Istituto Marangoni to Open Campus in Riyadh

MILAN — After making strides in digital innovation by launching its metaverse space, enabling students to experiment with advanced tech tools and develop fashion shows powered by AI, Istituto Marangoni is committed to equally emphasizing its physical spaces as well.

On Tuesday, the fashion and design education institution signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture through its Saudi Fashion Commission arm for the development of a higher training institute in Riyadh.

Set to officially open with the September 2025 courses, this campus will add to Istituto Marangoni’s 10 existing units across Milan, Florence, Paris, London, Mumbai, Shanghai, Miami, Dubai and Shenzhen, China.

The school’s global managing director Stefania Valenti said the move is in sync with the institution’s mission of creating a bridge between the demands of talents eager to work in the industry and companies — which are increasingly looking to Saudi Arabia as a market of interest — as well as its overall international reach. 

The latter leverages a key asset of the school, which is to offer students experiences stretched across its different campuses. While in the past students usually moved among the European fashion capitals, Valenti noted that since opening the campus in Dubai two years ago, many students from Milan or London are requesting to move to Dubai to continue their studies. 

“I was surprised by the trend, I was expecting quite the opposite. But this is a signal, too, and it encourages us to further strengthen our international mindset and open in emerging markets,” Valenti said. “And how not to consider Saudi Arabia? It’s a destination of great interest for fashion and luxury brands.”

Valenti underscored the efforts made by the Saudi Fashion Commission since its establishment in 2020 in building a local fashion ecosystem, fostering local talents and brands and increasing the overall industry’s attractiveness.

“As we inaugurate Istituto Marangoni in Riyadh, we herald a transformative era for local talent within the burgeoning creative landscape of our region,” said Burak Çakmak, the Saudi Fashion Commission’s chief executive officer.

“With demand for quality fashion education on the rise, our partnership underscores the Saudi Fashion Commission’s unwavering commitment to nurturing and empowering creatives. Together, we embark on a journey to shape a vibrant and flourishing fashion community in the heart of the kingdom, laying the foundation for a future where innovation thrives and creativity knows no bounds,” Çakmak said.

Valenti recalled how the local organization reached out to the school in 2022, when it was opening its Dubai campus. As the institution was focusing all its energies on its new outpost, it agreed to work with the Saudi Fashion Commission for a few years on research and surveys to assess the local market’s needs.

The combined studies showed a high interest in the industry coming especially from young women, as well as their families’ preference of having them study locally and not being forced to move abroad to pursue their education.

“Plus this is a young market overall, as 38 percent of the population is under 25 years old,” Valenti said. “Women currently account for around 33 percent of the Saudi workforce in general, but this number is expected to increase, especially if we look to the fashion and luxury industries.”

Stefania Valenti, global managing director of Istituto Marangoni, and Burak Çakmak, chief executive officer of the Fashion Commission of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture.

Stefania Valenti, global managing director of Istituto Marangoni, and Burak Çakmak, chief executive officer of the Fashion Commission of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture.

Courtesy of Istituto Marangoni

With the fashion education sector still underdeveloped, Istituto Marangoni and the Saudi Fashion Commission aim to fill the gap of professional profiles that could be employed both at international companies expanding in the region as well as helping to lead the rise of the local fashion movement.

“There are plenty of American and English groups investing in the area, especially in retail by opening malls for one, as well as many Italian brands,” Valenti said. “So we’re looking to train students in retail and buying, in addition to our core, like fashion design. But also in everything related to promotion: There are Saudi brands that need to enhance their collections and image via look books, campaigns, fashion shows, also because the Saudi Fashion Commission is working to bring these labels to Milan, Paris and New York for networking and visibility.”

In addition to surveys, the two organizations tested local interest by launching an online course last year. Valenti was surprised by the attendance, as 600 people requested to take part in the professional classes, which were eventually made available for 100 students only. The executive said more sessions and promotional activities will be implemented in the lead-up to the opening of the school, the location of which is still being finalized.

To be sure, the partnership between the two parties will have the Saudi Fashion Commission help Instituto Marangoni identify the area and building to establish the school, facilitating bureaucratic processes, offering incentives for the first years and implementing scholarships to further encourage enrollment. The actual investment and other financial details were not disclosed. 

Classes at the campus will be offered in English, with the main three-year academic program available in areas such as fashion design, fashion management, fashion product, fashion styling and creative direction, to name a few. Students will have the opportunity to choose whether to complete the program in Riyadh and embark on a six-month internship during their last year or complete studies for a bachelor degree at any international Istituto Marangoni outpost.

A range of professional courses in the areas of fashion business, digital marketing, product management and emerging technologies will be additionally offered in Riyadh, although master courses won’t be available at the campus for now.

Other courses will include interior design and those in fragrances and cosmetics. Introduced last year, the latter vertical keeps expanding with the support of companies such as Shiseido, L’Oréal and Dolce & Gabbana Beauty, and is gaining prominence as it has been validated and acknowledged by MIUR, Italy’s Ministry of Education, University and Research. 

“We’ve been the only school to have brought these industries within the scope of higher education,” Valenti said.

As for further openings, the executive said that between Dubai and Riyadh the institution has covered the GCC area. Yet she teased that a new project will be revealed soon, hinting it will further built on the school’s digital presence and its pursuit of cutting-edge innovations.

Founded in 1935, Istituto Marangoni is controlled by Galileo Global Education Italia, the Italian branch of the international private higher education company GGE. It enrolls an average of 5,000 students from 108 different countries every year across its outposts and is ranked among the 100 best universities in the world in its fields, according to QS World University Ranking 2024.

Private schools operating in the fashion, art and design fields under GGE Italia’s umbrella also include Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti — better known as NABA — and Domus Academy.

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