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NEW YORK — When Li Edelkoort presented her "Anti-Fashion" Manifesto at BoF VOICES in 2016, she offered a barnstorming critique of an industry that, for all its fixation on setting trends, is stuck in the past.
Now, the trend forecaster and futurist is the dean of hybrid design studies at Parsons School of Design and spearheading the school's newly accredited MFA Textile Studies programme. The aim of the course, Edelkoort says, is to "create a hybrid between Silicon Valley and Hudson Valley," in that it combines digital craftsmanship with the existing heritage of textile production.
"Since the pleated skirts of [Ancient] Egypt, not much has changed," she says. As a result, the textile industry is ripe for innovation — from the use of unconventional materials such as nettle, to the challenges of upscaling sustainable methods and 3D printing.
Hybridity is a key part of Edelkoort's philosophy when it comes to equipping the next generation with the skills to tackle such challenges. "You cannot teach today's youth in terms of just one discipline," she says. Instead, there should be interdisciplinary teaching that creates "layers" of knowledge to draw from as one navigates new experiences.
Take, for example, one of her textile students who is also an avid gardener who is using his knowledge of seeds to form new fabrics, or another who is working with algae gel to create yarns for lace. What sets them apart, aside from their all-important curiosity and passion for the discipline, is that "they have their own other person."
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