The Status Of Fashion Education In The Middle East
“Fashion design as an occupation was unfathomable because it simply didn’t exist,” says Elie Saab in a recently televised interview with CNBC. The eldest son of a wood merchant who raised five children in a Beirut suburb has most certainly found success in a vocation that was once incomprehensible, and has been actively working to bring fashion education to Lebanon and the Middle East at large.
In 2013, the Haute Couturier teamed up with the Lebanese American University (LAU) and the London College of Fashion (LCF) to create a new fashion degree. With a view to creating a qualification that is both relevant to Arab culture and international in scope, Saab said: “The vision behind LAU’s fashion design program was to offer the region’s students an education of the highest possible international standards without having to travel too far from home.”
While a more modernist and global-industry-focused attention to educational fashion and design programs is an effective way to mobilise an international cadre of creatives, the question of its accessibility to the masses remains. Rayya Morcos applauds the work of Creative Space Beirut (CSB), a non-profit association dedicated in their mission to establish a free school in fashion design for talented individuals who lack the resources to pursue a degree at increasingly costly institutions of higher learning. With funding and sponsorship from industry impresarios such as Diane Von Furstenburg and Derek Lam to Parsons in NYC—CSB is able to ensure their student’s continued free education is sustained. Morcos tells NJAL that this diverse body of students are “exposed to courses such as Philosophy, advertising along with pattern cutting, and design, as well as workshops with esteemed professors and industry icons from around the world.” For Sarah Hermez who heads up CSB, it’s an aim “to make design education accessible to anyone with vision, flair and the driving impulse to create.” It shows that the Middle East is probably much more progressive than its Western counterparts in stimulating diversity in educational programs, and thereby the industry’s next generation through such projects, and it remains a critical issue of global significance.
In any case, the growing availability of design programmes in the region means that creativity can be honed domestically, and in turn procure more promising visionaries with the enduring global iconicity of somebody like Saab.
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