What is fashion if not an industry that’s constantly redefining itself? The 90s was an era enriched by globalisation, opening up a variety of new styles, influences and production methods. In the early 2000s, we saw how fast fashion turned the apparel sector on its head. Today, it’s technology that’s disrupting fashion at rapid pace.
“No area of life or business will be insulated from AI, in the same way that there’s no part of society that hasn’t been touched by computers or the internet,” Kenneth Cukier, Data Editor at The Economist and author of books including Big Data: A Revolution that Will Transform How We Work, told Business of Fashion.
From artificial intelligence dictating the latest trends to luxury brands uphauling communications through social media, machines and the digital world are transforming the fashion and retail industries.
It’s no longer just about sales, but the stories customers seek from each garment they buy, especially among luxury brands. With consumer tastes increasingly influenced by online content, communication teams are rapidly expanding their digital marketing section. According to The State of Fashion 2018 Report by McKinsey and the Business of Fashion, 60 percent of fashion executives say they will invest in omnichannel integration, e-Commerce and digital marketing in 2018.
Last year, Amazon rolled out its first “style assistant”, which analyses outfits through a combination of algorithms and (human) “fashion specialists” to tell you how you look.
Beyond the hi-tech, efforts are in the works to merge technology and fashion to address environmental concerns the industry is yet to shake off. Analysts further predict big changes to come, stemming from the aligning of supply and demand, personal customer service and assisting designers.
What this means for fashion schools and universities is the opening of new opportunities for their latest cohort of students. Gone are the days where career options are limited to designers, photographers and public relations officers. Today, many brands have created jobs with titles like data analysts, client experience directors, chief consumer officer, and chief digital and client officer, to name just a few.
They are the masters of digital trends, acutely aware not just of the long-term socio-cultural factors that affect fashion, but also of how the industry will forge ahead in terms of ethics and sustainability challenges.
These are the talent hot in demand by the present and future fashion industry. Education is often criticised for lagging behind business, but not at these three leading fashion and communication schools in Europe:
UNIVERSITÀ DELLA SVIZZERA ITALIANA (USI) – SWITZERLAND
For a peek at what the future for fashion looks like, head to Switzerland’s USI University. This is where the world’s first digital fashion communication Master of its kind, the Master of Science in Digital Fashion Communication, was created.
This Master helps USI students make the cut in the competitive fashion world. Armed with a strong foundation in communication skills, in-depth understanding of the creation process and cutting-edge tools to interact in the digital business, the world is their oyster. Experiencing the French, Italian and Swiss cultures in their day-to-day activities adds another boost to the CV, practicing additionally to English, Italian and French, languages of great importance in the fashion world.
With the course split across three semesters at USI (Lugano, Switzerland) and one semester at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne in Paris (France), this is one enriching double degree. Students stand to benefit in terms of cultural and social enrichment, opportunities for international networking and the ability to work in diverse cross-border environments.
With all the above, professional opportunities go beyond omnichannel communication management and strategy for small and large fashion companies. USI graduates are equally in-demand to fill roles such as digital and social media marketing, brand development, data and e-Commerce management, advertising and PR support, CSR co-ordination and related experience-economy industries.
NATIONAL COLLEGE OF ART & DESIGN DUBLIN – IRELAND
At the National College of Art & Design Dublin (NCAD), innovation and sustainability are the core themes behind its School of Design’s education philosophy.
NCAD’s undergraduate Fashion Design course stands out for its emphasis on encouraging students to be aware of fashion in its social and cultural context. To mould informed and creative designers, students are taught the design process as it applies to the fashion industry as well as understanding fashion in a wide range of contexts and the practical application of visual culture.
At postgraduate level, the MA Design for Body and Environment is an advanced degree for radical and creative innovators. It’s an interdisciplinary programme that covers a broad range of areas – from fashion to textiles, and jewellery to accessories – and combines core taught elements in research and critical studies, with advanced studio practice.
This research-led programme serves as an educational foundation that will enhance tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and designers’ cultural and technical innovations within and beyond the design discipline. The 15-month programme is designed so practitioners can undertake their study alongside maintaining their professional career.
UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS LONDON (UAL) – UK
Your creative future begins at this world-renowned arts and design college. The dynamic fashion enthusiast can begin their fashion education through its many forward-looking and ambitious pre-degree programmes, from highly-intensive courses in producing fashion and textile portfolios to a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design (Fashion and Textiles).
At undergraduate level, choices include BA (Hons) in Fashion Communication: Fashion Journalism, Fashion Design with Marketing and Fashion: Fashion Print. At postgraduate level, programmes like Graduate Diploma in Fashion and MA Fashion, graduate students go on to develop agendas for creative industries and intellectual debate.
What all these courses share in common is UAL’s commitment to questioning the cores of the disciplines, “encouraging collision and exchange across boundaries to generate unexpected outcomes,” as its website states. UAL partners with the movers and shakers, local and global, from the industry and public every step of the way, preparing students for a fashion world that never stops changing.
What this ultimately means for the fashion student at UAL is an “environment of extraordinary and diverse creativity and opportunity in which to learn and excel,” as described by Anne Smith, Dean of Academic Programmes for Fashion; Jewellery and Textiles; Product, Ceramic and Industrial Design and Spatial Practices.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International
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