Recently I have been bombarded with dooms-day predictions regarding the American economy. I cannot blame my friends for their fears and precautions, after all our country has struggled for many years to pull itself out of a recession. Despite these harsh realities, I believe America has the ability to respond to change. How can education respond to this change? First, we must identify the challenges facing us.
Photo courtesy of The Independent Report
Participation in the labor force is at an all time low. In fact, the United States ranked 20th in the world in 2014, a dramatic drop from number one in 1980. Maybe this is caused by the reduction of national production of resources. We no longer produce what we need to sustain our country and thereby rely upon international allies for support (Chafuen, 2015). But are these international associations truly allies? Predatory trade policies are costing Americans millions of jobs (Heffner, 2015).
The retail industry has also been affected by these challenges. Within the last twelve months several retailers have laid off workers, cancelled orders, closed branches and minimized brick-and-mortar locations (Phelps, 2015). Band of Outsiders, Kate Spade, J. Crew, and Abercrombie and Fitch are just a few American companies facing these economic decisions. Sales have been unstable and consumer demand unpredictable. Women’s Wear Daily will announce the rise in stock prices for one company and immediately the decline of a competitor (Edelson, 2015).
Photo courtesy of style.com
All of these facts create the cynics surrounding me. I can understand why! However, I refuse to believe there is only one result: catastrophe. I believe we will survive this “reinvention” of the American economy. As educators, we must be ready to respond to this change. Knowing what we do about the challenges facing the economy and the retail industry, how can we respond? I have a theory:
- Focus on going global. Teach students how to research and adapt business strategies for international markets. Not only will this open more doors but it will also provide students the tools to adapt to changes in the American market.
- Make room for technology. Allow flexibility within the curriculum and budget for new technology. Technology is advancing quickly. Planning for this will help with the transition.
- Collaborate with other fields of study. With the integration happening across industries, it is important to mirror this in the classroom. By partnering with courses outside of the fashion program, students learn how to work with people who have other interests.
- Return to design fundamentals. The elemental design processisproblem solving. Education needs to return to a focus on how to diagnosis issues and develop solutions. Encouraging creativity and promoting “makers” will allow students to approach the change as a problem to be solved and be equipped to do so (N. Pidgeon, personal communication, June 25, 2015).
Photo courtesy of Your Happy Camper
We may not be able to avoid this change my friends stress about, but we can prepare. As educators we must see these challenges as fortuitous and equip our students to take advantage of the climate change. If we do a good job in preparing them, these students will be the trailblazers turning these troubles into opportunity. Creating strategies now to prepare them is what we, as educators, are supposed to do and it is what we must do now to help them navigate the changes to come.
What do you think? Are there other methods we can use to prepare our students for this “reinvention” of the American economy?
Chafuen, A. (January 1, 2015). The U.S. Economy In 2015: Challenges And Opportunities, Forbes World Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/alejandrochafuen/2015/01/01/the-u-s-economy-in-2015-challenges-and-opportunities/.
Edelson, S. (June 19, 2015). Retailers Cut Jobs as Pressures Mount, Women’s Wear Daily. Retrieved from http://wwd.com/retail-news/financial/layoffs-job-cuts-retail-10159174/.
Heffner, T. (March 15, 2015). Economic Problems Facing the U.S., Economy in Crisis: America’s Economic Report- Daily. Retrieved from http://economyincrisis.org/content/major-economic-problems-facing-united-states.
Phelps, N. (June 1, 2015). The CFDA Awards Celebrate American Fashion, but It’s Been a Hard Year for the Business, Style.com. Retrieved from http://www.style.com/trends/industry/2015/hard-year-for-american-fashion-business-cfda-awards-essay.
I’ve been getting to know the crew over at The Seams, which is a new podcast developed by NPR contributor Jacki Lyden.
As you may remember, we encouraged Worn Through readers to donate to their Kickstarter since the topic of their shows, storytelling about apparel, are certainly something we’d love to hear about more regularly.
Recently I did a phone interview with Jacki that was initially supposed to air on the show. It was decided that instead I’d speak about a different subject for a future airing, but the interview dives into the history of our field, some academic and social aspects of what we study, and a tad into subcultural waters.
