Most of the people from the college who have collaborated with the Fashion Education in Prison project say it opened their eyes to the complexity of the criminal justice system. Working with the offenders as individuals has changed attitudes; we have developed our knowledge of the circumstances which lead to people committing crimes, and deepened our understanding of the concerns, hopes and aspirations of offenders. Now we want to see them better educated and given a chance to become independent individuals with self worth, to contribute to society in a positive way.
Erwin James, an ex-offender who writes for the Guardian, makes the point that as we spend £40k per prisoner and have a re-conviction rate of 70%. we are ultimately investing in failure as we release offenders back into society simply to re-offend. As we continue to fail victims, society and even offenders, perhaps what is needed is an honest debate about what we, society, want from our prison service.
In many of the discussions about developing the Fashion Education in Prison project further, it is clear that there are many in the service who are dedicated to improving the life chances of offenders. There are many charitable organisations who support these types of projects throughput the country, companies also want to support LCF by introducing some manufacturing of their goods into the system to support training and skills development. Because of some of the existing assumptions around prisoners, ex-offenders and the Prison Service itself, there are numerous barriers; companies are concerned that their customers might either see their involvement as bonded labour. What is needed is a radical shift in our culture and our way of thinking about the prison service and what it’s purpose is.
Education is a key factor in the rehabilitation process and keeping people out of prison.
We all need to be better educated about the complexities and difficulties surrounding crime and punishment, as one way or another we are all affected by it.
Though fashion schools produce thousands of design graduates each year, many of whom fail to launch their own labels or find jobs as designers at fashion houses, the fashion business and adjacent industries need graduates with fashion design degrees like never before, argues Professor Frances Corner, head of London College of Fashion.
Are we producing too many fashion designers? Those posing the question usually assume that a fashion design education should lead directly to a job as a designer at a fashion brand, probably at one of the famous luxury houses. This is based a number of erroneous assumptions.
First, it supposes that education is about training and preparing “oven-ready chickens” for the industry. No-one expects a history graduate to become an historian automatically. Equally a fashion degree, with one foot in industry and one in education, does not and should not concentrate on training students for the industry to the detriment of developing their creative and entrepreneurial skills.
Second, it posits a narrow definition of the fashion industry. Nowadays, the industry needs graduates with an understanding and experience of design, but not necessarily to work as designers. Fashion drives so many industries and economies: it provides the value-added, design-focused element that makes consumers happy to splash out on something because it is fashionable — that may be a piece of clothing, an accessory, furniture, food or the latest mobile device. Fashion is everywhere.
Add to this, the Internet, the development of digital technologies and the blurring of the traditional boundaries between creative subjects and the lines where fashion ends and film, graphics, media, music, retailing and beauty begin become difficult to define. These industries are crying out for people whose education equips them to understand the role of design in our society and our economy; so the opportunities for well prepared, fashion design graduates, who understand the complexity and spread of these global creative industries are numerous.
As the world’s oldest educational institution focusing entirely on fashion, London College of Fashion provides courses that serve the breadth of the contemporary industry. With accreditation from the Association of Business Schools, we are running the first EMBA in fashion. Our portfolio has grown significantly to meet the requirements of a non-design fashion sector. Over the last 15 years our undergraduate offer has expanded from less than seven courses to just over 40, with 60 percent non-design. Postgraduates now have a choice of 28 courses, with 71 percent non-design.
About three-quarters of our students are in work six months after graduation. In journalism this is 90 percent (with 65 percent in managerial roles) and for our BA management course it’s 85 percent (with 80 percent in a managerial role). What’s more, over half of our second year students looking for accredited work placements want non-design opportunities, be they retail management, marketing, visual merchandising, media and photography — or within sectors including journalism, filmmaking and PR. Indeed, our non-design courses often provide a set of skills which transfer easily into other creative sectors like journalism, photography, media, marketing and management.
