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Mouna Ayoub is often described as “the queen of couture.”
The billionaire divorcee’s claim to fame is owning the world’s largest collection of haute couture, a 1,600 piece wardrobe in which each piece costs between 50,000 and 290,000 euros ($70,000 – $400,000).
With so many dresses, it’s perhaps unsurprising that she frequently runs out of space in her home in Monaco, so has invested in an another apartment just for her couture.
But much of the collection goes unworn.
“I never wear the same dress twice, because I get photographed a lot,” she reveals.
“It happens to me that when I have a photo shoot and I wear the dress for a photo shoot, that I wear it for another occasion, but that’s about it. It didn’t happen much. Maybe twice.”
The Lebanese socialite is perhaps the best-known member of an uber-elite group of super rich women who keep haute couture alive – the 150-year-old Parisian tradition of making astronomically-priced, made-to-measure gowns.
Each couture house, from Chanel to Jean Paul Gaultier via Christian Dior, has their very own Mouna mannequin that they can tailor the clothes to when she is not available for a fitting.
“Every couture house must have my mannequin as they should have the mannequin of every couture client and I have to tell you that this mannequin changes sizes as often as a couture client gains weight or loses weight, so they have to stuff it with things and un-stuff it with things. Yes, of course you should have your mannequin,” she smiles.
Her wardrobe alone may be enough to bankroll a small country but she doesn’t always go for glamor when deciding what to wear.
“When I have to go out to special occasions, to dinners, I always wear couture, but when I have to go shopping or doing errands, I wear a pair of jeans and a sweater and a coat if it’s winter or a T-shirt if it’s summer,” she reveals.
The couture diva is currently working hard to prepare an auction of the sparkling sea-themed contents of her old yacht, the Phocea.
In a warehouse outside Paris are trinkets that lined the inside of what was, until 2004, the largest sailing yacht in the world, that she refurbished for $17 million.
The 56-year-old has friends in high places. Her good friend King Carlos of Spain was a frequent sleep-over visitor on the vessel.
“(He) came many, many times, because even when he was doing the maxi cup, he didn’t like to sleep anywhere else, he preferred to come to Phocea because it was very comfortable,” she recalls.
“And I can name of course Prince Albert because he was a very close, close friend.”
Ayoub’s is a living fairy tale rags-to-riches story, a beautiful but impoverished waitress in Paris who was swept off her feet by a billionaire adviser to the Saudi king.
She now wears couture every time she has a public engagement before stashing the gown away in a sleepy French village to be preserved forever.
“I keep them in specially made boxes for museums,” she explains.
“They are all laying down, even if they weigh as feathers, you know, like muslin dresses which Karl (Lagerfeld) used to do in the 80s. I have to have them what we call ‘manuquine,’ which means the dress is laid down in a box and filled with very special paper, anti-moth, and it’s dressed as a person with those papers, so the dress never loses its shape. So when you take it out, you hang it, it’s exactly like it was delivered.”
But even this Lebanese Cinderella has moments when reality bites.
When the captain throttled up suddenly, the lifeboat capsized and she was thrown into the chilly waters. Fortunately, she saw her jewel-filled bag floating meters away and she was able to glide over and fetch it.

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