Although it’s not going to air on the Seams/NPR, Jacki and I thought Worn Through readers would be the perfect audience and have brought it you here! Listen for me to appear in future episodes.
You can find the Seams podcast at iTunes
and on this website
Have you ever proposed to your students to explore an uncommon topic? Or combine two topics that seem to have nothing in common at all? What did the students think about the approach?
I am asking you this because in June, I brought up a slightly unusual topic in class: Fashion and cars. At first, it seemed that the two subjects are hardly connected to each other so we set out to explore them. The results were quite fascinating and I would like to share a brief summary of them with you today, because whether you look at design, marketing strategy or the environmental impact, cars and fashion actually do have many parallels.
Image source here.
First of all there is a phenomenon called “car culture” which – to sum it up in a sentence – is the cultural impact cars had on society once they became mass marketed. This influence permeated the way we shop (i.e. big malls), where we work (i.e. commuting to and from suburbs) and how a car became a status and power symbol, at first mostly for men. This car culture triggered a myriad of advertising showing sexy and fashionable women and created fashion outfits to be used when driving such as the original Car Shoe and its many clones.
Car shoe for Lamborghini’s 50th anniversary
Image source here.
When the Mini became Britain’s flagship car, it simultaneously became synonymous with cultural movements powered by Twiggy, the Beatles and the swinging sixties.
The first Mini rolled off the production line in the late fifites but became as synonymous with the “Swinging Sixties as the other, head-turning mini.”
Image source here.
Secondly, todays marketing strategy for cars includes being fashionable. Car-makers want to be associated with glamour which is why they sponsor many fashion weeks (Mercedes hosts several around the world) and even delve into bridal wear (BMW sponsors the BMW India bridal fashion week).
Image source here.
Futhermore, there have been dozens of collaborations of designers and car manufacturers, where an unusual and fashionable exterior and/or interior has been created. One reason that car makers want to infiltrate the fashion market is perhaps the fact that car sales are declining in the saturated markets of the USA and Europe, whilst equally growing in China, India and other Asian countries. Incidentally, for many (high-) fashion brands these are equally important emerging markets.
Chanel Fiole Concept Car 2014
Image source here.
A third area where cars meet fashion is on the subject of sustainability. Years and years have passed where the global topic of sustainability and environmental impacts of industrialized nations have been discussed. People around the world increasingly care more about where their products came from and whether they harm the environment. The new trend in cars is to create hybrids or electric cars which consume less energy which feature new and light composite materials. Smart technology is integrated to help the driver have a more personalised experience and navigate more easily to service points (i.e. to charge the battery). Does this sound familiar? I believe it does, because fashion technology thinks along very similar lines nowadays. And the foundation for both – cars and clothes – is the textile industry, which creates smart textiles to be used for the automotive and apparel sectors.
Image source here.
My students found it a bit difficult at first to delve into a topic so far away from fashion, but once the research was complete and they presented it in class, they were excited about their findings.
Should you be interested in exploring this topic some more, I can highly recommend a new marketing-savvy book entitled “Auto Brand: Building Successful Car Brands for the Future” by Dr. Anders Parment. There is a chapter on car culture, fashion, and lots of research about the strategies of car brands. A second interesting book is called “Autopia: Cars and Culture” by Peter Wollen and Joe Kerr and takes a more artistic approach of the subject.
Last weekend I was quoted in the Washington Post on why ties are a persistent gift for Father’s Day.
Quite a bit of my research has been on workplace dress, and you can check it out in the Clothing and Textiles Research Journal (Punk workplace dress) and Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management (young men’s workplace dress).
Overall, some of the findings have discussed that workplace dress is highly symbolic and somewhat related to productivity, or at least to perceptions of such. Father’s Day presents may then be a tangible item to acknowledge or promote effectiveness in the workplace, which is strongly linked to a man’s overall perceptions of personal success. The catch in all of it is whether everything is legit productivity, or just perceptions, or a cycle of the two perpetuating one another, and that is a big grey area. Nonetheless, while not much of this is mentioned in the article, I’m very pleased to have a line or two.
Image pulled from here Thank you.
We will be seeking two new interns for the 2015-16 academic year.
There is no pay, however, we can help you get college credit if needed and of course it’s great networking and experience. We need help with CFPs, some column research, a bit of behind the scenes blog details, and running our book giveaways (among other projects as they emerge).
