Charles Youssef Refuses to Let Lady Gaga's Approval Define Him

Charles Youssef Refuses to Let Lady Gaga's Approval Define Him

Instead, the fashion designer is building a serious business out of the celebrity endorsement that shook up his world.

Everything you need to know about Charles Youssef, the fashion designer who proves that even high-concept design can be wearable:

NAME: Charles Youssef

AGE: 34

PROVENANCE: Beirut, Lebanon 

CURRICULUM VITAE: The New York–based designer, who brings a spirit of playfulness to stark, graphic minimalism, discovered his love for fashion in a high school figure-drawing class in Philadelphia, where he was raised by his father, a French-Lebanese gemologist, and his mother, a Korean nurse. Youssef earned his BFA at Parsons The New School for Design in New York and his MA at London's Central Saint Martins. He describes his aesthetic as "Calvin and Narciso with a drop of Gareth," referring to three houses—two minimalist (Calvin Klein, Narciso Rodriguez) and one a bit more outré (Gareth Pugh)—where he worked prior to founding his own label last year.

SPAM FILTER: Youssef got his first taste of fame as a student in 2010, when Lady Gaga was photographed in Tokyo carrying her now infamous Sharpie-scrawled Birkin while also wearing a paper fortune-teller–inspired pantsuit with contours that extended way beyond the body—a look from Youssef's graduate collection, a conceptual riff on corporate uniforms. "I got an email out of nowhere that said, 'Gaga wants to wear your clothes,'" the designer recalls. "I almost deleted it because I assumed it was spam. I hadn't even graduated yet, and I just thought, How could this person know who I am?"