A double major in fashion from Parsons and media and culture from the New School (both in New York City), Sarah Hermez moved to Lebanon to make a difference. Inspired by just an idea, she is one of the few who changed their dreams into reality.
Hermez is the founder of a workshop committed to providing an educational experience where fashion designers from various backgrounds work together to create a haute-couture collection. At the heart of the idea is the aspiration to serve students from deprived backgrounds.
The Creative Space was given this specific name to allow its founders to expand. “We were thinking about a name for a while, but this one just seemed to suit it most, it really is a space for people to be creative,” Hermez said.
Future plans for the Creative Space include art, photography and even a publication where the students write journals.
Living in New York City her whole life, Hermez wanted to give back to Lebanon and moved to Beirut to start this project. “Where else can someone feel most free to give back, other than their own country?” Hermez asked. “It was time for me to learn about the country I come from.”
Working at first with an NGO, Unite Lebanon’s Youth, Hermez was able to circle refugee camps and women’s institutes to find potential candidates interested in her idea. “I had no credibility at first, it was just me and my teacher from New York but I really believed in it and that’s what got the girls to believe in me,” the young woman said.
Rania Dalloul, Hermez’s childhood friend, came on board to help market the project. Dalloul runs the website and Facebook page, which –to its founder’s surprise– received much attention.
“People wanted to know more, so I started updating more,” the young woman said.
Dalloul also contributes by teaching the current five students English classes three times a week. “They wanted to learn English, so they just asked me,” she said. “My Arabic is very weak so it’s always an exchange.”
The requirements for those who want to join the Creative Space are very basic; passion is the priority. The young students, aged 17 to 23, are talented and have previous experience in fashion design.
Baraa Al Abdullah, a 20-year-old Palestinian born in Sidon, attended the UNRWA Sibleen training center to learn about fashion design. Hermez discovered Al Abdullah when she contacted the school to find students interested in her idea.
“My parents were against the idea at first and were worried that I wouldn’t find a job later,” Al Abdullah said. “But I believe that I have a future in this industry.” There are no rules as to what the young women must design –a fact that helps enhance their creativity. “Sometimes I start by making a top and I end up with a dress, our ideas are developed as we design,” Al Abdullah said.
Eman Aswad, a 19-year-old Palestinian who previously attended MDM Technical College was not very confident about her designer skills before she ran into Hermez. “When I met Sarah, I felt more comfortable with my work, I was doing what I was feeling and not what I was told,” Aswad said.
Aswad feels that working at the Creative Space allows her to grow as a designer. Unlike most fashion institutes in Lebanon, the Creative Space does not impose specific guidelines on designers. “I have so much freedom with my designs,” Aswad said. “When I’m done with them, I really feel like it’s my work and not someone else’s.”
Nourhan B., a 17-year-old Palestinian born in Shatila, is the last person to join the program. Nourhan never thought that fashion design would be her field of study. “In my family, design is not really appreciated –although my parents fully support me today,” she said.
For Hermez and Dalloul, the Creative Space is a platform for creativity. “We want to expand in terms of not just being fashion design,” Hermez said. “The idea behind this is that of an education where you’re producing.”
By Ranim Hadid
LAU Tribune staff