Interns in the past have done an array of research and writing projects.
The work can be done spread out over time or in chunks as your time allows. It’s all remote. Preferable candidates are current college or graduate students or recent graduates in apparel studies with a focus on academia or museums or closely related.
Email Monica with your CV and a brief cover letter. Due date July 15.
A recent visit to the Regency seaside resort St Leonards on Sea along with a renewed interest in swimming, courtesy of my local lido, meant I just had to start the summer with a visit to the exhibition Riviera Style: Resort & Swimwear Since 1900 at the Fashion and Textile Museum (FTM) in London this week.
Pyjama suits popular in the 1930s, part of the Cling, Bag, Stretch 1920 – 1939 section
Billed as a celebration of clothing worn in and by the sea, the exhibition displays a huge range of garments lent by Leicestershire County Council, which is also the county where many of the swimwear manufacturers were based. As a result, most of the items on display reflect UK and USA manufacturers and tastes. The guest curator is Dr Christine Boydell, a design historian from Leicester’s De Montfort University, who has an interest in twentieth century fashion and was previously involved in the FTM’s 2010 exhibition on Horrockses Fashions as well as the author of Horrockses Fashions’; Off-the-Peg style in the ‘40s and ‘50.
The exhibition is an effort to tell several stories and I think some are told more successfully than others. The first charts the role of design and production in the developing styles of swimwear during the last century. The second is the relationship between shifting notions of the fashionable human form and design, while the third is the increasing emphasis on holiday locations, whether they be at home or abroad, for the display of swimwear styles. While the first and second story are more obvious throughout the exhibition, the third story is less consistently told, and the visitor has to work harder to find the narrative amongst the displays.
Early twentieth century swimwear, 1895 – 1919, opening the exhibition
The exhibition is arranged by the way in which swimwear has attempted to address the human form with the application of textile design and technology during the twentieth century. This is reflected in a chronological order of display, organised by five sections: Bathing Beauties 1895-1919, Cling, Bag, Stretch 1920 – 1939, Mould and Control 1940 – 1959, Body Beautiful 1960 – 1989 and Second Skin 1990 onwards. In case you are not familiar with the layout of the FTM, it is essentially one large ground level room that can be divided up into smaller sections, overlooked by a horseshoe shaped mezzanine that provides relatively narrow corridors of exhibition space. For this exhibition, the first two sections occupy the ground level, where the designers have recreated a fictional lido setting, literally placing the early twentieth century swimwear into a recreational context. The last three sections are to be found upstairs, with increasingly less emphasis on a literal context and more emphasis on the quantity of items on display.
Lido recreated on ground floor for the first two sections of the exhibition
The initial impact of the exhibition is strong as the visitor finds themselves walking past bathers and swimmers enjoying the benefits of a fictional lido. Here, the visitor learns about early twentieth century swimwear, with its shifting emphasis on modesty against the backdrop of increasing demand for seaside holidays. The visitor sees garments in-situ, whether they are swimsuits for swimming or pyjama suits for lounging by the pool, sipping on an apres-swim cocktail. The entire lido scene is supported by some beautiful blown up promotional images from the 1930s of resorts in the UK, as well as a range of fantastic prints from British Vogue showing models wearing swimwear in a range of holiday locations. Literal recreations of places where swimwear might be worn and seen continue upstairs with the third section, which focuses on the relationship between underwear and swimwear. Here, the curators have displayed the mannequins as if they were taking part in a beauty contest held in a seaside town, each one sporting a rosette with their respective number and placed upon prize giving blocks.
Bathing Beauty Queen context, 1945 – 1989, Morecambe, Lancashire ,UK
The immersive approach to the exhibition’s theme is followed through with associated summer songs played through speakers and heard across the entire space, as well as plenty of smaller displays focusing on accessories and some specific events related to the display of swimwear, in particular the Bathing Beauty Queen context held in Morecambe, Lancashire between 1945 – 1989.
