On Friday, September 25, 2020, around 300 fashion educators came together with students from 200 institutions in 40 countries across 5 continents to take part in an open-access Digital Multilogue on Fashion Education, featuring a series of provocations, conversations and workshops – all generously facilitated by some of the most inspiring voices in fashion education and related subjects. The kinds of pedagogical and philosophical questions that fashion educators are asking themselves have changed significantly in recent months: How and why does one teach fashion during a global health crisis, or indeed during any social, environmental or democratic crisis? What challenges do educators share? What experiences and solutions can be collaboratively developed?

Speakers focused on key areas of current concern: sustainability, diversity, ethics and digitization. Short provocations were given by Dilys Williams, founder and director of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion; Kim Jenkins, professor of fashion studies in the fashion school at Ryerson University, Toronto, and founder of the Fashion and Race Database; and Zowie Broach, head of fashion at the Royal College of Art, London, and one half of legendary label Boudicca. A conversation entitled “fashion | education | the digital” featured Sarah Mower – MBE fashion journalist, chief critic at US Vogue, British Fashion Council Ambassador for Emerging Talent and chair of the NEWGEN committee – and Matthew Drinkwater, Head of The Fashion Innovation Agency, and was facilitated by Alistair O’Neill, professor of fashion history and theory at Central Saint Martins, London.

    • 300
      Participants
    • 200
      Institutions
    • 40
      Countries
    • 5
      Continents

At the heart of the event were 18 workshops, where interaction and live multilogue took place in small groups guided by two facilitators each on a diverse range of subjects, including dream images, the future of fashion shows, time in fashion, inclusivity and circular fashion. These events illustrated the strong wish of our international participants to share ideas, learn from each other and develop solutions and collaborations.

This Digital Multilogue on Fashion Education was organized by Renate Stauss, professor of fashion studies at AUP, and Franziska Schreiber, professor of fashion design at Berlin University of the Arts. It was supported by AUP’s Civic Media Lab and Teaching and Learning Center, as well as Netzwerk Mode Textil. An overview of the multilogue, as well as recordings of the provocations, are available to view online. This multilogue is a prelude to the Fashion Education Conference , which will be held October 1–2, 2021, at The American University of Paris. The conference website includes a growing repository of fashion education sources and resources and a link to the newly launched initiative Fashion is a Great Teacher – The Fashion Education podcast.

Provocations

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Provocations were presented by Dilys Williams, founder and director of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion; Kim Jenkins, professor of fashion studies in the fashion school at Ryerson University, Toronto, and founder of the Fashion and Race Database; and Zowie Broach, head of fashion at the Royal College of Art, London, and one half of legendary label Boudicca. 

Workshops

The Digital Multilogue on Fashion Education featured 18 workshops, where interaction and live multilogue took place in small groups guided by two facilitators each on a diverse range of subjects, including dream images, the future of fashion shows, time in fashion, inclusivity and circular fashion.

Conference Recordings

The conference presentations and sessions have been recorded and will be made publicly available over the course of the following weeks. Please find below a brief recap of the digital multilogue and a link to the playlist on YouTube. 

Post-Conference Questions

The following questions were gathered during the presentation of Kim Jenkins "The Fashion and Race Database: Building a New Home for Fashion Education," and later answered to provide further context to her presentation. 

How to think race beyond calorimetry?

To consider that, we would need to address the root of the racial construct, for which its caste system depends upon color (amongst other phenotypic factors) to organize and evaluate human beings. Putting this into practice, this would require a consistent and sustained effort of opposing the presumed values of certain colors by positioning the person in a place of power. In terms of fashion, this visual message would include more prevalent and prominent representation in fashion images.

Which upcoming artists and brands that are working on promoting the same issue - you can name as top 3-5 to watch in 2020? In fashion we start finally noticing more and more upcoming designers that are talking about radicalized beauty, body and culture. W

In terms of styling and photography, I would add Ib Kamara, Tyler Mitchell, Renell Medrano. Top brands: I like what Telfar is doing, which is not-so-subtly subversive, and transforming our notions of capital and value. There are countless brands out right now - too many to think of. Telfar has had a lasting impact and is doing something interesting without making a performative “radical” statement.

