Is This Free Fashion School In Paris For Real?

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Casa 93 a relatively new institute of fashion located in the suburbs of Paris is going out of its way to break the mold. Now recruiting for its third year, students can apply to study at Casa 93 without fees, yes you heard that, the classes are free!

If you’re dreaming of a fashion career, where better to study than in the fashion capital of Paris. It sounds like a match made in fashion heaven but when course fees are upwards of €15,000 per year depending on the school you choose, for many it’s a dream that’s quickly dashed. Situated in an area that isn’t considered particularly affluent in the Paris region, it’s for this reason that Casa 93 exists, in order to provide fashion education to those for who thousands of euros per year simply isn’t an option. Degrees obtained by Casa 93 are all certified by the state so it’s completely legitimate and above board and thanks to donations, grants, public subsidies and most importantly, the volunteer work of the supervisors, they are able to offer free courses and continue to grow their concept.

Who Is Behind Casa 93?

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Casa 93 isn’t the first school using this style of set up, in fact, the first was in Rio, Brazil. The founder, Nadine Gonzales, first tested the model in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro with fashion school, Casa Geraçao. Casa 93 is considered the little sister of the original school in Rio but in fact, there is a third model too. Another enterprise by Gonzales is a photo-journalism school called Cidade de Deus which is also based in Rio. The whole concept that ties these schools together is the offer of providing free education to the new generation of young people that find themselves on the outside of the school system, allowing them to learn free of charge in areas that would otherwise be considered inaccessible to them.

The location isn’t a coincidence either. The 93 in the name Casa 93 refers to the postcode of the suburb. A suburb renowned for being rather dangerous, a rough area and whose youth numbers are the highest in the outer Paris region as well unemployment for young people. Fashion is so often considered an elitist subject, closed off to only those who can afford it, however talent has nothing to do with your financial background and that the point that Gonzales is trying to make with her free fashion school. There are young people in the suburbs who are very talented, only they lack the financial backing in order to have access to courses and training.

How Does It Work?

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Run out of a spacious workshop in Saint-Ouen, the space is lent by the stylish Mob Hotel and is just around the corner from the famous flea market that attracts tourists and locals staying in central Paris, all year round. The courses run for 15 months and have a very low drop out rate. At Casa 93, the support also doesn’t stop with the end of the school year, they encourage their students to continue with their studies after the course ends, to carry out internships or to start their own businesses. Casa 93 will also work with local institutions in order to secure some scholarships for outstanding talent, last year they obtained scholarships at both the French Institute of Fashion and the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, two highly sought after institutes.

Focusing on recycling, upcycling and sustainability, Casa 93 also encourages its students to incorporate these values into their own ethics and final collections. Not just for the sake of the planet and the fact that this is the direction good fashion designers are heading in but also from a practical point of view; it’s not necessary to spend so much money on lavish fabrics and expensive raw materials for their collections when free, perhaps unusual fabrics can be found easily, forcing students to be their most creative with limited materials.

As far as the classes go, Casa 93 is so much more than just a sewing workshop. Of course students learn to sew however there are also cultural lessons, linguistics and field trip style outings to help open the minds of the students to other creative paths and potential job opportunities.

Who Can Apply?

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Casa 93 is open to young adults aged 18-25 and applications are in high demand. Last year, Casa 93 reported to have received 142 applications for only 20 places. In order to make the right selections, the criteria is strict but broad. Nadine Gonzales explained that Casa 93 is looking for different profiles to those usually found in other fashion schools. They prioritize applications from poorer areas and those who could not afford a traditional fashion school. Of course, they still have to be talented, have passion and a creative nature. Another very important aspect of any potential applicants is the ability and want to work in teams as everything that is taught at Casa 93 revolves around working in a group scenario.

Casa 93’s latest collaborative collection was based around the idea of the “future of line 13” referring to the metro line 13 that the students take to get to school. Mixing together athleisure streetwear styles with classic frills and acidic colors, it’s a true group effort, with each student playing their own unique part in the collaborative. Bringing everything back to the school and ensuring funds for the next batch of talented students, the collection will be on sale at Manifest011 and profits donated back into the school.

Article Commissioned by Mod'Art University of Shanghai

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