NNA - LAU’s School of Architecture and Design’s sixth cohort of fashion designers put on an eclectic show that combines craftsmanship, innovation and vision.
The act of coming together to create new opportunities, just like a flame first ignites, is perhaps the most accurate description of how LAU’s sixth cohort of fashion design graduates chose to prevail, following three years of economic, political and health uncertainties.
Their graduate fashion show, fittingly named Ignite, filled the audience with a sense of possibility, and defiance through creativity. Presenting five looks each, the students delved into themes of identity, belonging, timelessness, strengths, fears and humor, among others.
Welcoming attendees to the “newest jewel of the Beirut campus crown” – the Gezairi Building – LAU President Michel E. Mawad named the many differentiators that set LAU apart, one of which being the close collaboration with Elie Saab.
“The LAU fashion design program is a statement on the part of Mr. Saab and the university: It speaks to their joint resolution to support and foster talent, their common pursuit of excellence and their shared commitment to Lebanon as a land of beauty and expertise working together to establish global visibility, brand recognition and universal attraction,” said Dr. Mawad.
CEO Elie Saab Jr. told the inspirational story of how his father had launched his business at the height of the Lebanese Civil War as an “act of survival to support his family through what he knows best.”
He drew invaluable lessons from the different phases of the ELIE SAAB brand: “Elie Saab did not start working on his first creation thinking of dressing queens and Hollywood stars,” he said. “He took his time, focused on his work and built his achievements one after the other.”
His parting advice to students was to ‘break patterns, create your own mold, focus inward, be patient with yourself as you develop, set your own goals and commit to consistency and excellence in everything that you do.”
Dean Elie Haddad noted how the program is no longer in the process of development, rather a “flagbearer carrying its own mission and identity”. He pledged to continue on the path of sustained creativity, supported by the faculty and staff and under the guidance of dedicated Director of the Fashion Design Program Silia Abou Arbid.
Indeed, the program offers a hands-on learning experiences and internships that capture the wide-ranging fashion industry, from design and tailoring techniques to marketing and entrepreneurship.
Most recently, a collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme paved the way, among other initiatives, to launch the BioDesign in Fashion course, in collaboration with Vancouver-based innovations lab Temporal Futures. The research findings from that course were showcased prior to the event, at the Bio-Fashion Factory Exhibition.
Following the runway show, three graduates received their awards from the Honorary Chair of the Fashion Design Program and world-renowned designer Elie Saab, who expressed his hope in their up-and-coming talent, which is key to change, and encouraged them to “write a new chapter in Lebanon’s history of successes.”
Cynthia El Masri won the Prix du Jury for her collection, L’éternité, that embodies purity, elementality and timelessness. “My pieces convey the feeling that they have always been there with an impossible conception of their end,” said El Masri. She hopes that they would stand out, as “today’s fashion lacks emotion,” and she chose instead to focus on “things that will be remembered and loved for the emotion they had instilled.”
Lara Nakar received the Concept Development Award for her collection, Schadenfreude, that invites the audience to view grave matters with humor. “Because jokes are considered coping mechanisms, my designs have both elements of seriousness and irony while transmitting the message,” explained Nakar.
Zainab Haidar Ahmad won the Craftsmanship Award for her collection, Identity Layers, that was inspired by the designer’s tendency “to exaggerate and outline the body in order to represent the formation of new identities.” With it, she aims to illustrate how “we create new identities effortlessly and adapt without noticing,” and she drew inspiration from repetitive patterns in nature.