My students are often my teachers. There are some topics that they know much more about than me!
For example, every undergraduate student has to do a mandatory work-placement during the 5th semester which lasts half a year.
The students from the Fashion Management course spend this time at a wide range of interesting fashion companies: From local fashion public relations firms like Loews PR and Haeberlein & Maurer, to giants like Adidas, Escada, Diesel, Stylebop and Hugo Boss, to small fashion labels like Talbot Runhof or Caviar Gauche – they get into the German fashion industry. Some students have even ventured abroad to faraway Wildfox Couture in LA to help with their social media activities or joined a small shoemaker called Esska in London. Most get paid, but unfortunately some companies still do not remunerate their hard-working interns.
Every term when they return, they give a presentation and written report on what they have experienced. The insight they receive is tremendous, it is very current and representative of what is happening in the fashion industry.
For me as their porfessor, it is impossible to go on a 6-months internship every so often and even if I do consulting for fashion firms, it will be limited in time and scope due to intense teaching commitments. Some valuable information is restricted to the company and cannot be spoken on publicly, so reading press, books and talking to industry experts is not neccessarily a guarantee for access to this knowledge – or it can be old information from the past years.
Thus my students become my teachers. They inform me on their eperiences and the latest developments in many sectors of the industry. When I teach in class, I have to ask their opinion about certain topics and say: “In theory and in my experience this works in the following way. Who has had work experience in this area and would like to give some insight?” This can turn into a fruitful in-class discussion where we compare theory and practice. I feel very lucky to talk to my students and learn from them and see their fresh perspective on things!
My question to you, the lecturers, is thus: Do you learn from your students about the latest industry developments?
And to the fashion students: Do you have vauable insight which you can use as class contribution, educating your lecturers?
One thing must be added to this though: Not every industry lends itself to practice-based or live-project learning. Theory of Physics or Chemistry for example – well the rules have hardly changed in decades. The theory is the basis of everything. However, the fashion industry is very lively, especially when it comes to marketing, and every year brings new developments which we must know!