Social Justice, at least in the western world, has seen a heightened level of interest during these times of COVID-19. Do you think this interest will continue to grow and will the fashion industry take a step forward in terms of actions to deal with indu

I hope so. We are only a few months away from “the black square” posted in unison on Instagram as a symbol of concern and suggested solidarity, but what this moment calls for is steps towards structural change in terms of practice and ideology. This is a “long-game” effort, which poses an uncomfortable challenge to the fashion industry, as it runs on a rapid cycle with little time or patience for introspection. The solutions for this will involve implementing an education and training program to help re-assess the value-system within, and this cannot be resolved in the form of a brief workshop or meeting. In addition, the everyday consumer and social media user is wise enough to not buy into a surface-level fashion campaign that models “diversity.” This passive strategy is what some call “the illusion of inclusion,” which presents the imagery of diverse representation to suggest the values and awareness of a brand. In effect, it doubles down on its ability to connect to those impacted by the implications of race, as it labors and capitalizes on the racialized body to manage the impression of a powerful brand. At the time of this response, many brands are seeking to implement Diversity & Inclusion programs as well as education programs and committing to long-term sponsorships to underserved communities to address this issue–supporting their bottom line in some regards.

How do you envision the field to become inclusive of non-English speakers? Both for producing and accessing knowledge.

As the concept of “inclusivity” expands throughout the field and we consider the fullest definition of the term, I anticipate that we will make a concerted effort to integrate scholarship and design thinking amongst non-English languages into some of our most critical resources and learning spaces. How would that look? I am already thinking about how we can integrate non-English scholarship and resources into The Fashion and Race Database in the next year.

How can we make the database work for those who don’t want to see this kind of ‘facts’?

It is a wise consideration that many from the industry (and even our field) may not embrace–let alone visit–the database. It is my hope that those amongst us who appreciate the database will take what they need from it and share what they have learned with their colleagues, students and associates who may hold more critical or stubborn views.

Talking about‚ ‘decentralize’ and ‘decolonize’ … what is the difference?

My adoption and use of the term “decentralize” was more of a personal and professional preference. To decentralize means to transfer the power, focus or authority of one aspect (thing, person, phenomenon) to another–or at the very least, obfuscate the defined parameters of a centralized way of thinking and understanding. The term “decolonize” has been taken up in popular culture and situated in our collective consciousness much in the same way that “cultural appropriation” has for the past ten years, and I want to maintain the integrity of its definition and progress by sharing the dedicated work of scholars on the database.

The following questions were gathered during the presentation of Dilys Williams "Habits of Dress: Habits of Mind," and later answered to provide further context to her presentation. 

Is the industry sustainable and how can you create an educational system that does not merely feed into an industry based on maximizing consumption?

The industry is made up of many different models, approaches, people and practices; the dominant practices, however, are based on a broken model – of taking from nature without recognizing the detrimental impacts of its practices – from biodiversity loss, to water scarcity, pollution, carbon emissions and much more. The model of overstimulation of the market, overproduction and low price, is also based on an industry model where modern-day slavery is rife. This is not socially, morally, environmentally or culturally sustainable. It is not economically sustainable for long – due to the diminishing resources, increasing climate emergency and suffocation felt by many people in the west. There is no fashion business on a dead planet.

However, as there is still no social stigma for these companies, insufficient legislation and a pervasive consumer culture – the short term continuation of this model continues – time is short for change, but change will and must come.

How can we rethink curriculum taking under consideration digital revolution and climate crisis?

Platforms such as the multilogue are vital in this change. At CSF, we are also working on a set of resources for all tutors, which will be open-sourced and available to all tutors around the world from next February. Please check CSF website for details of Fashion SEEDS.

How can we ensure students are future proof and can navigate an increasingly challenging world?

Teach critical thinking, deep ecology, self reflexive practices and engage in participatory learning with a range of peers, tutors and people across disciplines and locations.

Great quote about aesthetic judgement and morality, I missed, who from please?
Could you expand a bit on your critique of the 'fetishization of innovation?"

The current paradigm of ‘the modern project’ assumes that newness is always good, that growth = success and that the application of new ideas into commercial practice is progress. The technocentric approach to sustainability assumes that we can ‘fix’ issues of sustainability through continuing the approach that got us into this mess. Whilst there are many fantastic innovations that are important – unless we shift our thinking about our intentions – to put earth and equity first, we will not succeed in doing more than slightly putting on the brakes, but still going over the edge of 1.5 degrees temperature rise – and more.

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