state of the fashion union address
I went to Otis College of Art and Design and got a BFA in Fashion Design. While I loved the education I got, it wasn’t enough. The education I got was driven by my department chair’s ideas on what a designer should know. I know that the basic program structure is the same at Parsons, with which Otis was once affiliated. (Email me if you want to know about the divorce.) While it was a strong base, and I’m by no way dismissing my education, four years just isn’t long enough to learn everything. And we shouldn’t learn everything in four years. Here are some of my ideas on fashion education.
1. A year’s experience in a fashion internship should be a prerequisite to study fashion. Once you put in that time and you experience first hand what it involves to devote that much money, time and effort into this incredibly misunderstood and underrated industry, you can really decide how to approach your education.
2. We need more fashion related electives so we can approach fashion from the angle of our choosing. Once you’ve worked in the industry for a year, now you have a better idea of your strengths and your desired areas of focus. I know several girls in my graduating class that studied design and now work as patternmakers because that’s what they liked best. There should be different tracks for going into design, illustration, construction, merchandising, sales, journalism, business. If you decide during your internship that you really prefer the business end of things, you shouldn’t be devoting time and sanity points towards illustration. Or, if you want to be a designer with a emphasis (or even a minor, double major) in business, you should have that option. (That so would have been me.)
There’s a lot of the business end of fashion that can not be taught in a general business program because this industry is so specialized in our needs. (No wonder we have a reputation for being high maintenence.)
3. We need to deglamourize the industry. Front row seating at couture shows, red carpet gowns, ad space in Vogue, these are not what make a thriving fashion business. The sooner students get a grip on reality, the better designers they will become. What I mean by that is that instead of trying to become the next McQueen, they can focus on finding that niche market or hone their skills on designing for a pre-exisitng customer. The company I work for has been around for 80+ years and they already have their brand identity. A good designer will work with the established customer base to sell more product to them, while exploring a bit, instead of deciding overnight that the company should look more like Demeulemeester. Aspirations to be famous are wonderful, but remember that they are famous because they are good designers.
I want to see these changes implemented in our current education system so we can start addressing concerns specific to the fashion industry now from the very beginning, in areas like corruption in overseas production, international trade policies, environmental pollution reduction, web-based fashion journalism, marketing, advertisement and sales, federal standarization of industry practices, counterfeit law and enforcement.
I know a lot of you are more used to fun’n’fluffy verbalcroquis, so I’ll conclude with a list of classes I wish I could have taken at school.
- How to Produce a Fashion Show aka how to work with skinny models all day and not develop an eating disorder.
- Fashion Finance 101 aka how to know when your finance guy is screwing you blind.
- Cantonese for Garmentos 101 aka how to tell your contractor that they did everything wrong.
- Environmental Procedures for Businesses aka how to politely tell your coworkers *again* that paper goes in the blue bin and you know they’re not colorblind.
- SooperDooper Advanced Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop aka what to do when your computer crashes at 3am and you’re so tired you don’t remember the last time you hit CTRL+S.