LONDON, United Kingdom — A creative education, whether in practice or theory, has been part of any well-rounded curriculum for decades.
Studies such as the 2015 Warwick Commission report clearly make the case for creative education. But other articles debate its value, suggesting that, as arts institutions interface more and more with business and enterprise and increasingly focus on economic return, the importance of creative education is shrinking.
So, what about fashion education? Fashion is a curious creature within this debate. A creative subject — many forms of fashion are viewed and understood as art — it is also a commercially driven world, where, for a designer, recognising consumerism is as important as the creative process.
Fashion schools need to encourage the creative, personal ideas of our students. But students must also be conscious of markets, brands, manufacturing and supply chains, as well as financial and business models. For me, the history of LCF sets the scene for the importance of both, by continually reinforcing the links between design education and the industry we work alongside.
Starting out in 1906 as the Shoreditch Technical Institute Girls School, we trained young girls in the art of dressmaking, millinery and embroidery. Even then, we were identifying the skills that the industry needed and developing our teaching to service this need. In the 1930s, we realised the significance of the fledgling ready-to-wear market and trained our pupils to also work in the mass market.
Today, almost 50 percent of our students tell us that they would like to set up their own businesses. This entrepreneurial mind-set makes it our responsibility to hone their skills for setting up sustainable businesses in an ultra-connected, fast-moving technological age. We teach them about sustainability, supply chains and materials. In our Fashion Business School, companies like Sony and Volvo collaborates with students on building products and business plans.
Speaking during his keynote address at the Association of Business Schools conference last year, Steve Pateman, head of the UK Bank Santander, emphasised how students today need many new skills if they are to succeed in industry over the next few decades: “They will need to acquire forms of analytical skills, they’ll need to focus on emotional intelligence, creativity, innovation and how the consumer is changing their buying patterns...Training in soft skills like communication and problem solving are important for leaders in today’s world.”
And, so it seems, it’s not just that fashion education needs business, it’s that other sectors — finance, technology, science — are recognising that they also need creativity. As educators for such a specialist subject, bringing together disciplines to mix creativity with business understanding is vital — for future generations of our students, and for our global economy.