Body Beautiful 1960 – 1989 section; note popularity of the two piece suit
What I find the FTM does well when it comes to their exhibitions is the sheer number of garments on display, often reflecting a diversity that is just not possible to see in more permanent displays of dress favoured by bigger museums like the V&A. Walking through an FTM exhibition reminds me just how important it is to see real examples of clothing, and not to just rely on two dimensional representation for further understanding. This is perhaps even more critical when it comes to swimwear, where the form can often be misunderstood until it is seen on an actual body. This exhibition does not disappoint the visitor who wants to see a hundred years of swimwear design with real examples. It is also fantastic to see so many examples of clothing worn by, and not just in, the water, ranging from day dresses to sarongs, playsuits to burkinis.
Pyjama suit, 1920s, rayon, designer/maker unknown
I thought the recreated lido and beauty contest displays worked very well because they best represented the development of resort life, which is really only dealt with in the written summaries for each section. I think having most of the explanation presented in this way meant there was sometimes a tendency to display objects without any labels. Corresponding images could either be too small or in awkward places, making them difficult to read for further historical context. Also, upstairs, there are almost too many examples shown and the displays teeter on the brink of becoming glorified shop windows.
Examples of swimwear from 1990 onwards
I particularly enjoyed the British Vogue prints because it is here in fashion magazines that we often imagine ourselves into clothes and situations. They give us opportunities to fantasise about what a particular swimsuit might look like in our imagined holiday or for us to pragmatically assess whether it will suit our particular body shape. Although swimwear is clearly a staple of designer collections, is associated with specific manufacturers and, arguably, integral to the planning of our holidays, for many of us, it is something we spend very little time actually wearing. However, we do seem to spend a lot of time imagining ourselves in swimwear and possibly buying it, often with little success (well, in my experience, this is certainly the case!) It would have been nice to have seen the exhibition embrace this more, perhaps with the addition of soundbites from people talking about their own experience of swimwear, whether it be buying or wearing it. I was curious to know whether people would try to make their own ‘telescopic’ swimwear in the 1940s, given that they were expensive to buy at the time.
1920s swimming cap made from rubber and reminded me of The Philadelphia Story
I also think more representation of swimwear in popular visual culture might have been included, beyond magazines and postcards. In particular I was thinking about the brilliant scene from The Philidelphia Story (1940) where Katherine Hepburn’s character gets changed into her swimming outfit or the scene from Shag (1989), where Bridget Fonda’s character takes part in a seaside beauty contest.
Katherine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story
I think the choice to present the exhibition chronologically, which the FTM tends to do, is problematic because it fails to make thematic connections that might otherwise engage a wider audience with their displays. I rarely see diversity amongst the visitors at the FTM, which is a shame, given that the garments on display are often of fantastic quality and make critical contributions to our understanding of the past and present.
Fashionable wear by the water 1920 – 1939; note the outfit in the foreground very similiar to Chanel’s designs which can just be seen in the book in the bottom left hand corner
To conclude, this is an enjoyable exhibition in parts but you do need to read the written summaries while looking at the objects in order to see the various stories being told, particularly the social historical narrative of holidays and resorts. Perhaps go with friends so you can contribute your own social history to this exhibition – send FTM a postcard of your swimwear in situ!
All images are authors own except for opening image.
Summer is fast approaching and it is time to start thinking about vacation, family time, and for many college administrators, student retention. During this time of year, students also begin to think about time with friends and family. Too often the summer turns quickly into fall and, before you know it, several students have decided not to come back to college. How can we counteract this? What can we do to encourage students to continue pursuing their fashion degree?
Photo courtesy of Yellow Brick Road
I began observing post-summer retention several years back when I began noticing a handful of students saying the same thing before the summer break: they were going to take time off to spend more time with friends and family. Of course they all said they would be back after a little time off! Sadly, almost all of them did not return. Many students I followed, I’ve come to find out, never went back to any college to finish any type of degree. I wanted to know if this happened to more colleges and what others were doing to mitigate these circumstances.
An average of 60% of the students who leave college do not return to the same institution (Bushong, 2009). Research shows student retention varies from college to college, and that students leave for various reasons. One commonality appears to be the loss of students after their first year. Much of the research surrounds incoming freshman and how to ensure academic success during and after their first year. A negative experience could be more impactful to freshmen than to their more academically advanced peers and lead to a freshman’s withdrawal from school (Roberts & Styron, 2009).
