London, United Kingdom – For most fashion students, graduate fairs mark their debut in the industry; they provide bonding opportunities with publishers and impress buyers and potential employers.
But this year there were no graduate fairs and few opportunities for students to meet industry insiders. Some aspiring designers were not even able to complete their collections on time due to Fabric shops and studios closed.
“This is obviously not a typical situation we find ourselves in,” said Laura Edwards, founder of Mentoring Matters, a UK-based global mentoring program open to applicants from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds. interested in a career in fashion. . “But a lot of students have just been left in limbo because they don’t really know how to navigate the next step. [in their careers]. “
Covid-19 has derailed the functioning of fashion schools. Students enrolling this year face uncomfortable questions about the value of expensive education delivered at a social distance, without the many benefits of a campus and in-person classes. Expensive and powerful fashion schools are also facing increasing scrutiny for their inability to respond to claims of systemic racism and classism, raising questions among some students and alumni about their relevance to the culture of the world. ‘today.
The lack of diversity in the curricula and among the staff of top fashion schools, as well as the scarcity of mental health and financial aid services are an urgent concern, said Anita Israel, former education manager of the UAL. “The kind of hardships students – especially students from ethnic minorities – go through in higher education don’t suit me,” she said.
The kind of difficulties that students – especially students from ethnic minorities – go through in higher education does not suit me.
Then there is the question of the long-term impact Covid-19 could have on the industry. Current students are at serious risk of ending up in a recession, at least in the industry, making employment harder to find. At the same time, the crisis is forcing changes in the way the industry operates, raising questions as to whether schools can adapt in time to provide students with the tools they need to succeed in a new setting. market.
Is it even worth going to fashion school right now?
“There are so many different shades,” said Olya Kuryshchuk, founder and editor-in-chief of 1 attic, a global support platform for emerging designers. “Whether the fashion school is worth it, you have to ask yourself almost on a case-by-case basis looking at each specific school, where it’s based, what it offers, what kind of education it offers.”
For many students, the first factor to consider when considering schools is cost. Annual tuition at a UK university costs around £ 9,000 ($ 11,145) per year, which is north of £ 20,000 for international students, while a degree at top US fashion schools can reach $ 50,000. In addition to college fees, students often have to shoulder the costs of expensive equipment, fabrics, and sets in order to create remarkable pieces that increase their chances of employment later.
This is a significant barrier to entry, especially in times of global economic uncertainty where a return is not guaranteed. On the flip side, a degree from one of the top fashion universities can dramatically ease the transition to an industry that is notoriously difficult to break into.
“We’re so traditional as an industry that we expect someone to come with a degree – it’s still so often on a [job] description, ”said Rachel Arthur, co-founder of the FashMash networking platform. “I think this is not just true for fashion, but in all areas.”
But new avenues in the industry are opening up. Jobs in style and photography, for example, are less likely to require a degree. On-site support can adequately prepare creatives for the hope of securing editorial and commercial jobs. And even aspiring fashion designers who are traditionally seen as more likely to benefit from the rigorous technical training available in fashion school can now find their way into the industry.
Social media, for example, has become a powerful tool for aspiring designers to organize a portfolio, market their designs and build an audience. For self-taught creatives like streetwear designer Oluwole Olosunde, social media has proven to be a successful alternative to staging fashion shows and investing in lookbooks when it comes to showcasing his designs to consumers. . “All this time I have created, manufactured, manufactured – I have so many products on my Instagram,” Olosunde told BoF.
A growing number of companies and nonprofits are also launching fashion mentors, internships and apprenticeships with the aim of making the industry more accessible. For example: Mentoring Matters, which launched in June, connects aspiring fashion designers with established professionals like the photographer. Nadine Ijewere, stylist Cyndia Harvey, and Stunned Editor-in-Chief Isabella Burley on regular one-on-one video calls.
Likewise, Slow factory Foundation this month announced that it has partnered with Adidas and Stella mccartney to provide free online educational programs taught by and for black, brown, indigenous and ethnic minority peoples. The program will also help registrants gain paid apprenticeships in brands such as Adidas, Stella McCartney, WWAKE and Collina Strada. Creator of Pyer Moss Kerby Jean-Raymond has also partnered with Kering on Your Friends in New York, a new platform that supports emerging designers through an incubator-inspired program.
In many cases however, attending a renowned school is still often a prerequisite for potential creatives to get their foot in the door. Fashion internships, a typical first step on the career ladder, are notoriously competitive. A degree from an established fashion school can significantly increase the chances of a successful application, said Amelia Wang, a recent fashion graduate from the University of Edinburgh. In addition, the skills acquired during his studies at fashion school can enrich training work in a company.
“The problem is, getting an internship is so difficult,” Wang said. “If I hadn’t done a diploma and went straight to this [internship at a fashion brand], I would be overwhelmed. For example, by taking notes during fittings or listening to the moderators talk and all the language they use, I now understand what they are talking about.
A good education also has obvious advantages. Normally, students have access to high-quality on-site facilities, as well as tools such as sewing machines and other necessary technical equipment. They also have the opportunity to meet and learn more from world-class fashion specialists, as well as plenty of networking opportunities with like-minded peers. “I found the university to be really valuable,” Wang said. “We would have lessons in model making, lessons in illustration, lectures on how to become independent. It made me a lot more competent to move forward.
It can only be a positive thing to open more doors.
The lockdown measures put part of it on hold, at least temporarily. But they have pushed some fashion schools to open up more to digital solutions first in a way that enriches the elements of the learning offered. Rapidly evolving schools and teachers now encourage and help students learn about 3D design programs like Clo, Optitex, and Browzwear, software often overlooked by most programs, in order to virtually recreate clothes and complete homework. This expertise can come in handy when applying for jobs at companies that expect their employees to have a perfect mastery of 3D fashion design, and can become vital if current trends in digital work persist.
“In the future, everything will be shared online. So why not learn how to do it effectively right away? ” said 1 atticKuryshchuk. “Learn to communicate clearly through [digital presentations] is a very important skill.
Fashion evolves, and its schools must too. As the industry opens up and more and more unconventional career paths evolve, they will have to work harder to attract top talent. On the other hand, the expertise, community, access and education they provide still provide a deeply enriching experience and entry into the industry for many young creatives.
“I understand the benefits of the fashion school environment and the support that goes with it, and an inspiring teacher can have a huge impact … But not everyone has the resources to access this environment and not all jobs require it, ”said Mentoring Matters, Edwards.
“The more pathways to industry and support we can create, the better. It can only be a positive thing to open more doors.
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