On Teaching Fashion: Learning the importance of heritage and skill.

Last week I attended the ‘Enterprise of Culture’ Conference at the Victoria and Albert Museum. This was a wonderful day giving the open, and free, opportunity for researchers, professionals and interested individuals to hear papers from international colleagues. The topics were varied, such as how Couture developed in Italy post war, and also a very interesting paper about how H+M and Scandinavian brands are utilising their heritage in their international marketing. Parallels were discussed such as how Ikea uses names and titles for their products as cultural marketing. I was also very interested to hear the presentation from three Scottish based researchers with a paper about Scottish Tartan and tweed. They discussed how traditional methods for producing this cultural item are skill used alongside contemporary colours and designs. Also to my delight the opinion that designers need to understand their fabric and its construction was expressed. Excellent I thought, so many times I have seen learners miss this crucial point and use fabric they do not understand the construction of and it can be the downfall of their work.  There was a wonderful theme to this conference surrounding heritage within marketing, production and design aesthetic.


I am so fascinated about how important traditional techniques are used in a contemporary innovative manner in current design. This is so relatable in the wider context of design, not just alone in fashion. I watched a documentary on the BBC called ‘City in the Sky’, where they documented the development of an A380- an amazing feat of engineering and modern creativity. However, the presenter was astonished to see the plane was constructed, amongst other things, with thousands of rivets. I reflect on an article I wrote last year about design and construction students need to start and learn the fundamentals from the beginning- once mastered, the opportunities for innovation are endless.

Today I watched another documentary on the BBC about ‘John Lobb’ Shoes as part of their ‘Handmade by Royal Appointment’ series. In this documentary it shows you the different stages, job skills and precision that are gone through in the bespoke shoe making process. Also employees discussed how they have forged their skills and career at the company, with one man saying it takes a lifetime to perfect such great skill for these artisan products.

Relating this to education, I had a learner who wishes to progress into the bespoke, couture, high end marketplace. Searching for ‘Bespoke Fashion’ or ‘Fashion Atelier’ on UCAS brings one course each in the search result. We began to consider alternative routes such as apprenticeship schemes alike those ran by SRBA. Reverting back to the John Lobb workplace there was an apprentice working there, being taught their trade by colleagues who had been with the company for many years. Where do you think the best place to start an artisanal career is?

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