Lebanese American University


Fashion students undergo a trial by fire with industry experts

International jurors gather to critique the Fashion Design Student Exhibition.


Yassmin El Saleh won the jury’s award for her work and collection “She for He”.


A scene from the exhibition.


A jazz band led by internationally renowned musician and LAU professor Martin Loyato accompanied this celebration of creativity, art, and talent.


The program’s students embarked on a journey of discovery and experimentation aimed at developing their own voice in the fashion market, developing advanced skills that were remarked and appraised by the jurors.

Jason Steel, the visionary leader of LAU’s B.A. in Fashion Design in collaboration with ELIE SAAB and the London College of Fashion, is a tough bone to chew. He is not one to pay unnecessary compliments, and the Fashion Design Student Exhibition is his way of giving his students a trial by fire.

“They need to go into the industry as a brand, not as designers,” he tells the pool of internationally renowned jurors invited this year to give students a reality check. “If their brand is not going to sell on a specific market they need to know why.” Inclemency — sprinkled with a charming British flair — is his recipe for academic advancement.

To spice up the exhibition, one student is selected annually for an award, a recognition of excellence and craftsmanship that takes into account both the showcased work and the progress made during the year. What is invaluable, however, is the bundle of in-depth feedback that each juror provides, with comments on the concept, branding and textile selection of the showcased work.

The panel of 14 world-class professionals included Cyrille Najjar, product designer and faculty member of the School of Architecture & Design (SArD) at LAU, and Tania Haddad, who worked in leading NY brands and specializes in fabric research. “Fashion is the translation of a concept into garments,” says Haddad while going through the work on display. “What I want to see is innovation combined with a sense of wearability.” Her expectations are heightened by the state-of-the-art machineries provided at LAU, which guarantee for the maximum outcome.

This year’s winner was Yassmin El Saleh and her collection “She for He.” Thanks to her tutors’ guidance, El Saleh has discovered a passion for menswear, which brought her to develop a unisex concept that plays with volume and fabric manipulation. “This for me is not just a major,” says El Saleh in describing the B.A. “I have discovered myself and my talents during this year and receiving a prize is a good boost for my self esteem.”

Yasmine Taan, chair of the Department of Design, insists that this year was more than a success for a single student, marking instead the success of a whole team. The program’s students embarked on a journey of discovery and experimentation aimed at developing their own voice in the fashion market, developing advanced skills that were remarked and appraised by the jurors. One of them, Nabil Houssami, will fund the manufacturing of some selected garments to be sold at his Piaff pop up shop.

The opening ceremony was attended by the Ambassador of India to Lebanon Anita Nayar, who appreciated the students’ work in moulding Indian textile motifs into their own designs, and who will be donating refined Indian fabrics for students to use next year. 

LAU’s B.A. program in Fashion Design is going long distances to offer the best training in the region. While looking up to Elie Saab’s inspirational success story, students are guided into crafting their own personal style.

On June 4, SArD will host the Fashion Talks, which will include a “Designer Citizenship Workshop” by funder of VIT-E Nathalie Fallaha as well as a series of guest speakers. Kevin Kramp, internationally recognized knitwear designer, will offer hands-on advice on creating innovative fashion knitware, while Stefan Siegel, funder and CEO of Not Just a Label, will unveil the development stages behind his step-up initiative. Those who dream of being at the forefront of Middle Eastern fashion industry will find guidance in Bong Guerrero’s presentation, founder and CEO of Fashion Forward (FFWD) and the first to have produced catwalk presentations in the region. 


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