A fashion school fighting for social justice.
Beirut and Fashion are becoming an inseparable duet. From internationally renowned Lebanese designers, to an ever-growing sphere of local fashion bloggers ravaging the net, fashion is now an intrinsic part of the creativity in the country.
But the story we are highlighting today is way beyond the glamour and glitz of the fashion industry.
In 2011, after graduation from Parson’s university in New York, Sarah Hermez was perplexed.
She loves to create, she is passionate about fashion… but her heart wants to fight for justice in a society that lacks it on so many levels.
So she got an idea… but unlike so many of us who have a zillion ideas per day and do little more than reflect on them on the couch, Sarah fought and brought her idea to life.
With her former professor Caroline Simonelli, Sarah founded the Creative
Space Beirut, a free fashion school for–oh-so-talented-students aspiring to become designers, who cannot otherwise afford to pursue a degree in the increasingly expensive field of fashion education.
Sarah could finally work in a space that reconciled both her passions.
Creative Space Beirut is all about fostering talent and promoting equal opportunities to students from across
Lebanon, irrespective of their gender, race, religion or nationality.
Students commute from everywhere:
Beirut, the Chouf Mountains, Saida, Burj Hamood, Palestinian refugee camps, and beyond.
Their three-year program begins with a collective creative thinking that they are all invited to participate in, and all together they find inspiration to create an exciting cohesive collection.
This genuine collaborative process is echoed through beauty, talent and harmony in the breathtaking and unique collection of each year.
So how does a free school with high-quality education sustain itself financially? Like so many non-profit organizations, the school benefits from individual sponsorships.
Additionally, and excitingly enough for all of us, at the end of each year, the collection is exhibited and sold to the public. All proceeds generated are recycled within the program to help fund the next year.
As for the teachers, they represent the true meaning of teaching and sharing knowledge and expertise. Local and international artists and designers volunteer their time every year to teach various courses and put their skills at the service of the students.
Sarah’s former university, Parsons, The New School for Design, sends Hermez’s partner and professor, Caroline Simonelli, from New York to Beirut every year to teach a course at the Creative Space.
If it ever crossed your mind that a free school means low-quality fabric, well think again! Fabric of the highest quality is donated to the Creative Space by the likes of Donna Karan, Diane Von Furstenberg, Derek Lam and Mood Fabrics New York.
Fashion is inspiration. It is beauty, originality, style and glamour. “Fashion for Good” is heroism.
And in that sense, the Creative Space is the house of so many behind-the-scenes heroes sharing their love of creativity and their passion for equal rights in an atelier somewhere in the city of Beirut.
The Founders of the Creative Space Beirut
Sarah Hermez completed a dual degree in Fashion Design and Media and Culture Studies from Parsons, The New School for Design and Eugene Lang the New School for Liberal arts, respectively. Upon graduation, she interned at Rabih Kayrouz and Issey Miyaki's design houses, and was employed as a textile designer at Bokja Design studio. She also worked as an educatorin Unite Lebanon's YouthProgram. Not satisfied with the consumerdriven design world, Sarah decided to combine her passion for fashion and creativity with her humanitarian convictions by starting a free school. She founded the Creative Space
Beirut in 2011 and currently acts as director, curriculum coordinator and head mentor.
Caroline Shlala-Simonelli is a Lebanese/American designer who teaches fashion design at Parsons, The New School for Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. Before teaching, Caroline had a long career as a fashion designer in women’s dress apparel.
Along with her own line of volume and couture collection, Large Sizes for Q V C, Bloomingdales and Saks fifth avenue, she was also Head Dress Designer at Liz Claiborne and Head Collection.
Designer at Mollie Parnis New York. Caroline co-founded the Creative Space Beirut in 2011 and continues to travel from New York to Beirut for three months at the end of each year to lend her expertise and experience to the students.