Keeping up with an industry that is in a state of constant fluctuation is never easy. As the fashion industry faces radical changes, ranging from the fourth technological revolution to the rise of new forms of consumption, climate change and shifting consumer viewpoints, ensuring the next generation of fashion creators have the correct tools to oversee the future of fashion has become a challenge in its own right. In order to continue to positively shape the industry, the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI), has decided to undergo a significant educational restructuring, one which reflects the viewpoints and preferences of the next generation of fashion leaders.
Through its educational restructuring, which will affect both the institute Bachelor's as well as it's upcoming Master's programmes, AMFI aims to create new learning pathways for future professions. At the same time, they aim to equip students with the skills, mindset and drive needed to guide and form the creative industry successfully. The fashion institute, part of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences - HVA, ultimate goal is to ensure that their students become "responsible change-makers" who will try and create a futureproof fashion industry. Placing creative-technology, sustainability and innovation, together with collaboration, diversity and inclusion, at the centre of their new curriculum, AMFI hopes to strengthen its position as one of the "most groundbreaking fashion institutes in the world."
Changes in consumer mindsets creating new career paths in fashion
To learn more about the new educational changes taking place at AMFI, we spoke with Peter Leferink, Head of Fashion & Design at AMFI. "What we have seen over the past few years, due to environmental issues, developments in creative-technology and changes in consumer behaviours, is that the whole industry has changed quite rapidly and started asking for different types of fashion creators, like virtual designers for example," says Leferink. "This has led to the need for new pathways within our curriculum." At the same time, AMFI is acutely aware that a large percentage of the current roles within the industry are likely to change or disappear in time, which is why it has been working over the past two years to shift its educational focus. Rather than building its curriculum solely on the course set by the industry and consumer behaviour, the institute is actively working on offering studies which will help develop a new, positive fashion industry. "That does mean a huge shift in what we offer from an educational point of view, coming from following the industry evolving into creating a new one."
Next to ensuring the different pathways the institute offers within its Bachelor degree are more flexible, students will have more freedom to define their studies as part of the educational shift. This means students will be able to decide if they wish to pursue a more general education and cover several aspects of the fashion industry; such as researching the role of creative-technology within fashion from several angles, or focus on a more specific specialisation, such as becoming a RTW womenswear designer. "We really wanted to open up these new pathways and ensure that AMFI's three dimensions, Fashion & Design, Fashion & Branding and Fashion & Management, work more closely than ever before. We want to offer expert tracks for students, where they can combine expertise from our dimensions." The first-year under the new educational restructuring to offer the updated curriculum plan is currently underway at AMFI and offers students insights on how they view themselves as a fashion developer, how they behave and why within a possible new industry, as well as society and the role of fashion is within society.
"You need to teach students the skills they need to build the careers they want, as well as how to find out who they are..."
By the end of the first year, students should have the knowledge and the tools needed to set out a course for the remainder of their degree at AMFI. By placing more focus on how the students see the world and themselves in it, the institute hopes to instil in them the mindset, as well as the skills, needed to tackle the ever-changing industry. "We are championing personal growth here within the focus of personal and artistic framework of the students," says Leferink. "You need to teach students the skills they need to build the careers they want, as well as how to find out who they are and how they see themselves in the world - and that's a beautiful thing." He believes that is not only enough to teach students established skills, such as pattern making or business management anymore. Students should also be taught how they can collaborate and co-create with others, as well as learn from each other as part of the framework of the course. Which is why within three to four years, the institute hopes to offer fully customisable pathways within its courses, where students can combine different elements from across its dimensions.
"For example, if a student wants to become a virtual designer, but also wants to learn about fashion concepts and branding, then dimensions should be able to come together and offer a unique pathway," notes Leferink. AMFI believes that by creating a new curriculum which is built on collaboration and a cross-disciplinary approach, students will be able to acquire more knowledge and expertise during their studies. It will also put them in a more independent position, giving them more control of which direction their studies go, while moving away from the classical models of education. "We cherish our natural history of educating branding, design and management skills, next to embracing a future of coaching visionary fashion developers." Ultimately the fashion institute hopes its new educational offering will help better prepare all their students for the challenges they will face in the changing fashion landscape.
At the same time, the institute also aims to develop 'labs,' for the students to study in, which will mix theory studies with practice by letting the dimensions work together with international organisations, companies, business partners as well as other educational institutions and cross over collaborations within the University of applied sciences (HVA) itself. "What we hope for is to create an environment where students work together and inspire each other, as well as with other fashion professionals. Connecting industry and business is an opportunity that will only benefit both parties." By offering peer to peer coaching, mentoring between the years and external support, AMFI is looking to continue building futureproof studies. "But we are not there yet," stresses Leferink. "This is how we foresee the future of fashion education, but we don't know exactly what it will be like for sure. We have to ensure that we keep an open vision on things, but are flexible at the same time to react in time. Ultimately we are making sure to build towards a possible but positive fashion future."
Photos: Tim Buiting for AMFI. Image: Avatar, credit Iris van Wees.