Internationally acclaimed designers and academics including Diane von Furstenberg and Marta Kuzma gave talks on fashion design and art education at a series of events at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar).

A number of high profile educators, artists and designers visited VCUarts Qatar in Education City to give talks as part of a series of events at Qatar Foundation, and ahead of the inauguration of the National Museum of Qatar. They included legendary fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg; fashion entrepreneur Dame Natalie Massenet; David Linley, Earl of Snowdon; Marta Kuzma, the first female Dean of Yale School of Art; Rosanne Somerson, President of Rhode Island School of Design; and Shawn Brixey, Dean of Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Richmond.

World famous fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, who created the iconic wrap dress, gave a talk at VCUarts Qatar’s Atrium as part of Qatar Creates series of events to celebrate the opening of the National Museum of Qatar. She also met with faculty and students from VCUarts Qatar’s fashion design programme where she answered their questions and gave them advice about the fashion industry. She talked about what inspired her to create and who her influences were when she was starting out. The talk was moderated by VCUarts Qatar’s Interim Chair of Fashion Design, Kimberly Guthrie. She said:

The most important relationship in life is the one you have with yourself and as long as you have that, and you own it, you make a mistake, own it, face it, deal with it. Your imperfections, all your imperfections, they become assets.’

Dame Natalie Massenet, the fashion entrepreneur and former journalist who founded the designer fashion portal Net-a-Porter, met with VCUarts Qatar fashion design students and faculty and answered their questions about the fashion industry. She was given a tour of the university and met with Dr Donald Baker, the university’s Executive Dean.

Dame Natalie Massenet

Dame Natalie, who was described by The Observer newspaper as ‘fashion’s favourite self-made success story’, was visiting Qatar as part of Qatar Foundation’s Education City Speaker Series, where she gave a talk at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar. The talk was moderated by VCUarts Qatar’s Interim Chair of Fashion Design, Kimberly Guthrie. Dame Natalie is the former chairman of the British Fashion Council. She is currently a non-executive co-chairman at online luxury fashion retail platform Farfetch and is the co-founder and co-Managing Partner of Venture Capital Fund Imaginary Ventures.

At the panel discussion titled ‘From The Art School To The Art World: Preparing a New Generation of Artists, Designers and Art Professionals for the Future’ panelists Rosanne Somerson, Shawn Brixey, Marta Kuzma, and David Linley, Earl of Snowdon, discussed how art education has changed since the establishment of the first art academies some centuries back, and what new fields of instruction, courses or pedagogical approaches need to be integrated into existing academic programmers.

The panel discussion was also a part of the Qatar Creates series of events to celebrate the opening of the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) and was moderated by Dr Jelena Trkulja, Director of Education at Qatar Museums (QM). Dean Brixey said:

The trends that we’re seeing now is that technology is having an enormous impact on arts education, hybridization, collaboration, social practice, social justice, and social media, which is also giving access to distribution channels that artists never had before. A gallery system or a museum system is very different than being able to have access to millions of people.’

The panel debated how important a formal art education is for artists, designers, and artisans-craftsmen, as well as other art and museum professionals.

The events at VCUarts Qatar drew large attendances, and audience members, whether students, faculty, staff or visitors, eagerly engaged with the speakers and panel members and many came away impressed with the high standards of the talks and also of the access to the speakers.

VCUarts Qatar regularly hosts talks and exhibitions by renowned local, regional and international artists, designers and academics throughout the academic year. Find out more about events at VCUarts Qatar at