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LAU Fashion Graduates Bring Insight to the Runway

NNA - The Fashion Design program at LAU celebrated its eighth graduating cohort this year in yet another display of sartorial creativity. Themed In Sight, the show manifested the students' quest for meaning amid the economic and political turbulence surrounding them.

In a world rife with challenges, the designers looked inward for the spirit that drives them to create, innovate, and keep their hopes alive. This theme was both a reflection of their academic and artistic journey and a statement of faith in humanity and the transformative power of beauty against all odds.

The collections explored diverse aspects of fashion design, from challenging and experimenting with traditional displays of femininity to embracing self-expression and pan-Arab traditions beyond societal constraints.

Held on June 7 at Fondation Charles Corm, a non-profit foundation inspired by the vision of Lebanese poet and entrepreneur Charles Corm, the show featured the work of 11 designers, each presenting up to six looks, and was attended by LAU President Michel E. Mawad, world-renowned designer and Honorary Chairman of the Fashion Design Program Elie Saab and Elie Saab Jr. CEO of the Saab Enterprise, Provost George E. Nasr, Dean of the School of Architecture and Design (SArD) Elie Haddad, vice presidents, deans, faculty, staff, students, parents and fashion enthusiasts. Nabila Awad, news anchor at MTV Lebanon, emceed the event.

In his opening speech, Dr. Mawad addressed the challenges that the students may encounter in the competitive fashion industry, pointing out that setbacks were part of the road to success.

“This, of course, is not meant to dampen your enthusiasm or dilute your drive,” he said. “On the contrary, it is meant to prepare you for a journey of toil, possible obstacles, unexpected twists and turns as well as surprises of all kinds.” Whatever the difficulties, he added, “You are well equipped for success, optimally positioned for it, and endowed with all that it takes.” 

Dr. Mawad also credited the impact of Saab's support, noting that his influence and association with the program have contributed significantly to its success in Lebanon and the Arab world. “The result, as we can see, is this incredible array of young talent with its outpour of creativity,” he said.

The program's evolution is also a result of the nurturing environment provided by the school and the leadership of Dean Haddad, Dr. Mawad added. Thanks to their efforts, he said, the program's international connections offer students exposure to global trends and best practices in fashion design and “has created a hub for young talent keen on pursuing a career in this field.”

Congratulating the graduates for overcoming challenges posed by the pandemic and crises in the country, Elie Saab Jr. encouraged them to remember that such experiences are bound to shape their future, and that only by being curious and ambitious can they turn those challenges into opportunities.

“My father’s career path has opened the door for many Lebanese designers to follow, and, ever since, we made it our mission to make Lebanon one of the key capitals of fashion around the world,” he said. “Our first brick to sustain this culture starts with you.”

Dean Haddad was particularly proud of the program’s eighth cohort that “has persevered in their path to materialize their dreams and to give the best of themselves,” despite the difficulties faced in Lebanon, and against the background of a devastating war in Gaza. 

“When we reflect on what this generation experienced, we cannot but be impressed by their perseverance and dedication,” he added.
  
He also expressed his thanks for the tireless efforts of the faculty and staff of the program since its inception 11 years ago, including its current director Silia Abou Arbid, visiting critic Jurgi Persoons, who oversaw the work of the graduating class along with Jalal Moghrabi.

Following the show, three students were awarded for their work, and presented with prizes courtesy of one of the event sponsors, Nsouli Jewelry.

Caren Talhouk earned the Excellence in Craftsmanship Award for her collection, Class of 2024, which focused on simplicity and functionality as a method of reimagining everyday items as wearable fashion pieces. “I wanted to reflect the philosophy of seeing beyond surface appearances to uncover deeper meaning,” she said. “It was also a way for me to experiment with designs that are sustainable and economically friendly.”

Dima Jbara earned the Excellence in Concept and Design Development Award for her collection, The New Classic, which merges traditional and modern clothing elements to blur body garment lines and combine urban styles. 

“I was inspired by Greco-Roman sculptures,” said Jbara, “and, drawing from that inspiration, I was able to reinterpret classical archetypes using draping and urban details to create many identities within the wearer.”

The Prix du Jury Award went to Dana Saad for her collection, Glamer, which promotes accessible beauty using unconventional materials like curtains and tarps to move away from exclusive and elitist fashion norms. 

“When Willy Smith, an African-American designer, questioned the elitism inherent in Haute Couture, he believed that clothing should reflect the values and realities of society rather,” she said. “This allowed me to challenge the traditional ideas of high fashion as a symbol of wealth and advocate for a more inclusive approach to style and beauty.”

 

 

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