In the Christmas holidays I find myself reflecting on the autumn term, as the first third of the academic year. In this part of the year I undertake the most challenging projects with my students. A Fashion and Clothing course must be as wide as possible as quickly as possible. With precious time in the first year up-skilling and broadening horizons must commence.
I remember particularly the initial project I delivered in my first year of teaching, which I called ‘Radical Fashion.’ The stimulus for this came from my college days where I could be found clutching Claire Wilcox’s ‘Radical Fashion’ which was a great inspiration of textures, materials and shapes. Starting work I had great creative ideas, aiming to get the students to be innovative and outlandish to start their course. I showed images of clothes and costumes that would definitely not be found on the radar of teenagers’ high street shopping excursions or Internet buying experiences, and challenged the students to ‘think outside the box’. Such as McQueen’s use of creative materials and how throughout his career he pushed the boundaries of acceptability.
With a class of 24 students who had a range of established knowledge as they entered the course, each member of the class also had different skill levels and preconceived areas of interest. Teaching in this sector is a fast paced environment with valuable little time; as soon as students arrive you begin by saying- where are you going to go next? At the end of their 1st year there are open days galore to attend and in the autumn of the 2nd year the University applications go off! I must say though, the biggest misconception you hear is that if you are doing ‘fashion’ it means of course you will become nothing else but ‘fashion designer.’
To inspire students in my teaching I also often refer to the work of Martin Margiela, who until he collaborated with H+M in 2012 probably was not a name teenagers entering their course would be aware of. I visited the ‘20’ retrospective at Somerset House in 2010 where his skill in history, craftsmanship and innovation was shown throughout his timeless contemporary work. Margiela is noted as an inspiration to McQueen in contemporary Fashion and part of the legendary Antwerp Six group from the late 80’s. Quoted by Marc Jacobs in 2008:
“Anybody who’s aware of what life is in a contemporary world is influenced by Margiela.”
Teaching Fashion, when initial key skills are delivered and learnt, is a very one-to-one topic. Like any creative subjects when the primary inspiration stimulus is given, students develop in different directions. Our job now is to juggle multiple projects at once. Giving varied and cutting edge visual examples and research trips inspires unique creativity in all. Also I have found inspiring students with images of work, contemporary or historical which is new to them draws in attention and develops innovation. Many of these derive from my own CPD, attending shows and exhibitions to ensure my knowledge is current. How do you inspire a new cohort of students? Do you have any techniques which you use to widen a fresh intakes’ thought process?
As I think back on my first term in work it was a rather fraught term, but a learning curve for all involved, including me.