As educators, we use the opportunity to challenge the definition of fashion amongst the future generations of the industry and question the very nature of the industry, its values and structure. Students come to understand that fashion is more than the design of clothing and related products. Thus, we encourage them to engage with other areas of equal importance within the industry: the communication of fashion, the science of fashion, the ethics of fashion and the business of fashion.
The future fashion industry needs creative, innovative, visual thinkers and these are abilities often sought in managers and senior leaders in just about every sector, not only fashion. The industry will also need graduates with skills that were never considered before simply to keep abreast of an ever-growing and sophisticated global market that is increasingly digital and technologically focused. The fashion psychologist, the fashion retailer with expertise in the over-60s market, the fashion 3-D printer, the fashion software developer whose focus is the future of e-commerce; these are the sorts of jobs that the fashion industry requires. However, at the heart of all these roles is an education in fashion design.
London Fashion Week has been changing. The capital has long been recognized as a crucible of new talent, built on the experience and expertise of its great art schools and fashion education system. However, too often those talented graduates would leave the UK for design houses overseas who could see how the originality of these young talents could be used to enhance and develop fashion businesses. What the UK dismissed as whacky, is harnessed by others into income generation.
This year feels very different. London is showcasing a range of designers at different stages of business development and success. Some have managed to develop strong international profiles, Vivienne Westwood, Margaret Howell, John Rocha. Others are more synonymous with a brand, such as Christopher Bailey for Burberry. We shall also be able to see those who are rapidly gaining a reputation for being at the heart of where fashion is headed, Christopher Kane or JW Anderson. The latest designers with a small turnover but enormous influence, Simone Rocha or Meadham Kerchoff. And those who are developing reputations like Thomas Tait for his striking womenswear or Ada Zanditon who integrates environmental and sustainable values with strong design.
Now London is more than the world fashion capital for new talent. Our talent are developing into designers who really understand the nature of building a brand into a successful company, which is not just about the clothes. Now they only need investment.
Christopher Bailey understands that the technology of shopping is as important to Burberry as the creation of desirable clothes. JW Anderson recognises the importance of brand building from the outset and how the emerging concept can be applied not just to a Topshop capsule collection but also across womenswear and menswear. Both these designers recognize that the 21st century consumer of fashion wants the dream. She wants the messaging around the brand the social media campaigns and the ability to buy it easily, swiftly and at a variety of price points. Designers who understand that, like Bailey with the Burberry perfume or Anderson the Topshop collection, will survive and have real influence.
Creative direction is the new fashion design. London is exceptionally well placed to produce this new breed of designer. Unlike many other fashion education systems, the UK has long produced courses and programmes about the business and communication of fashion, giving young designers access to a network of graduates who understand these aspects of the business. The BFC with its New Gen funding and Fashion Fund together with organisations such as CFE, London East or Vauxhall Fashion Scout spot, nurture and support the development of businesses. We challenge graduates to understand the nature of their brand, the mechanics of the business and production and manufacturing issues much earlier in their education. Emerging designers are encouraged to recognise that they do not have to do everything themselves, but they need to know how to access someone that does. We challenge them to understand how to control the focus and purpose of the brand when others are responsible for delivering aspects of it; how the fashion is applied across a range of services as much as how it is made. It is going to be fascinating to see just how this trend emerges over the coming years. As it is about developing talent, London Fashion Week will be the one to watch.
Over the past couple of years the London College of Fashion Green Council have initiated some very exciting projects. One being the Dye Garden at our Mare Street site. Last year we planted an urban orchard and this year we are preparing beds for flax seed which, once harvested will be used to create a dress. Our Dye garden has now been shortlisted for a Green Gown Award.
It often surprises me where our students take their inspiration from…
“I had a meeting on the top floor of John Prince’s Street and noticed that there were beekeepers out tending to a hive. I was impressed and elated that LCF had taken in a hive!”
Over the next year or so we will be doing our best to introduce bees onto all of our sites so if you would like to get involved contact the College Green Council.
Read an interview the Jackie here…