Photo courtesy of Teen Life
All students face transitional adjustments when pursuing a college education (Budny & Paul, 2003). To aid in this adjustment and to attempt to create positive experiences for students, I have begun creating an engagement strategy to help mitigate these circumstances.
- During the break, provide service-learning opportunities. For those students wanting to do something meaningful during their break, I have set up opportunities to work with a group of peers to help local businesses. For example, students will have the opportunity to intern or volunteer with charities such as Dress for Success and the local senior center. The administrators for these groups and I worked to prepare a two-to-three week project where students work with an underserved or needy market to research and analyze a pressing issue, and then prepare and implement a solution. While they may not be taking college courses or even step onto a campus, the students will remain connected with the college through these sponsored events.
- Encourage summer school with additional, free workshops. For those students who would have withdrawn from school after taking the summer off, providing an incentive to return for summer school is another initiative I am introducing. Starting the first week of school and spanning the remainder of the summer quarter, students will have the opportunity to meet outside professionals and learn additional skills through workshops in between class times. Topics for the workshops are developed by surveying students, particularly those at risk, and include topics such as couture techniques, fashion journalism, and fashion photography.
- Host a college job fair. One common reason students leave school that I have observed is because of financial difficulty. Students often need college jobs to help them meet their bills and provide a more comfortable life. To assist students in securing these college jobs, a job fair held during the beginning of the summer quarter will encourage students to return to campus and create support outside the classroom for the students.
- Provide internship opportunities to all students. In addition to the college job fair, internship sites will also be on campus during the beginning of the summer quarter. Top fashion colleges offer internship opportunities to students at all levels of the program. In addition, providing internships to students early in their program will allow students to build an impressive level of experience in the industry while still in college (Roth, 2014).
These four engagement strategies are developed to provide student engagement and build value with the college. While these are developed based on research conducted around first year students, I believe they will also engage the entire of the student population. To measure the results, the retention data from the Spring, Summer and Fall quarters the previous three years will be compared to the retention results of this year. If there is an increase, the initiatives will be improved and implemented again next year.
Photo courtesy of Kingston University
Not all students will return to college or continue to pursue their degree in fashion. However, by attempting to understand the reasons they decide not return that are within our control, hopefully we can influence more students to continue their education. Providing engaging and positive experiences over the break may be just the thing to improve post-summer retention.
What do you do to encourage student progression? What other options do you think this initiative could benefit from?
Budny, D. D., & Paul, C. A. (2003).Working with students and parents to improve. Journal of STEM Education, 413(4), 1-9, Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?vid=1&sid=0bf0c440-9eb8-468d-aa4a-f1574e545740%40sessionmgr111&hid=114&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#db=pbh&AN=96336714.
Bushong, S. (2009). Freshman retention continues to decline, report says. Chronicle of Higher Education, Retrieved from http://chronicle.com.libpdb.d.umn.edu:2048/article/Freshman-Retention- Continue/42287/.
Roth, L. (2014). The Top 50 Fashion Schools in the World: 2014 edition. http://fashionista.com/2014/12/top-fashion-schools-2014, Retrieved on May 25, 2015.
Robert, J. & Styron, R. (2009). Student Satisfaction and Persistence: Factors vital to student retention. Research in Higher Education Journal, Retrieved from http://www.aabri.com/manuscripts/09321.pdf.
Hello! It’s nice to be back, and be able to bring you a summery round up of fashion related events and exhibitions in the UK over the next few months. My last Worn Through contribution was in early spring and I must say a massive thank you to our Managing Editor Brenna Barks for covering in my absence with some great videos; that last one certainly sets the seasonal tone!
To start, I would like to mention the Textile Society has a great overview of events, exhibitions and activities over the summer that cover both fashion and textiles interests. I strongly recommend having a closer look because whereas I tend to focus more on London and fashion related events, they provide excellent UK coverage of textile related events. With that in mind, there are a few things taking place in the capital that I want to highlight now!
