On Teaching Fashion: Interactive Engagement Lab


I generally teach fashion design studio courses where my student number around 18-20. This is Ideal. I like to get to know my students, their process, their names and aspirations. In the fall each year I teach a foundation lecture course that focuses on Sustainability in the Fashion Industry. My classes are large and switching from the intimacy a studio course provides to a lecture format has always been extremely difficult and painful for me. With a large class it is hard to get to know each student.

If my goal is to assist each student personally in, essentially getting a job, this is a dubious task. I have felt so deflated in the past after teaching my large lecture courses; I have discussed this in previous posts. My fall lecture course is a three-hour lecture of 40 students. Three hours? Yes! I have to say, though, three weeks into teaching that it is going swimmingly. I have structured the course in a way that saves me from going completely crazed.

The second hour of my lecture is, what I call, an active engagement lab. The structure is experimental. I am providing hour-long demonstrations that are active in that students move around. The lectures are tactile and always involve a component of touch. Finally, I have had the students create a tumblr site to capture our weekly activities. Personally, I am delighted by the outcomes.


My students are engaged and excited. The energy generated by the labs are contagious and influence the energy levels of student interaction before and after. The lab is a free hour of experimentation and I would like to share our activities here, maybe you will be inspired to embed a lab activity similar to mine in your own courses? Personally, the idea of the three-hour lecture is painful to me. As a learner I do not do well in a situation where I am sitting and listening to a professor. Our lab is a free space of experimentation, where I can try experimental activities. On either side of the lab I give a more traditional lecture with quizzes and activities so my student goal outcomes can be assessed.

The Lab



Each week I offer an activity concurrent with our readings that tease out the material in a more hands on way. I teach a lecture on four pillars of sustainability so the content relates to the environmental, social and labor, consumption and body image aspects. During our first week, I challenged students to define sustainability.

They were then paired in groups to define the term in relation to the key areas listed above. During the second week, I handed out images of women roughly my students’ age. Below the image of the woman her name was printed. The students were given the task of uncovering her story, and then they were asked to reflect and imagine sitting and talking to the woman, on a plane, in an effort to inspire empathy.

Hashra Khatun

Hashra Katun

The exercise was called “an exercise in empathy”. In our third week we, after researching as a group “workplace ethics” developed a “fashion worker manifesto” geared at college fashion workers: fashion interns, design assistants, buying assistants and sales associates. I offered up a series of manifesto statements:

  1. I believe…..
  2. I want to live in a world where…
  3. If there is one thing I know
  4. The fourth was a wild card, some piece of lived advise……

You can find the student blog here. It is very much in progress and I cannot promise correct edits or spelling at this point in the semester. If you can take in the idea of a free form lab experience and how that might push your student to do or think differently, that is what I hope my post this week inspires.

The tumblr can be found here: http://210lab.tumblr.com/manifsto

Please look back during the semester as we will be adding to it. The site will be proofread and optimized in December.

Do you use free form activities or capture actions via blogs in your class. How do you do it? What are your outcomes? I would love to hear from you! Happy Teaching!

(all images sourced online)

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