FLORENCE, Italy — Last month, Polimoda announced their 2020/2021 scholarship plan for their undergraduate and master programmes, worth over €2 million for the academic year starting this autumn. Come September, scholars shall now also encompass the new intake of the student body. Previously, Polimoda’s scholarship programmes mainly benefitted current students and alumni.
“Polimoda grew a lot in the last few years — we more than doubled in size — so we decided it was time to give something back,” the school’s director Danilo Venturi told BoF.
A scholarship is available on every one of their fashion design and business courses, across two-year, four-year and masters programmes. The scholarships seek to offer financial support for both national and international students, supporting the growing workforce demand from within the Italian industry as well as boosting the international student body that makes up 70 percent of the school’s 2,300+ cohort.
Polimoda is located in a hub of Italian creativity and manufacturing, with three Florentine campuses designed to replicate the industry experience, including the newly opened Manifattura Tabacchi. The school operates within the Made in Italy culture, nurtured by its faculty of industry professionals and through partnerships with companies such as Gucci and LVMH, Salvatore Ferragamo and Valentino.
Now, BoF speaks to the school’s director, Danilo Venturi, to hear more about how Polimoda plans to equip and empower its current and incoming student cohort with the tools to join a fashion industry moving into the future.
Tell us how Polimoda’s scholarship programme has evolved this year.
We previously had mostly indirect scholarships that were linked to special projects like talent development for alumni, Polimoda Talent, or scholarships for current students linked to applied projects with the companies we collaborate with. But these scholarships were mainly for people already attending Polimoda. Direct scholarships — for those applying to join the school — were limited.
We also added a free Open Education Coaching programme under the guidance of Linda Loppa with no geographical limits and available to everyone, both Polimoda alumni and individuals from all schools.
Now, we have decided to put direct scholarships on the table. We calculated that all together, this scholarship programme will amount to more than €2 million, which is significant when you consider the size of the school and the context of the on-going pandemic, also because we didn't need it commercially.
Why have you introduced this new scholarship programme?
Polimoda has more than doubled in size in the last few years, so we decided it was time to give something back. After the health crisis, we will inevitably experience an economic crisis, and more families will have financial problems.
Our school decided to help with the scholarship campaign “We Reinvent School.” Private fashion schools are now seen as a luxury. This prevents many potential talents from gaining access to education. We want a school with an open vision of society, with tools and laboratories equal to those of industry, with teachers who come with practical experience. We want a school that helps students become who they are — and we want this possibility to be given to everyone.
We want a school that helps students become who they are — and we want this possibility to be given to everyone.
I think every school should do its part when it comes to restarting the economy, especially when the school can afford it. The scholarships will allow us to draw in a larger applicant pool, which will mean we can gather more talent and give more opportunities to talents that perhaps couldn't afford the school.
The school has always struggled to follow the industry, but now we want to push the industry. Fashion has been stagnant for too long; new ideas are needed, therefore new talents are required. That’s why the audience must be larger and that’s also why we launched a massive scholarship campaign.
How is the programme and application process organised?
We divided the scholarships by area. So, more than 200 scholarships are linked to the associate courses, which are new, shorter courses with a practical approach. We designed them for Italian citizens, to cater the workforce shortage in the Italian industry. The fashion industry continues to grow and demands a larger workforce, especially in the luxury tier. So, the scholarships are also a way of satisfying the demand of the industry, especially with more technical workers — it’s not all designers and executives.
Then, you have scholarships for the four-year undergraduate courses, which are open to all European students, and more than 20 international scholarship opportunities for master courses.
The application process is straightforward — we gathered all scholarships on one page, so you can scroll down and see the course you like, then you can go to the page of the single course and find out if the programme is for you. The applicant then fills in a form for the scholarship, and the rest of the process is the same — you have your interview, a sort of entrance exam, and if you are among the best students, you are offered the scholarship. I also want to specify that the scholarship will be effective immediately: the tuition they pay will already be reduced by the amount of the scholarship.
What would make a scholarship applicant stand out to you?
Before I became the dean, I was in charge of admissions as head of department. During that process, what I was looking for in students was their potential. It's a matter of attitude, not a matter of skill, because applicants are generally young and lack experience. Therefore, I cannot evaluate an entrance interview according to what they know already.
I need to understand the potential of the student and what, or who, that student could become — and to see if they really want it. Our entrance rate is tough so a place at Polimoda is not to be taken for granted.
The idea of thinking to the future is embedded in the DNA of the school — the mindset of the school is the future.
It's a personal application process, which has to do with the philosophy of the school. Polimoda is human-based, human-driven, content-driven. It's about your persona, your personality, your future career. It's about learning. So, the entrance interview reflects this philosophy.
What role can fashion education play in shaping an industry experiencing such upheaval?
I think the industry should listen to young people more. Right now, we need a shot of innovation. We think of Polimoda — a school of 2300 students, 74 percent of which are international from 70 countries, divided equally between undergraduate and postgraduate, fashion design and fashion business — as a large research laboratory.
In every moment of crisis, we had great ideas that relaunched the fashion industry, from Chanel and Ferragamo's effect in-between the two world wars, to Armani’s reinvention of menswear in the '78 crisis or the avant-garde movement in the '90s. To foster that kind of innovation, you need talent and fresh minds. So, if we don't offer the scholarship opportunity to a wide audience of students, we could leave some essential thinkers and their ideas behind.
What we ask of our students is to innovate, not just reproduce what they see. For example, in all of our undergraduate and masters courses, you have a midterm project and a final project each year. Usually the midterm is a key study, which means the students study something that has already happened, whereas the final project is about making something happen, inventing something new about a business model, how you communicate it or make it work. It's part of our didactic system.
We were among the first fashion schools to introduce a trend forecasting course. So, the idea of thinking to the future is embedded in the DNA of the school — the mindset of the school is the future. The crisis is also an occasion and students are the future. This is how we can push the industry.
This is a sponsored feature paid for by Polimoda as part of a BoF Education partnership. To learn more about Polimoda, please click here.