From its world-class designers to its style icons, Beirut has earned itself an enviable reputation as a fashion hub. Now, a new design school is offering a totally free fashion design education to Lebanon’s emerging talents.
Creative Space Beirut
There is something very special about the first floor of the Nazaretian Building in the artsy Mar Mikhael neighborhood. A group of passionate and skilled creatives are busy sketching and stitching under the watchful eyes of Sarah Hermez and Caroline Simonelli.
“In order for design to be used as an effective tool for social progress, it needs to be inclusive, incorporating visions and voices from people of diverse backgrounds,” says Hermez, who in 2011 founded Creative Space Beirut with Simonelli, her former professor at New York’s prestigious Parsons School of Design.
The duo decided early on that Beirut needed a free creative design school for individuals lacking the resources to pursue their studies at expensive fashion institutions and established Creative Space Beirut. The school offers aspiring designers a three-year program, during which they are mentored by a team of local and international designers and artists. Even the cost of their transportation and materials is covered.
“After the initial three-month pilot project, I was in awe at the raw talent and determination I saw in the students and at what we were capable of with such little time and funding. I was certain that I wanted to keep going,” adds Hermez.
The holistic curriculum adopted by Creative Space Beirut integrates technical skills, conceptual design and real-life experience. Students collaborate with initiatives in the design world and the community at large, gaining experience and forging connections within the industry.
At the end of each year, the students’ designs are exhibited and sold at public exhibitions. To date, shows have taken place at prestigious venues including Beirut Art Center, Bokja Design Studio, the Contemporary Art Platform, 4 Concept Store in Kuwait and, most recently, at Dar El Nimer for Arts and Culture.
In the costly world of design, fostering talent through free and equal opportunity education is what makes Creative Space Beirut really stand out. Surrounded by cuts of beautiful fabric, Hermez talks of her goals: “We are working towards growing into a free school for a variety of creative studies. Lebanon is full of talented people, who just need a helping hand in making their dreams a reality.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Last year, the first students graduated from Creative Space Beirut.
Fatima Nourelddine works at the luxury handbag design house Sarah’s Bag.
Heba Nahle is currently completing a master’s degree in fashion systems at the Politecnico di Milano.
Roni Helou is participating in Starch Foundation, a design incubator affiliated with renowned Lebanese designer Rabih Keyrouz. He showcased his first collection at Fashion Forward in Dubai and is working on his second collection, which will also be presented in Dubai.
Aline Seukunian has been hired by Creative Space Beirut as a production manager for the ready-to-wear brand. She is also a mentor at the school.