LONDON, United Kingdom — Ike Rust, who resigned as head of menswear at The Royal College of Art (RCA) in June, has joined the University of Westminster to develop a new two-year MA Menswear course that will launch in September 2016. “It is the first MA that was started as a Menswear course, rather than a later splinter from an existing womenswear programme,” says Andrew Groves, the course director of BA Fashion Design at Westminster and a key faculty member at the university, who has been integral to the development of the course.
“This wouldn’t have been able to happen even when I started at the Royal [College of Art]. Menswear was still in the shadow of womenswear and now it is accepted as its own fashion discipline, which is really exciting,” adds Rust.
When it launches, the MA will be the only two-year menswear design course in the world. “The Royal [College of Art] is now doing a fashion art-based MA [across both menswear and womenswear] so what we will have is three very different London MAs, including Saint Martins, the Royal and Westminster looking really different to perspective students,” says Rust.
It was under Rust’s leadership that the RCA established itself as a leader in menswear education. “The new MA is going to build on what made the [RCA] course so strong: creative freedom, the necessity to work with imagination and really working with students’ individual aspirations. We talk about skill as if it is something that you can pick up off a table, or take down from a shelf. We want students to develop their own processes, connected to their designs and who they are,” Rust told BoF during an interview between shows at Victoria House, the BFC’s official showspace for London Collections: Men, which features a number of Rust’s previous students, including James Long, Katie Eary, Matthew Miller, Astrid Andersen, Alex Mullins and Liam Hodges.
“As soon as I heard that Ike was leaving the [RCA], I thought, well he has to come here and the course has got to come to Westminster, because of its heritage of developing so many menswear designers,” says Groves. “Whatever he was doing at the RCA was working, so if we can do that at Westminster — fantastic,” he continues. In addition to Rust, the same cohort of industry-lecturers who worked with him at the RCA, which includes creative consultants Rosie Armstrong and Simon Foxton, designers James Long, Matthew Miller and art professor Peter Sidell, have, without exception, elected to join him at Westminster.
In the coming months, Rust and his team will be reviewing prospective student applications for the course, which launches at the end of September 2016. “If anyone is applying to this course, it has to be with 100 percent commitment to two years of study and to developing and to learning, because it is so important to learn as much as you can from the staff, from the other students, from the technicians, specialists, the environment. The students that we want are those that really believe in menswear as a discipline and know the kind of rigour that is needed to work within the discipline,” says Rust.
Indeed, it is the course’s two-year duration the Rust believes is so crucial to its success. “MAs do need to be two years. In those two years the student really has the opportunity to work in a professional context, so they are able to understand that those considerations are really important and when they come to graduate they have got a real sense of what the bring to menswear, who they are and what being a designer means in their career,” he says.
The menswear MA students will be based in facilities similar to those of the school’s BA Fashion Design course, which were ranked the best in the world in BoF inaugural Global Fashion School Rankings. The course will be split between a formative first year, during which students are not graded, and a summative second year, in which they will be marked. “The whole of the first year the students and the staff can explore ideas without the pressure of worrying about grades or marks. The student isn’t aiming their work towards getting a grade; the student is aiming their work to developing whom they are and their potential. The second year is more summative, where obviously there has to be grades, there has to be a final outcome result. But we are going to build that on this foundation of formative freedom. It is going to be quite unique — no other course has that,” says Rust.
“Rigorous design education is paramount. It is so important that each of the students understands that the design process is fashion, and it is really important to tell the difference between converting something and actually creating something. And that is what we ask our students to do — to come up with ways of working with clothes that means something to them, and, ultimately, to the world,” he continues.
To view the full Special Report on the State of Fashion Education, including the first Global Fashion School Rankings, click here.