Lebanese fashion school scouts talent in refugee camps, orphanages

Wed Feb 4, 2015 7:34pm EST
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By Oliver Holmes

BEIRUT (Reuters) - It's in the refugee camps and orphanages of Lebanon that Creative Space Beirut, a fashion school, looks for emerging talent for its three-year program taught by top Lebanese and international designers.

Sarah Hermez, 28, founder and director of Creative Space, chooses ten underprivileged students from different backgrounds to join her school in the art district of east Beirut.

They hope to join the success story of Lebanon as the fashion center of the Middle East and home to designers making dresses worn by Hollywood stars on the red carpet.

U.S. singer Jennifer Lopez wore a silver dress by Zuhair Murad at the Golden Globes last month, attention-grabbing with a thigh-high slit. British actor Kate Beckinsale wore an eye-catching gray Elie Saab dress to the same event.

At Creative Space, students sketch ideas in books on large white tables, surrounded by tailor's dummies and spools of different colored thread.

Hermez co-founded the school with her New York-based former professor Caroline Simonelli and says it is for "people who are very talented, very passionate about design, but would never have had an opportunity to pursue design."

When she opened the school in 2011, she traveled around Lebanon, a small Mediterranean country, searching for talent in refugee camps, orphanages, poor neighborhoods and women's centers. Students then applied for a place. New students come in when slots open up.

Some students focus on evening wear but many make the school's ready-to-wear line, including trousers and kimonos. They sell for between $100 and $200 a piece, with high-end fabrics donated by designers that include Donna Karan.   Continued...