The high fashion of show business will be taught in the Emirates as a university launches a specialist course in costume design to capitalise on the country's ambitions to become a centre for film-making. The French Fashion University Esmod International has recruited Pierre Bechir, an experienced designer of costumes for film, to teach its students. The move comes as the university, which has a campus in Dubai International Academic City, presses ahead with preparations to open a branch in Abu Dhabi.
Mr Bechir has worked as a costume designer and tailor on productions in both France and Hollywood, including Kiss of the Dragon, Immortal Beloved and L'Équipier. Denis Ravizza, art director and associate dean of the Dubai campus, said the opening of the New York Film Academy in Abu Dhabi and the Manhattan Film Academy in Dubai meant there would be demand in the future for fashion designers for the film industry.
"They are starting to focus on movie production. Our move means there will be designers capable of designing costumes for here and the region," he said. There is a growing momentum behind the possible growth of a local film industry. The National reported on Friday that the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage was developing plans for a national film commission to help to promote the UAE as a location for overseas film-makers.
The type of incentives that might be offered are yet to be decided, but in other countries, such as Morocco, which attracts up to 30 productions each year, enticements include assistance through customs for film equipment, discounts on airfares and help from the military. Costume design will be one of several specialisations offered to third-year students under Esmod's bachelor's degree in fashion design and pattern drafting. Alternatives include haute couture, lingerie design, knitwear and ready-to-wear.
When the Dubai campus reopens in September for the new academic year, 28 new students from 22 different countries will begin courses, bringing the number of students to about 130. Most staff are French but courses are taught in English. "This is really what we have wished for - this mix of cultures so each can learn the French method, but after two or three years all these cultures mix together and something new comes out of it," said Mr Ravizza.
Only two of the current students are male, but Mr Ravizza says there has been a recent surge of interest among young male Emiratis. "We have more and more of them, coming from Abu Dhabi mostly, but some from Dubai," he said. "They have not registered yet but surprisingly for the past two months we've had several. They are probably feeling less shy about coming to a fashion school. They are starting to realise what fashion is and it's not only for ladies."
Mr Ravizza said Esmod hoped its Abu Dhabi branch would open for the start of the 2009-10 academic year. Esmod is based in Paris and was founded in 1841 by Alexis Lavigne, who dressed Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. It has more than 20 branches, in countries including Norway, China, Lebanon, Germany, Syria and South Africa.