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How to Get the Most out of Your Fashion Education

BoF’s new Education Council of global fashion industry experts offer their advice to prospective students.
(L-R back) Robyn Healy, Floriane de Saint Pierre, Jane Rapley, Linda Loppa, Pamela Golbin. (L-R front) Sara Sozzani Maino, Pascal Morand, Karen Harvey, Bandana Tewari, Sara Kozlowski, Christine Tsui | Collage by BoF
  • BoF Team

Explore BoF’s full report on The Best Fashion Schools in the World 2019 and the new methodology here.

LONDON, United Kingdom — BoF has unveiled its selection of the world's best fashion schools, employing a new approach that does away with numerical rankings and focuses instead on helping students assess which programme will best prepare them for their chosen career in fashion.

The fourth edition of BoF’s assessment of global fashion schools maintains its rigorous statistical approach, incorporating feedback from 13,500 students and alumni, 66 schools and 115 recruitment and industry professionals.

In addition to this input, we formed the BoF Education Council, a committee of 12 global experts in fashion education and the fashion industry. They became our trusted guides as we sought to completely re-imagine how we analysed and presented our results.

Members of the BoF Education Council are:

Jane Rapley (Council Chair), Professor Emerita, Central Saint Martins; Bandana Tewari, Contributor, The Business of Fashion & Sustainability Activist; Christine Tsui, Fashion Business Consultant & Columnist; Emma Davidson, Owner & Managing Director, Denza; Floriane de Saint Pierre, Founder, Floriane de Saint-Pierre et Associes; Karen Harvey, Chief Executive, Karen Harvey Consulting Group & Founder and Chief Executive, Fashion Tech Forum and Indx; Linda Loppa, Honorary Doctor, UAL & Consultant, Linda Loppa Factory; Pamela Golbin, Former Chief Curator of Fashion and Textiles, Musée des Arts Décoratifs; Pascal Morand, Executive President, Fédération de la haute couture et de la Mode; Robyn Healy, Chair, International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes & Dean, School of Fashion and Textiles; Sara Kozlowski, Director of Education & Professional Development, Council of Fashion Designers of America; Sara Sozzani Maino, Deputy Director Special Projects & Head of Vogue Talents, Vogue Italia.

The council’s input was instrumental in developing this year’s new approach, methodology and shortlist of schools. BoF led a roundtable event with the council, extracting their expertise on the state of fashion education. Four important themes were tabled, and the council offered these key takeaways:

On Finding the Right School

Christine Tsui

“It’s important for young students to first know why they are studying fashion design, because many design students like fashion design because they have a misunderstanding of the industry. They don’t really know what design means to them, before they apply to the schools.”

Jane Rapley

“The course, not just the school, has to be right for you... Many students try to talk themselves into what they think will be the best course — it’s no good doing that. The place has got to be right for you, because only then will you be able to learn successfully and grow.”

Sara Kozlowski

“Be mindful that outside of the design roles, there are a growing number of positions in digital commerce, digital marketing, tech, the new retail, and the direct-to-consumer frontier of that. Up to 70 percent of the positions we hear about in fashion are not design positions, and it’s a valuable [thing] for future talents to be aware of.”

Emma Davidson

“Think about what you are going to bring to your own learning experience. You have to be prepared to get stuck in and work hard. Going to a big-name school doesn't guarantee you a successful career. It's going to be not just creativity, but also good work ethic, communication and practical studio skills.”

On the Importance of Sustainability

Pamela Golbin

“This generation of students has actually lived through the whole movement of sustainability… They will need to be equipped to write the new standards for the fashion industry, and they will be the ones to make major changes to the system. One of the priorities for schools is bringing sustainability to the forefront so the new generation can write these new rules.”

Bandana Tewari

“People who have been in this dialogue for a long time are still grappling with ‘What does sustainability mean?’ No one has a uniform statement. I think the lack of a definition, that’s one of the biggest challenges right now. I appeal to the students of tomorrow to be slow thinkers, slow designers and make products with a great sense of purpose.”

Floriane de Saint Pierre

“I think that we should not only bring sustainability to fashion but also think about sustainable brands, companies and business models. It’s about the materials, production, the inclusive design, [but also about] how the employees in-house and outside are treated. It’s also the social responsibility of fashion academies.”

Sara Sozzani Maino

“If you want to open your own brand — there is no justification for doing a collection that is not sustainable or doesn’t give a message. We don’t need any more clothes, we are full of that — whoever wants to become something now, has to be something that will solve problems or reuse what is already there.”

On the Role of Technology

Robyn Healy

“Prospective fashion students need to be conversant with technology, but perhaps more importantly, develop an understanding and acknowledgement of its impact on people and the world.”

Sara Sozzani Maino

“High-tech and AI is something that is going to become bigger and bigger. That’s something that has to be communicated [with students] because it’s not an idea — it’s a fact. It’s something that goes together with responsibility.”

Pascal Morand

“Technology in fashion equally combines low-tech (intelligence of the hand), mid-tech (mechanisation) and high-tech (automation/robotisation). All this must be fully integrated in fashion education. Technology, however strong it is, must never deviate from its essential role: supporting design and creativity, the human factor.”

Christine Tsui

“As the education [most designers] receive is more artistic, I don’t think they like to read data and see numbers. All these requirements are new requests from the job market — this is what I see happening in China. They are driven to use data and how to let data tell you what products are selling better and why.”

On Starting Your Own Business

Sara Kozlowski

“If you have an entrepreneurial mindset, you can invent your own role. I think that it’s a really exciting time now, in terms of the relationship within education and industry, because graduates are in many ways leading the industry with solutions or mindsets around sustainable systems.”

Pascal Morand

“Have a crystal-clear vision of your project and of its competitive environment; be realistic in your business plan and innovative in your business model; constitute a strong and solid team; choose the right incubator to increase your expertise and networking potential. If your project is turned towards creative fashion, a golden rule of success is the balance of power between the designer and the manager.”

Jane Rapley

“I think one of the things that we don’t do enough of is actually expose our budding experts within our system, to talk with other budding experts. That’s how you build brands of the future, by enabling those young people to respect each other’s expertise and recognise that they all need each other if they are going to become successful.”

Floriane de Saint Pierre

“For all the designers, to be successful with their own brand, it’s about being a catalyst of society — it’s got to be something that is meaningful for the world, and I think that in that component, we need sustainability and inclusive design.”

Explore BoF’s full report on The Best Fashion Schools in the World 2019 and the new methodology here.

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