September is definitely the back to school month for everyone – future talented fashion designers included! After an inspirational interview with Roberto La Iacona, the school director of the Istituto Marangoni in Dubai, Pulse talks to Khadija Fadili, Fashion teacher at the IHB school in Casablanca, and to Sarah Hermez, one of the founders of Creative Space Beirut School of Design.

Meet Khadija Fadili.

What is lacking in the fashion industry today? How will your institution fill this gap? 

The obstacle in the fashion textile industry starts with the quality of training. Rare are the fashion establishments in Morocco which offer training adapted to the trades of the textile industry and more particularly the small brands of ready-to-wear and sportswear, the training offered remains at the stage of craft apprenticeships in clothing or that of traditional haute couture. Our establishment has given itself the challenge of having the exclusivity to offer this type of training in order to see the birth of local fashion brands adapted to a targeted clientele while respecting international fashion standards. We offer training spread over three years, in the first year the student learns the basics of styling, in the second year they study the different concepts of the fashion industry and the niches of ready-to-wear from small brands to luxury brands, in the third year they study the concept of haute couture as well as fashion marketing and communication.

What do you think of online education? Is it practical for technical fashion courses?

We experienced this during the Covid health crisis, we managed to achieve good results for the theoretical courses but for the practical courses, the exercises, the checks and the reports, we faced some problems related to the material, computers or the lack of mastery of certain technological drawing tools, or simply the absence of students.

What is your institution’s motto? 

Our motto is “Research, observation and analysis before taking action”.

Are you, or will you, apply any new digital and 3D techniques for fashion courses? 

We apply assisted drawing software by computer DAO, as well as the modelling software Geber and the Lectra system.

Any tips for students who want to study fashion at your institution?

The fist thing is to be passionate about this field because it is a field which requires at the same time an artistic, technical and commercial spirit. There’s a lot of research and culture involved, because everything can be a source of inspiration, always be in search of novelty, have a critical mind, observation and analysis, and above all a spirit of entrepreneurship if we want the product to find its place in the market.

Are there any Master’s or higher level certificates available?

Not for the time being, we offer diplomas for technicians and specialized technicians, but we are working on collaborating with international fashion schools for Master’s degrees.

Meet Sarah Hermez.

What’s lacking in the fashion industry today? How will your institution fill this gap?

Something that is lacking in today’s fashion industry is the idea of equal opportunity. There is so much talent, but the way the fashion industry works today excludes many people without funds, connections or a network from making it. Creative Space Beirut School of Design (CSB-SD) fills in this gap by providing a tuition-free fashion design school. A small pool of students are admitted each year on the sole basis of talent and determination, and are supported financially as well as being provided with a leg up into the industry throughout their three year journey. They are aged between 16 and 25, and hail from all over Lebanon as well as from the Palestinian and Syrian refugee communities. Upon graduation, the institution does not abandon its alumni, but continues to provide support in navigating this difficult industry.

With the resources, training, and support provided by CSB-SD, students have gone on to pursue Master’s programs and apprenticeships abroad, teach at various local institutions, enjoy illustrious careers in the fashion industry, and launch internationally recognized, award-winning brands.

What is the highlight course of your institution? What can you tell us about it?

I think that the highlight of our institution is not necessarily a course, but in the way that conceptual courses, technical courses and experiential learning are integrated, providing a holistic education. CSB-SD encourages peer-to-peer learning and creates individualized paths of study where students produce their own work under the mentorship of local and international artists and designers. The curriculum combines advanced technical training with courses involving creative research and development, the humanities and critical theory. This gives students means to develop systemic and transdisciplinary practices, all the while providing a more holistic understanding of design.

CSB-SD shares its campus and is positively integrated with the various businesses and initiatives of the CSB Social Enterprise (CSB-SE). Students quickly become integral to its operating structure and workflows as a form of diversified technical training. This ensures an intimate exposure and a dynamic cross-pollination between liberal arts education and real-world practices. 

Students are also given thorough industry experience. Throughout their enrollment, they collaborate with boutiques, private clients and other industry players, and engage in various forms of production, from photo shoots and fashion shows to producing collections in volume.

What do you think of online education? Is it practical for technical fashion courses?

Online education is a great tool, however technical courses require space, equipment, guidance and feedback. Online courses cannot replace physical courses in that sense.

What is your institutions motto?

“The hands are the work organs of the heart!” Our mission, and the work we do to reach it, comes from a deep love of humanity and a belief in free education and equal opportunity. We believe that work must always come with good intentions, and we believe in paying it forward to others.

Are you, or will you, apply any new digital and 3D techniques for fashion courses?

Of course, new digital and 3D techniques are crucial as the word advances technologically. It will be of great benefit to our students to be well versed in digital software in order for them to receive job opportunities in the future. We are slowly but surely developing this capability.

Any tips for students who want to study fashion at your institution?

Our program is a three year intensive program that requires dedication, hard work and passion. The fashion industry is a highly competitive industry, therefore our program is competitive as well. We invest a lot in our students during the three year program as well as when they graduate, so the student we search for must be strong willed and ready to work hard for their dream.

Are there any Master’s or higher levels of certificates available?

No, not at this moment. As a tuition-free fashion design school that targets students who are passionate and talented but who lack the resources to pursue an education, we accept students who have never graduated from high school, based on their talent. This means that currently we are not registered with the Ministry of Education as an official school. What we have realized is that in the creative industries, a solid portfolio, experience, and recommendations can go a long way. Our students’ hard work, dedication and passion has proven that they can find their path within the industry without postgraduate degrees, but hopefully in the future we will find ways to become certified by the Ministry of Education.