From Yerevan to Beirut: An Internship in Fashion

Last July, TUMO Studios student Lily Mehrabian found herself waiting for takeoff on a Beirut-bound plane at Zvartnots Airport. She was traveling to Lebanon for the first time to intern with Cynthia Merhej’s line Renaissance Renaissance — a brand of clothing and accessories that Cynthia describes as “an exploration and constant experiment at the intersection of women, couture, and how they exist in the present day.” In 2018, Cynthia worked closely with TUMO Studios students in a reconstruction-themed fashion design atelier. So earlier this year, when she needed help bringing her next collection to life, she turned to TUMO Studios for an intern. Lily was selected from a pool of several students who applied.

Lily Mehrabian in front of TUMO Studios at 38 Pushkin Street.

“We needed someone to help with the development of the next collection,” said Cynthia, who is passionate about creating objects and attire that combine beauty and function. “In doing so, Lily got to experience the making of a collection and how much work and trial and error is involved in developing ideas.”

Cynthia Merhej working with Lily Mehrabian at TUMO Studios.
Lily Mehrabian working with fabric in TUMO Studios’ fashion room.

Over the course of three weeks, Lily worked closely with the Renaissance Renaissance team to assemble patterns, assist with fittings and experiment with fabrics in the atelier just outside of Beirut. “The atelier has been in Cynthia’s family for decades and it’s stocked with years of material and fashion. Whatever you need, say a pair of white pants, they’ll dig it up,” said Lily. She recounted 8-hour days of cutting, sewing, pinning, arranging and rearranging design patterns until they achieved the perfect look. She even got to accompany Cynthia to local shops for the selection and pleating of fabrics with a specialized machine. 

Cynthia Merhej’s atelier in Lebanon.

“I’m familiar with design work, but never worked that closely with a designer,” explained Lily, who relished being privy to the inner workings of the collection. “Cynthia and her team are perfectionists. They’re incredibly precise. We’d try different fabrics and arrangements for what seemed like a thousand times until there was that aha moment — ‘this is it.’ It’s incredible how much work goes into a single piece, let alone an entire collection.”

Pleated fabric
Pleating molds at a speciality shop in Beirut.

At TUMO Studios, Lily has participated in a number of  fashion design ateliers including accessory design with Ecole Duperré Paris, the Soviet-inspired Աշխատանք N-1 collection with Victor Nouman and fashion reconstruction with Cynthia Merhej. In her own time, she designs and makes clothing for her personal brand. “I try to be everywhere connected with my work. It’s interesting for me to interact with different people in the fashion industry, especially if I admire their work.”

TUMO Studios connects students across its focus areas to internship opportunities inside and outside of Armenia. For more information about our educational program, visit https://tumostudios.com/program/.