Fashion Industry has gone through tremendous change in recent times. From the arrival of fast fashion in last decade to changing the design and production practice to make it more sustainable in present condition. In present times, industry is in flux, the skills and the role of the designer is very different from how it was a decade or even few years ago. The question is,
“Are the fashion design schools able to adapt their curriculum and pedagogy to meet the requirements of rapidly evolving and highly volatile fashion industry”?
Last year an article published by Hindustan Times in New Delhi, India, Reena Singh an established fashion designer who owns ‘Eka’ an ethical clothing company highlights how the current fashion industry is anything but sustainable. She reminds us that the whole process of fashion production even at a small scale is consuming and wasting resources. Although it is difficult for clothing brands to be 100 percent sustainable in current fashion system, they can be ethical and work on the value chain to reduce their carbon footprint.
According to the latest fashion news, ‘Gucci’ has announced that their latest collection is carbon neutral. These stories highlights where the fashion industry is heading and what kind of challenges currently designers are facing , and whether fashion colleges can prepare their students to know, understand and be work ready to take up these challenges from the word go!
Although many colleges assert their curriculum creates awareness about the issues like sustainable fashion, the curriculum content might not be sufficient to bring the change at a large scale. It is important to highlight that few college level projects by individual student are not enough to address the problem at a scale. Every student graduating from these colleges should be made aware and trained to operate in a manner that can help reduce the ill impact of fashion industry on the environment and people alike.
One of the leading areas where the fashion industry can begin the act of cleaning-up is its ‘supply-chain’. Companies like Kering, are deeply invested in reducing their carbon footprint and source raw material in ethical manner. They have develop many in-house indices, which help them evaluate their supply chain decisions scientifically. Now, many fashion colleges may teach the basics of supply chain but in the current environment, the designers need to understand the advance matrix of fashion supply chain and incorporate it in their design process. They can be actively involved in industry projects, which can allow them to build an area of expertise.
The Economist, in their January 2019 edition coined a new term called “slowbalisation”, in recent year the world of politics and economics have witnessed turbulent times. Moreover, the markets are responding to trade wars, political policies and climate change. The crux is that sooner or later we have to look at “locatiosation” opposite of globalization. India, by 2020 will be the youngest nation with the second largest population in the world. We are witnessing deficit in the job markets. Even though, apparel and textile sector is one of the largest employers in India, it needs to generate more jobs in coming times to help the economy grow. This means the professionals who are in colleges should have entrepreneurial skills, which will help them create businesses that can generate employment at all levels in the fashion industry.
Many institutes acknowledge the current skills required are not just restricted to their domain. The trained professional should be agile, critical thinker, innovator and be prepared to understand the broader role that they will play in the fashion value chain. They should be quick to respond to ever changing world around us by coming up with creative innovative products and rethink business systems as highlighted by Steven Faerm from Parsons the New School of Design NY. Again, the question is, if our curriculum and pedagogy is supporting this in reality?
The fashion academia is facing perplexing situation, which is to keep up with the ever-changing skills required for the fashion graduate. One of the solutions can be designing modular courses, which can help current students or alumina to update their skills with the changing demand of the industry. These program should be designed with the help of industry professionals and train the people before they join the work force. One such successful collaboration was MOOC course designed by Futurelearn.com and London College of fashion in collaboration with Kering in 2018 and recently a course by fashion revolution to understand the basics of sustainability issues associated with current university. “I will strongly recommend everyone to take at least one of the courses” and build an understanding of the current situation and role they can play as a consumer or professional working in the fashion industry.