On Teaching Fashion: Two-fold

Some of you are gearing up for spring break, I want to share an interesting project I facilitated last spring called CoLab. It was an alternative spring break design collaboration at my alma mater  with emerging designer Sarah Van Aken.  This is an excerpt from CoLab: A Two-fold Development Model Utilizing Studio Collaboration To Inspire Product And Professional Development, a paper in the working stages. During an alumni event many current students expressed frustrations in finding internships, simultaneously, I was in conversation with Sarah Van Aken about her desire to experiment with dye techniques despite her total lack of a dye lab and wet work space  in her production facility. I put 2 and 2 together. I am curious how you reach out to your communities and contacts to benefit your students, how do you put 2 and 2 together or what is your two-fold solution? Please feel free to comment.

The global economic recession has left many small fashion companies lacking the resources to invest in pre-production development of textile applications and signature details for their lines. While it is true that new product design and development is more often than not a crucial factor in the survival of a company, in an industry that is changing quickly, firms must continually revise their design and range of products (Devere, 2008). Small-scale and emerging fashion companies simply lack the funding, space, materials and skills to experiment as they are putting all energies into pushing the business forward into the next season.


Recent graduates and students of textile and design experience constraints due to the financial crisis. Few opportunities await them upon graduation; the economic downturn has made it increasingly difficult for recent fashion graduates to secure entry-level positions. According to a report compiled by 24 Seven, Fashion,[1] companies are hiring at a sluggish rate, hiring from within, or extending the use of interns and freelancers for entry-level work. For many students, getting a foot in the door at a company is difficult. Securing an internship that is directly interactive with the main creative partners at a schedule that flexes with students academic needs is nearly impossible.

Students coming into the field at entry-level frequently lack the tacit skills and know-how normally learned through first-hand industry experiences (Kowalski, M., personal communication, 3/2011). Students with some form of immersive industry experience are better poised for success because they have more of a well-rounded toolkit of both industry pragmatism and technique. Students with Industry experience also have direct contacts they can access in the job search.

In 2011,  I facilitated an alternative spring break student/industry collaboration “CoLab” at my alma mater The Maryland Institute, College of Art with fashion designer Sarah Van Aken. The students taught Aken and her design team simple shibori methods, the students and Van Aken then created a small quality of signature yardage for her summer 2011 fashion collection. In return for the week -long work session students received a sample book with professional images of their textiles as well, the students can list this as an internship on their resume.

I wanted to share this model of teaching and learning with you. Please email me if you would like to know more. I also would love to here about your own projects. Back to the design studio in my  next post: group learning AND self guided learning, together?

[1] NYC based talent agency for all areas of fashion, design to production including: accessories and apparel design, action sports, home furnishings, corporate retail and beauty. Additionally, they provide top tier advertising, marketing and creative talent for some of the world’s best known lifestyle brands.


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