses and suits incorporate extra fabric inside the seams so they can be enlarged by one size if necessary.
Lots on offer at next week’s auction, which include dresses, suits, shoes, jewelry, belts and even a wig with an ankle-length ponytail that Shalom Harlow rocked on the runway, date from 1990 to 2014. Some of the garments took up to 800 hours of handwork to be realized.
Maurice Auction, based in Paris, joins forces twice a year with London-based Kerry Taylor Auctions to host fashion and haute couture sales, and has so far set three world records.