“During the greatest global challenge in our lifetimes, the SCAD family doubled down on our mission to prepare tomorrow’s professionals for meaningful careers by amplifying our ethos of caring, compelling, student-centred learning.” Savannah College of Art and Design’s president and founder Paula Wallace told BoF.
From SCADnow mentoring students in AR/VR client presentations to SCADpro assignments emulating today’s hybrid work style, the university quickly integrated next-generation technology and effectively mirrored new models of work. Students’ reactions to the shift was overwhelmingly positive: 95 percent of SCAD students expressed satisfaction with their learning experience throughout the pandemic.
In addition to evolving how they mentor students, the university is also innovating how it showcases its graduates, tapping digital reach and virtual connectivity to create a more effective and democratic platform than fashion shows. Last year, the alumna-directed UGC short film Fashion in Film featured the designs of more than 30 fashion students worn by celebrities and influencers, and reached an audience of over 10 million.
“Every SCAD signature event […] expanded engagement this year through new virtual strategies that span continental divides,” says Wallace. “Imagine that you’re a student interviewing for your dream job, and you’re asked what you did during the pandemic. […] You can say you’ve produced an award-winning film that’s crisscrossed the country and circled the globe.”
The success of Fashion in Frame paved the way for The Awakening — a short film incorporated into the university’s latest student showcase in May: SCAD Fashion Week. The Awakening utilised talent across the fashion, entertainment arts and digital media schools, and prefaced the digital debut of SCAD School of Fashion collections in a collaboration among more than 200 SCAD students and alumni in fashion, jewellery, accessory design, motion media design, film and television, sound design, and more. The Awakening premiere was accompanied by virtual workshops with industry leaders — including Bergdorf Goodman’s Bruce Pask, vice president of design at Proenza Schouler White Label, Elizabeth Giardina, and Madonna’s creative assistant, costume designer and SCAD alumna, Mae Heidenreich.
Students worked on the project alongside established alumni professionals, including the film’s director Jess Farran, who graduated from SCAD with a BFA in photography in 2017. She has since worked with the likes of i-D, Paper Mag, Teen Vogue and Ssense, as well as designer and fellow SCAD alumnus Christopher John Rogers.
Now, BoF hears from The Awakening director Jess Farran to learn more about how SCAD continues to champion its alumni’s work and create meaningful connections for its graduating talent.
How was this project conceived and executed?
SCAD presented me with the idea of exhibiting 10 student garments in a narrative fashion film on the theme — out of space. They wanted it to be emotional but without dialogue, and under two minutes. We upped the looks we shot to 20 because the garments are amazing. Every single one is unique, so I thought the best approach was to strip down all of the drama of what a fashion film can be.
We didn’t use models or crazy sets but filmed in a home with objects that are realistic. I wanted the actors to be wearing the clothes, not vice versa. The garments each have their own moment without taking away moments from the other garments, which I think was the biggest challenge.
How did you collaborate with the students on The Awakening?
SCAD students designed the garments but were also the film crew, behind the camera and in the art department — I had no idea they were even students at first. They felt like fully fledged professionals in the industry. They knew what to do just as much as any professional I’ve worked with in the last few years. I was so impressed.
Everything I make I want to be a shared experience and I pick every [person involved] for a reason, for the soul that they can bring into the film. I’m personally really proud of the cast and the students for allowing me to execute my vision.
How have you stayed connected to SCAD as alumna?
When I was still a student, a professor I had introduced me to an alumna and photo editor at Glamour magazine. I got a coffee with her and we hit it off. When I moved to New York, she put me on these jobs as a production assistant — including for Christopher John Rogers. She was always putting me on projects, which I really appreciated. Now, she works at SCAD and that’s how I was contacted to do The Awakening.
When I was in Savannah shooting the film, I saw my former professor and ended up talking to his students in class. It felt like that full-circle moment, sharing what I’ve learned in the last few years. It is nice to feel that evolution of student to alumna to helping students. It is special.
How did SCAD prepare you for working in the fashion industry?
I think the biggest thing I learned from SCAD was how to communicate and how to vocalise ideas — how to be a leader and take charge. SCAD has a great way of teaching students how to talk about art and advocate for themselves when it comes to presenting ideas at a professional level.
Critiques are also intense and you can be your own worst critic, but I learnt that no one’s going to roast me as hard as I will. I’m a perfectionist too, and it’s about paying attention to every little detail, which allows you to flourish with the crazier ideas.
I graduated photography in 2017 and at the time, you were able to pick both fine art and commercial photography routes. I double minored in advertising and advertising photography, and although I don’t work much in advertising, it helps me understand briefs and view them in a fine art — but commercially realistic — way. You have to understand what the client needs, and that’s something I learnt at SCAD.
What was your experience as a student at SCAD?
I went to community college for two years, got my Associate Degree, and then I transferred to SCAD. I had great relationships with my professors and they always pushed me in the direction I needed to go. We were supported in tasks as simple as writing a business contract or sending an email. I am the type of person where I’d rather try and fail than not try at all, and SCAD allowed me to try different mediums and discover more within my creativity.
I double-minored, so I was in multiple buildings all the time. I made great friends at SCAD and many of us live in New York today. I work with them if they need a photographer or I need a stylist or an assistant on photo shoots.
What unites SCAD students and graduates?
SCAD has a lot of students from different countries and backgrounds, genders and sexualities, and that’s what makes it so amazing — everyone there is just trying to extend their creativity as far as they can, but in a way that’s unique to them. The students can’t really be defined by one thing. The shared experience of being a student at SCAD is what unites us, in the simplest way possible.
This is a sponsored feature paid for by SCAD as part of a BoF partnership.