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10. 21. 22

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As the landscape of fashion proves to be everchanging, fashion education is fighting to keep up. For many fashion and design universities, providing their students with education that is aligned with consumer ideologies today is hugely important. However, as these students enter the fashion workforce, they are met with a clash between what they’ve learned and what the industry needs and wants.

Today’s fashion students are trying to redefine their education, and what fashion is as a whole. At London’s Central Saint Martins (CMS), a world renowned design college, 30% of the students describe themselves as ‘creative practitioners’ who are more interested in art and activism than the traditional role of fashion designers. Parsons recently updated their mission statement to focus more on ‘climate and social justice.’

While these fashion universities may be a great resource for companies to get employees, many within the industry question whether the next big fashion designer will come from these universities and programs. In order to create change within such a large market like the fashion industry, there need to be ideas that are new and different, which is difficult to accomplish when everyone is receiving the same cookie-cutter fashion education. These graduates may make great stylists and merchandisers, but it is unlikely that they will become successful designers in their own right.

Fashion conglomerate LVMH has recently increased investment in its artisan training program, Metiers d’Excellence, as a part of their new initiative to employ 25,000 people under 30 by the end of this year. Their program boasts of a 74% job placement rate, 61% of which being within LVMH or their external partners. For those hoping to work within the industry, in pre-existing roles, formal fashion education may be worth the investment.

However, for those who are hoping to be designers and shapers of the future fashion industry, formal education may not be the route to take. With tuition in the United States reaching as high as $50,000 annually, excluding up front costs of expensive materials, the price of not getting the return on your investment is high. BA Fashion course leader at CMS Sarah Gretsy said her position feels almost unethical. Churning out 140 fashion designers to join the already over saturated market feels like a waste of tuition.

Some within the industry agree that formal fashion education is not the course for those who want to become designers. Household names in fashion from Coco Chanel to Virgil Abloh never received any formal fashion education but were able to redefine the fashion industry regardless. These designers were able to etch their names in fashion because they had the creativity and vision that arguably cannot be taught in the classroom.

The Executive Director at Academy of Art University School of Fashion in San Francisco Simon Ungless recently spoke in an interview about how fashion education sets these students up for an industry that doesn’t exist. In an era where anyone on Pinterest or Instagram can feel like a fashion designer, he claims, fashion students are too coddled.

With access to fashion and design becoming more accessible through social media and the internet, the need for formal education may begin to dwindle. However, large fashion conglomerates will continue to push for ties with these universities in hopes of continually having access to a viable pool of potential employees. Creating these endless pools of resources for major fashion houses, in my opinion, may stifle new fashion designers whose creativity gets lost in the assembly-line style of fashion education. Thus, the battle between creativity and mass-production continues.

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