The first one is the Institute of Historical Research’s (IHR) 84th Anglo-American Conference of Historians, 2-3 July, which focuses on the subject of fashion. In collaboration with the V&A Museum, the IHR hopes to showcase the importance of fashion and how it “brings together museums, graduate teaching programmes, learned societies and the fashion profession around a common set of interests and concerns.“ This two day conference includes over 30 panel sessions, which encompass the history of fashion, tastes, design innovation, globalisation, museum display, consumption and retailing. There will also be a special exhibition in the IHR, in partnership with the Senate House Library, that looks like a rare opportunity to see fashion images from their catalogues. Tickets are now available and a provisional programme can be viewed here.
Fine Cell Work, 2010, littleblackbookofart.com
The second display to catch my eye is the artist Cornelia Parker’s contemporary Magna Carta, on public view at the British Library until 24 July. To mark its 800th anniversary, the British Library commissioned Parker to create a new artwork and her response was to fabricate the entire Wikipedia entry on the Great Charter with only embroidered stitches. While the work was produced in association with the Embroiderer’s Guild, the Royal School of Needlework and Hand & Lock, many hands contributed to the piece, including Fine Cell Work, who support prisoners by training them in needlework. Have a look at the video about the making of the piece – it’s fascinating. I am really looking forward to seeing this in person and great to see such a esteemed British artist drawing upon textiles as her medium of choice here.
The third event I want to mention is actually two, insomuch they are both shows based in universities. At Goldsmiths University, the BA Fine Art/History of Art students have drawn upon the Goldsmiths Textiles Collection to create Reconstructing Textiles. This exhibition, only open until 23 June, is an attempt to draw connections between contemporary practices and archival material. For me, any opportunity to see the Goldsmiths Textiles Collection is a golden one and it is great to see students engaging with previous students work in the archive.
Image taken from Fabric of the City website. Unknown source.
At The Cass, part of London Metropolitan University, staff and students have invited textile and fashion designers to celebrate the local history of Spitalfield’s 17th century silk weavers for an exhibition entitled Fabric of the City. This is part of The Cass’ contribution to the festival ‘Huguenot Summer 2015’, organised by the Huguenots of Spitalfields in partnership with the City of London. The Cass is where I teach so it is great to share what they are up to, especially as, due to health reasons, I have not been there these last couple of months. The exhibition runs 10-25 July.
Morecambe and Wise presenting Miss Great Britain 1965. Photograph: Fashion and Textile Museum
Moving on, summer is that time when we panic about swimwear in the UK, especially because the opportunity to wear it, given our climate, is so very small. However, this does not stop us fantasising about the ideal bikini or one-piece nor us purchasing something new each year in the hope that this time, it really will be perfect! Seeking some kind of perspective then, it may be helpful to catch RIVIERA STYLE Resort & Swimwear since 1900at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London this summer. On until 30 August, this exhibition, in association with Leicestershire County Council Museums, focuses not just on swimwear style but also technological developments in fabric and the role of retailing in making those design innovations popular. I hope to review this later on in the month but be great to hear from anyone who has already visited in the comments below.
Camper advertising, SS 1977 and SS 1992 Source: Design Museum
While on the topic of summer sartorial concerns, shoes are also perhaps a major obsession as we dare to bare our pale pieds. Last year, I was obsessed with clogs. I thought they were the perfect summer shoe because, unlike most sandals, they kept my toes out of sight. However, after realising I cannot walk in clogs – too many years wearing flats – I am now still on the lookout for my ideal summer shoe. Along with my ideal swimming garment, come to think of it. Perhaps then it comes as no surprise to see two major London design museums dedicating their summer exhibition space to what we put on our feet. In east London, the Design Museum focuses on the Spanish footwear brand Camper in Life on Foot while in west London, the V&A Museum looks at the extremities footwear has gone to in Shoes: Pleasure and Painife on Foot, open now until 1 November, is the use of archival material from Camper to tell the design story of their products from the drawing board to the concept store. Meanwhile, Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, open 13 June until 31 January 2016, draws upon the V&A’s historic collection to present over 200 pairs of shoes in considering how technology often provides opportunities for extreme wearability.
Detail from United States market advertisement, 1947. Courtesy of Jamie Mulherron.
Lastly, I noticed an exhibition about Pringle of Scotland knitwear at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh entitled Fully Fashioned and open until 16 August. Marking the company’s 200th anniversary, the exhibition charts the history of what is now an international fashion brand with the use of archival material and knitwear garments. I would love to hear from anyone who has visited it or whether it might be travelling to other museums later in the year.
