Lebanese American University


LAU center stage at Beirut Design Week

Leading international figures in fashion, art and design visit LAU campus for workshops and talks as part of Beirut Design Week 2014


Caroline Simonelli, professor at Parsons School of Design, led a workshop introducing participants to the creative process of making spiral bias dresses.


Turkish designer Esen Karol giving a talk about thinking processes, creative strategies and how to foster a dialogue among the students, faculty and the broader design community.


Mona Hatoum giving a talk on her views on creative practice through her personal experiences.


OBE winning fashion journalist Hillary Alexander giving a workshop entitled “Life on the Front Row”.

If Lebanon’s global potential is obvious anywhere, it is during Beirut Design Week (BDW). The event, organized by MENA Design Research Center, focuses on creative economies, intercultural exchange, design education and design entrepreneurship.

For the second year in a row, LAU’s School of Architecture and Design was a BDW participant with two workshops and a talk, taking place on campus on June 12. LAU Beirut Design Week events celebrate the establishment of the B.A. in Fashion Design in collaboration with ELIE SAAB and highlight the design department’s interest in contributing to the growth of both fashion and graphic design professions. This year too, the university drew a large distinguished crowd and prestigious speakers.

Caroline Simonelli, celebrated former fashion designer for Liz Claiborne and professor at Parsons School of Design, was the first to get on campus. She led a five-hour workshop introducing participants to the creative process of making spiral bias dresses through free hand draping, teaching them different techniques such as spiral draping, ruching and fluting using high quality fabric donated by Donna Karan. The fashionistas came from different walks of life, ranging from amateur enthusiasts to professional designers and at the end, everyone had an almost finished garment to take home. Soraya Oubari, a high school student with ambitions to become a fashion designer said, “I didn’t know you could do so many things with one piece of material!” The workshop took place in coordination with the Creative Space Beirut, an innovative free fashion design school in Beirut founded by Lebanese Designer Sara Hermez and Simonelli.

“Life on the Front Row” was the title of a workshop given later in the day by OBE winning fashion journalist Hilary Alexander, currently fashion director of The Daily Telegraph. Alexander filled in the participants on such topics as translating a shoot from a vision to an actual photograph, prepping for interviews and debate over print vs. digital media when it comes to fashion. “Fashion journalism is unique because it encompasses so many other disciplines - science, technology, history, craftwork, social problems, culture, desire, psychology and more,” says Alexander.  When asked about Lebanese designers, she mentioned how they excel at creating red carpet gowns and said that the heritage of textiles, beading, embroidery of the MENA region should be preserved.

Both Simonelli and Alexander sat by highly acclaimed international artist and LAU alumna Mona Hatoum, as well as Turkish designer Esen Karol for an evening talk in Irwin Hall. The event aimed to raise questions about thinking processes, creative strategies and also to foster a dialogue among the students, faculty and the broader design community. Each of the speakers addressed issues pertaining to their creative practice through their personal experiences in their respective fields of expertise.

“We were extremely fortunate to have world-class practitioners coming here to give our students the benefits of a lifetime of experience. It was very much appreciated by the participants, who not only learnt about new ways of working but also about professional practice and what it means to work in a studio,” said assistant professor Jason Steel.


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