With more Australian than French fashion schools in the world’s top 50, our aspiring young designers have the foundation they need to thrive.
Did you know there are more Australian than French fashion schools in the world’s top 50?
There is more to fashion school than learning design. Take Melbourne designer Toni Maticevski, for example. Maticevski went through the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) 20 years ago, before building his eponymous business into one of Australia’s fashion success stories.
“It’s all about the initiative you take yourself to make things better and learn,” says Maticevski. “I utilised my patternmaking teachers to share and show me as much as they knew.”
The fact that the fashion industry is changing at such a rapid pace brings its own challenges to educational institutions, and Robyn Healy of RMIT acknowledges that today’s graduates need to be able to do so much more than simply design beautiful garments.
“The sort of graduate you have now needs to be more multi-skilled. It’s important now to get graduates with that flexibility,” Healy says.
RMIT was last year ranked by Business of Fashion (BoF) as the top fashion school in Australia, and 17th in the world, followed by Sydney’s Fashion Design Studio TAFE (23) and the University of Technology Sydney (28). No surprise that London’s Central Saint Martins topped the list and the United States had the most schools in the top 50, with 14. France, however, had only two schools listed.
So what are Australian fashion schools doing right? The feedback from heads of school at both RMIT and FDS is that it’s the mix of hands-on, artisanal creation and looking at what a modern, changing industry requires of graduates.
“We’ve tried to blend new technology with what we call traditional bespoke technology. The potency is in the mix of the two,” says Healy.
Andrea Cainero and Sophie Drysdale of FDS agree, pinpointing “a more artisan approach to fashion, with a key focus on innovation and modernisation”.
Industry consultation is key to creating curriculums that respond to a changing environment. This can include collaborating with industry on projects and problem-solving.
Healy adds that teachers at RMIT need to have a practice of their own. “In the design space they have to have the industry experience and they have to be active,” he says. “We’re very much about the doing, and also critiquing the doing.”
The latter is something that is happening increasingly since what were originally vocational courses became bachelor degree courses three years ago. “With the higher-education approach, we’re engaged more in applied research projects,” says Drysdale. “We’re getting students to work on specific problems and resolve them in line with industry.”
Teaching the business side of fashion has become a hot topic in recent years. This stream of study is included in courses to a point. “You could probably do a six-year fashion degree,” says Cainero. “That’s where we have to think about what we focus on, what other short courses could support [students].” Drysdale adds that while business is included in second and third year, some students finish their degree and go on to do a postgraduate diploma in business.
Jessica Van graduated from FDS in 2015, and recently won the NSW/ACT Young Achiever Award in the Arts and Fashion category. She is one of those recent graduates now working towards launching her own label, while working full-time in a non-related field. Van found the internships she undertook as part of her study program to be just as important as the subjects on offer.
“You have to be immersed in it to understand the struggles and pitfalls (in running a business),” Van says. “The best thing (about the course) was being taught by people in the industry with personal experience. There is such a great mix of theory and practical information, but also hands-on skills.”
Clothes by young Australian fashion designers Sarah Schofield (this image and right) and Paul Castro (top right).