“This is a new generation,” my colleague told me, after I recounted a recent class scenario to her, because I was so surprised about the opinions and attitudes which emerged during a class discussion on a popular fashion brand.
Is this generation gap really true? We are only one generation or about 12 years apart, but the gap seems quite prominent. I would be generation X, whilst my students are Y, some young ones even Millenials. However, just like in this picture, it seems that the outlook on life can be as opposing as black and white.
Image source here.
The said fashion brand which we looked at in class is large American-based clothing retailer who has often generated negative press. This is because the clothes were intentionally limited in size, occasionally featured racist T-shirt prints and were marketed to teens in an obviously sexualized manner (through advertising, TV commercials and half-clothed sales assistants).
Image source and news article here.
Furthermore, the long-standing CEO who suddenly left at the end of last year explicitly said that he was only interested in marketing to cool kids. So for the background information, the students looked at the brand’s visual marketing material, read the negative press articles and watched the marketing expert Jonathan Gabay talk about a recent issue where an applicant was denied a job due to wearing a headscarf to the interview.
Jonathan Gabay on BBC World News speaking on Hijab hiring scandal
Because this particular class deals with fashion advertising, I also engage the students in a discussion about ethics of advertising and marketing. My goal was not to blame the brand, but to look at its negative media coverage and think about possible new rebranding strategies, now that the visionary CEO had left. (At the end of the class, the students were given a project where they’d be inventing a new and more ethical advertising strategy for this brand.) My hope, as a teacher, was to inspire a constructive discussion and new ideas.
But here is where is turned strange. As one of those recently popular Facebook posts would say: “This teacher talked about ethics. You’ll never believe what happened next.”
Image source here.
My usually timid students raised their hands and informed me that this brand’s attitude was absolutely fine with them. Joking about certain ethnicities and races is fine, too, said one student of a mixed-race ethnic background. Selling clothes in a sexual context is what young people want, said another. And discrimination? Well if you wear a head-scarf to a job interview and then don’t get the job, it’s your own fault, they said. If you don’t like the brand’s marketing you can always choose to shop (or work) somewhere else. However, the students were sure that the brand was popular for a reason, so they must have been doing something right. Or else, why would dozens of teenagers be lining the streets during a shop opening?
Image source and article here.
When I tried to explain that there are other people on this planet (one classroom of youths in southern Germany is not representative of all global opinions) who felt differently about the specific incidents, the generation gap opened gaping wide. My plea for ethical awareness and political correctness, respect for other ethnicities or religions was met with more raised arms, all ready to contradict me. Finally, a student summarized: “It’s great that you brought up this case study, because now you know that we think differently!”
So here are my questions to you, who teach, and to myself, because I have not answered them properly yet:
- How do you deal with contradicting or controversial opinions in class?
- What was your experience with the generation gap and the shift of ethical values?
- How do you stay true to your beliefs and remain a positive role model in the position as a teacher, when students are clearly not accepting your guidance?
I would love to hear your views on this, as I am still trying to figure out the answers myself. One thing I did realize however: You can never tell in advance how a lecture will go and how students will react.
As the beginning of a new quarter approaches, I find myself preparing for my classes conflicted. A part of me still feels close to my students in age and personality traits. I remember being in college and how I thought and felt. Another part of me feels removed. The conversations and motivations of my students seem very different than how I acted in college. As this inner conflict arose while preparing for this quarter, I began asking myself new questions; how do I engage these Millennial students? And beyond engagement, how do I actually teach them?
Photo courtesy of FC Tech Group.
First we must endeavor to understand a Millennial. According to Michael Wilson and Leslie Gerber (2008), Millennials are sheltered, confident, optimistic, team-oriented and are not internally driven. “Millennials respond best to external motivators… (Wilson & Gerber, 2008, pp.31).” Despite their sheltered upbringing, millennials are international consumers and show concern regarding global issues (Pasricha & Kadolph, 2009). In addition, students who choose to study fashion are “more creative and interested in the arts than students in other majors (Hodges & Karpova, Majoring in fashion, 2010, pp. 69).” The most significant motivating factor for students is the perceived professional image and a personally satisfying career (Hodges & Karpova, Majoring in fashion, 2010). Students want to “…take their love of fashion beyond an interest and turn it into a career (Hodges & Karpova, Majoring in fashion, 2010, pp. 71).” Many understand they will not graduate into their desired position but they expect to grow into it instead; others express the desire to be their own boss (Poshadlo, 2010; Hodges & Karpova, Making a major decision, 2009).
