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Near the most expensive cinema in town, a place where you can meet youngsters showing off their cell phones, I noticed an obscure sign. It reads “International Education Center School of Art & Fashion (IECSAF)”.
IECSAF occupies the second floor of a small building located just across the street from Nepal Academy, the national academic institution committed to preserving and enhancing language, literature, culture, philosophy and social science of Nepal.
At the entrance of the School a security guard in uniform salutes all the visitors. You can tell that there are not so many of them these days by looking at the shoe stand at the door, which is almost empty. The school principal was kind enough to tell me about the institution and did not mind me taking some photos. .
In this country there are plenty of rich people. They are people who would like to be well dressed. Nepal is one of the largest importers of New Zealand wool and one of the major manufacturers of carpets The Nepal movie industry, known as “Kollywood”, consumes lots of clothing and decorations. For those who wish to start a career as a model, designer or architect, the IECSAF offers various courses in interior and fashion design. These courses last as short as three months and as long as four years. In one year, a student can complete Design Theory, Design History, Color Theory, Furniture Design and Interior Design. At the same time, they learn how to decorate an apartment, how to organize a fashion show, how to estimate a project, the basics of CAD, Vastu Shastra, Feng Shui and landscaping, as well as interior design. Most of the courses are taught in English.
The Kathmandu branch is not the only school of this kind in Nepal. There are similar schools in some smaller cities around the country. Their graduates own more than 72 fashion shops all around Nepal, design more than 60% of the costumes for the entire movie industry, uniforms for banks, airlines, hotels and casinos. Around 21 architecture bureaus were launched by their alumni.
Listening to the school principal, I forgot for a moment that I am in the country struggling with the revolution, poverty, illiteracy, water safety, poorly regulated traffic and corrupt police force.
2. I had to wait for quite a while at the reception. There was a couple who came before me, a guy and a cute girl. While they were discussing something behind a frosted glass door, I was staring at the bright glares on the brick-red helmet lying on the brick-red sofa.
3. Classrooms were full of students drawing, sewing, and quietly talking to each other. Encountering a teacher was a very rare event. Although sometimes one might pass a teacher in the hallway.
4. Fashion Design studio.
5. Rows of USHA and ANSAR sewing machines in the Fashion Design studio (or, as they called it, the Fashion Lab). The students and their teacher are focusing on their work.
6. A student reviewing her notes under supervision of the model smiling from the wall poster.
7. Another student is making corrections in her drawing in the classroom next to the computer lab.
8. The walls in the classrooms and hallways are decorated with alumni artwork.
9. This is not an image distortion. As you can see, models in fact have extraordinary long legs.
10. Fashion house
11. An architect-to-be studies basics of design planning.
12. Student work
13. The secretary and her assistant are choosing drawing paper sheets for exams.
14. Student work
15. Who can be a better women’s apparel designer than a female?
16. Student work
17. Class at the Fashion Lab
18. Fashion soccer. Student work
19. A girl, looking too young to be a student, is learning to draw croquis.
20. A computer lab. In order to avoid glares on the computer screens from the bright Nepalese sun the drapes have to stay tied in a knot.
21. A furniture design student and her draft of a new sofa.
22. A classroom
23. A student in the Fashion Lab.
After graduation, students of the School of Art & Fashion are going to become fashion designers and architects. They will probably start their own fashion stores and studios in Nepal. They can even leave this country in pursuit of their dreams overseas. Everything I saw in Nepal before was so different from this school, including its principal, who was fluent in speaking English, as well as its students, classrooms, model sets, and drawings on the walls. Being there felt like I slipped into another dimension, somewhere between East and West.
In the fashion lab one of the boys, adorned in curly hair and sporting keen bright eyes shied away from my camera. Later he came up to me and said quietly in a restrained voice: «Thank you for taking photos of me».