ALBA fashion students show avante-garde creations
‘Architecture dresses,’ handmade sweaters on display as designers challenge the norm
BEIRUT: Deep bass beats reverberated throughout Station Beirut Wednesday night as a crowd of welldressed visitors waited for the show to start.
Illuminated paths marked the way through dim rooms for models clad in avant-garde style strutting down elevated platforms, showcasing work by first and second-year students from the Academie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts Ecole de Mode.
First-year students Marie-Gaelle Helou, Marianne Checri, Jackie Beik and Joanne Haddad were expected to produce three designs: a flag skirt, an event shirt and “le corps extraordinaire” – the extraordinary body.
And the result? Designs with descriptions like Checri’s “iridescent overall with shells and triangular mauve mask.”
The collection of young designers looked almost extraterrestrial, or “astronautical,” as one visitor, Susanne Schmelter, described it.
The models were wearing eclectic geometric headwear paired with similarly angular outfits.
The first look, a design by Helou, had been featured on the flyer for the event.
The white overalls were reminiscent of silky sheets in an untidy bed, simultaneously fluffy and shiny.
“The first-year students get a pretty fixed plan, while the secondyear students have more freedom,” Emilie Duval, director of Ecole de Mode, told The Daily Star.
She added that while first-year students were just asked to design specific pieces, second-year students were responsible for putting together an entire outfit.
One of the assignments for the second-year students – Mabel Sfeir, Yasmine Issa, Nour Mzawak, Andrea Chaanine and Nadine Bou Arbid – was “la robe architecture,” (the architecture dress) for which the young designers had to derive inspiration from a Beirut street of their choosing, Chaanine explained.
Her design was half covered with a red caro-patterned apron, which was not fixed on the model’s shoulders, but rather hung down diagonally from blue and white strips, accessorized with a tunnel-like cylinder containing blue spirals hanging from her arm.
The second-year designers were also tasked with crafting big, woolen handmade sweaters.
While their dresses sported eccentric non-functional elements like protruding spikes and spirals, the sweaters more closely resembled streetwear one might see in a fashionforward city – except for one detail: these pieces had to include attached hoods covering the models’ head from front to back.
Duvant addressed the aesthetic of the show, saying she initially received pushback from students who wanted to design more traditional, mainstream pieces.
“In the beginning, the students complained a lot, because they have an idea about fashion in their mind, they want to do evening dresses,” Duvant said. “That’s why we want to break their fixed idea.
“We want to push them to go beyond their horizon. In their third year, they can do what they want,” Duvant said.
Chaanine described her work as a creative process that has yet to achieve “high art.” But she also said her mother supported her fashion studies since childhood, even encouraging other family members to embrace Chaanine’s artistic vision. “When I started [designing], some of my friends and family said: ‘What are you doing?’
“‘This is not fashion.’ But now, [my mom] tells them ‘OK, you will be shocked first, but it’s art.’”
“It was so much work, it was really hectic,” Chaanine said.
“But when you see the model on the stage, you forget everything. It’s worth it.”