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With the beginning of understanding comes the beginning of teaching theories. Some educators are responding by shortening lecture times, reshaping assignments and incorporating more technology (Wilson & Gerber, 2008). Others are simply not assigning work they know the students are not “good” at. But, just as my own conflict sways me to one side, another sound argument is presented; at what point does this “reshaping” destroy higher education (Barnes, Marateo & Ferris, 2007)? At what point do we stop the “razzle dazzle,” as one of my colleagues puts it, and we teach?
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The benefit of my position as the coordinator for fashion design and management programs is that I can look at the whole picture and see how new ideas can be applied to a larger construct. For these fashion millennial students, how can we tap into their motivators and provide quality education throughout their program to develop them into a successful fashion professional? Through analyzing our total curriculum, a colleague helped define an approach I believe can address this challenge. Through curriculum analysis, this hypothesis can start students at a “discovery” phase to explore and gain a foundational knowledge then lead them to critical thinking. After they critically evaluate the material, students and faculty can create a “collaborative learning environment,” which applies the course concepts, enhancing the student’s skills (Pidgeon, N., personal communication, 2014 April 2). To ensure these fashion millennials find value in this collaborative environment, applying a social concern in a service-learning activity could actively engage them (Videtic, 2009). Karen Videtic from Virginia Commonwealth University (2009) explores this concept in greater detail for fashion education and presented strong arguments supported by research completed by Anupama Pasricha and Sara J. Kadoph (2009).
I have constructed my own course content with this new progression;
- Scavenger Hunt: The first homework assignment students will be given is a scavenger hunt. This hunt will require them to find examples of various topics, which will later be covered in the quarter. This is a discovery project and sets them up for the competencies of the course.
- Article Analysis: Next, I lead them into a critical thinking phase. The student’s read articles related to the topic of the week. After they read the articles they must develop their original opinion on the content and create a presentation to deliver to the class the following week.
- Socially Responsible Project: A project that involves a socially responsible component is an active engagement exercise. The students must work as a team to develop a project centered on a class-selected charity. The project is a total competency assignment summarizing the information taught throughout the quarter. Just as the scavenger hunt was a homework assignment to “discover” the content of the class, this final project is an “application” of what they have learned.
These new approaches should allow these millennial students the opportunity to embrace their learning and walk away from my courses with a deeper understanding of the content. Thanks to the insight provided by the many notable scholars on millennials, these assignments, activities and project will guide students through the learning phases in my courses. By changing my methods to engage and teach the millenial students, my conflict remains but has lessened in importance.
I will be trying this out this quarter and will let you know how it goes! Wish me luck!
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Barnes, K., R. Marateo, and S. Ferris. (2007). Teaching and learning with the net generation. Innovate, 3 (4). http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=382 (accessed April 24, 2008).
Hodges, N. & Karpova, E. (2010 March 24). Majoring in fashion: a theoretical framework for understanding the decision-making process. International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, 3(2), 67-76. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/external?sid=ee4d9ae7-d4e9-4510-939f-e468c27039df%40sessionmgr115&vid=3&hid=122 (accessed March 24, 2015).
Hodges, N. & Karpova, E. (2009 July 13). Making a major decision: an exploration of why students enrol in fashion programmes. International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, 2(2-3), 47-57.
Pasricha, A. & Kadolph, S.J. (2009 October 6). Millennial generation and fashion education: a discussion on agents of change. International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, 2(2-3), 119-126.
Poshadlo, G. (2010 September 20-26). Fashion students don’t want to be part of the brain drain. Indianapolis Business Journal, pp 38.
Videtic, K. (2009 November 7). Service Learning: opportunities for deep learning in fashion design and merchandising education. The International Journal of Learning, 16, 397-403.
Wilson, M. & Gerber, L.E. (2008 Fall). How generational theory can improve teaching: strategies for working with the “Millennials”. Currents in Teaching and Learning, 1 (1), 29-44.