Mikayel Simonyan

Parsons School of Design, Parsons Paris
Master of Arts in Fashion Design and the Arts
Huys Scholar 2021 (John Aroutiounian Scholarship for Service to Humanity) 

Background

Upon completing a Bachelor’s degree in the US, I returned to my hometown in Armenia with a dream; to transform my birthplace into a fashion hub. In the middle of a pandemic and a regional war soon to come, I have beaten the odds and built an e-commerce brand upon the foundations of my first fashion collection. The source of my inspiration was and remains the genuine belief in the cultural potential and the human capital of rural Armenia.

Growing up with a disability in Tavush, art, and fashion were always a way to express myself and fight against social- prejudice. Apart from la mode, I also deliver speeches on local and international platforms, such as the Council of Europe in Strasbourg and Unicef; to advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities in Armenia. Hence, working with marginalized groups is integral to my work and social development.

To empower others in my community, I have opened a small studio space to share my knowledge with local artisans and craftsmen from Tavush. Growing up, I have always felt the lack of a platform for developing my artistic abilities. Hence, I would like to fill in that gap myself. Educating a generation of talents is the first step towards preserving and reinventing the culture of rural Armenia. I believe that the artistic potential of Tavush can be expressed through fashion and presented to the outside world, especially that e-commerce has made such exposure very accessible. Moreover, it can play a vital role in the economic development of the region, as fashion is one of the biggest industries in the world.

Education and Future Goals
Teaching others allows me to further engage with my community in Ijevan and invest my skills and knowledge into the development of the town. It is through teaching that I have also felt the urge to continue my education and deepen my knowledge in fashion academically.

By attending Parsons Paris, I aim to grow as a fashion designer, to better serve my community in Tavush, and to accomplish my goal of creating a strong artistic platform for the cultural and economic development of rural Armenia. During my stay in Paris, I expect to work closely with different fashion foundations and organizations. Apart from obtaining new skills and knowledge, I am highly driven by my entrepreneurial spirit to make new connections for my future projects in Armenia. Building a network in Paris is a key step towards successfully navigating the complex field of fashion.

Currently, as I have to relocate to Paris, I had to temporarily close the studio with the promise of reopening after graduation. Upon my return from studying in Paris, I plan to register an NGO for teaching fashion to rural talents and also transform my brand’s model into a social enterprise. I believe that such a model will accommodate my goal of educating artisans in Ijevan and utilize professional networks in Paris. The first step would be to involve parties who believe in this initiative, as it is very challenging to do things alone. I envision a fashion hub in Tavush which trains, educates, and employs local artisans who will sustain this initiative in years to come. I can picture the involvement of the Parisian network to conduct courses, workshops, and collaborative projects for the fashion hub in Ijevan, as it will be beneficial for both parties.

Moreover, France and Armenia have strong cultural ties and I would like to strengthen them through fashion as well. In the past, there are very few instances of such collaborations, particularly related to the survivors of the Armenian Genocide who have made their living by lending their artistry to haute couture. For example, Arousiag Mikaelian is the talent behind Schiaparelli’s “Bowknot Sweater” and thanks to her, the technique is known worldwide as the “Armenian Knitting”.

These are important facts to take into consideration in the present as well. During the third semester at Parsons Paris, I will have the opportunity to intern for a couture house in Paris and I would like to use this as a chance to set a foundation for a new cultural bridge between Armenia and the outside world as well. Armenian culture also deserves to be presented through high fashion.

I am aware that Huys Foundation is granting the Huys Scholarship to me with the anticipation of my good faith pursuit and implementation of the projects and undertakings described in this letter, to which I hereby commit.