On Teaching: Creativity and Business in Fashion Education

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Recently the Business of Fashion launched a new initiative called BoF Education, an arm of their website dedicated to reporting on and providing educational resources for the fashion industry (2015, Amed). With their new initiative several of their articles were published surrounding the concept of fashion education and how it is providing learning experiences. Three of the top ten trending articles on their website this week centered around creativity and business in a fashion program (2015, The Business of Fashion). Articles titled “Is Fashion Education Selling a False Dream (2015, Amed & Mellery-Pratt),” “Balancing Business and Creative Learning (2015, Abnett),” and “Op-ed: Fashion Schools Should Focus on Creativity (2015, Loppa)” dominated my news feeds, opening again a question I constantly ask myself as I review curriculum on a quarterly basis; how do I encourage creativity but also prepare students for the structure of the professional world?

I am in a position where I can examine curriculum as a whole and determine new approaches to course objectives quickly. I also have faculty who are engaged in creating an exceptional curriculum for students. The desire and drive to create the perfect balance between creative freedom and business structure is clearly present, but the question I struggle with, as do other programs according to articles in addition to those published by the Business of Fashion, is what is enough? In 2010, a group of fashion educators from around the world gathered to discuss these same topics; structure versus freedom, ideation versus research, analysis and historical importance versus innovation (2010, McNeil). In 2007 a United Kingdom report addressed the need to strike an accord between creativity and a homogenized delivery. This 2007 report states this mêlée goes back as far as the 1970’s (2007, James). This is clearly not a new question.

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Here is my current answer:

  1. Require students to take business courses. Not ensuring students graduate with this knowledge could be detrimental to their future career path, as is evident in the surveys completed in the recent articles for the Business of Fashion (2015, Amed & Mellery-Pratt).
  2. Incorporate alternative assessments in the business-centered courses. Allow the students to apply creative thinking to the concepts of business and present their evidence of mastering the courses learning objectives in different manners (2010, McNeil). For example, in Consumer Behavior, I have students find examples of the course content in current fashion magazines to demonstrate their understanding of the concept.
  3. Tie in the “real world” to a business class to ensure the students find the relevance. Have a business professional talk to the students about a topic or be a part of a project. The course, Fashion Entrepreneurship, has a local fashion professional come in to the class with a real-world problem and becomes the classes “client.” The students are then responsible for learning the course content and applying it to solve the problem for their client.
  4. Make self-reflection part of a business courses focus. Having a self-reflection component requires the students to find a way to relate the course learning to their ultimate career goals. At the end of class, student’s review the course content covered that day and explain in a written or verbal format how it applies to their career goals (2007, James).
  5. Talk business in creative courses. Do not allow the entire creative-based course escape without discussing how the concepts tie into a realistic career application. Allow the students to “flex” their creativity; however, highlight how the knowledge will play into their future career paths.

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A struggle that has persisted since the 1970’s and spans global college curriculum has certainly had many solutions offered (2007, James; 2015, Amed). There are several articles and books available that share such opinions on how to find this balance. I hope these solutions presented above find a balance for you but maybe there is something different you do to teach creativity and business in tandem. What are your methods of finding this harmony? Do you agree with my answer to this question?



Abnett, K. (August 24, 2015). Balancing Business and Creative Learning. Retrieved August 28, 2015.

Amed, I. (August 28, 2015). A Global Conversation about Fashion Education. Retrieved on August 28, 2015.

Amed, I. and Mellery-Pratt, R. (August 26, 2015). Is Fashion Education Selling a False Dream? Retrieved August 28, 2015.

James, A. (2007). Reflection Revisited: Perceptions of Reflective Practice in Fashion Learning and Teaching. Art, Design and Communication in Higher Education. 5:3, pp. 179-196.

Loppa, L. (August 26, 2015). Op-ed: The Gap Between Design and Business Education has been Filled. Retrieved August 28, 2015.

McNeil, P. (2010). Conference Report: The Future of Fashion Studies. Fashion Theory. 14:1, pp. 105-110.

The Business of Fashion. Retrieved on August 31, 2015.


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