NEW YORK — Fashion schools say they’re committed to offering their students broad training in computer-aided design, but the high cost of hardware and software are putting the expansion of their fledgling CAD programs in jeopardy. “I’m running into a bottleneck,” said Peggy Goutmann of the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. “We only have nine workstations. We run them seven days a week, and the kids have the sign-up sheets filled up long in advance. I need more workstations.”
Goutmann said the situation at Philadelphia is especially difficult because the school can’t rely on government funding the way state schools can.
“We are a little private school,” she said, “not part of anybody’s state system.”
Goutmann, however, said software vendors have been generous to Philadelphia. “All the CAD companies give us software,” she said.
Goutmann and officials at other schools said the vendors have a definite interest in seeing that students at top fashion schools are trained on their systems, as those students will likely specify which systems are purchased by their employers once they get out into the work force.
“We get all the help from the CAD companies because they know these students will go to work for companies that don’t now have CAD systems,” Goutmann said. “And these kids will end up specifying what systems those companies buy.”
The software companies have also tried to secure the requisite hardware their systems run on for Philadelphia. “Milliken, Viable and E.A.T. have all found ways of supplying us with the hardware for free,” Goutmann said.
This symbiotic relationship is paying off for the students and the CAD vendors alike, according to Goutmann.
“I had 35 graduates this year and only three are left without placements,” she said. “The main reason placements are so high is that the students have knowledge of these systems.”
CAD consultant Alison Grudier said Philadelphia is not the only fashion school benefiting from good relations with CAD vendors.
“The CAD vendors have done a lot of work with the schools to get them on line with CAD systems,” she said.
The Rhode Island School of Design is expanding its CAD training with the help of a $7 million grant from IBM, $215,000 of which will be in the form of IBM workstations. The units include two 286 machines, one 386, three 486 and one 6000 unit.
Currently, R.I.S.D. has six workstations running software from C.D.I. Mary Kawenski of R.I.S.D. said the new machines will ease the burden on students who had been forced to share an insufficient number of workstations.
Sven Travis of the Parsons School of Design said vendors willing to offer the schools monetary grants or hardware and software are acknowledging a debt to the schools. The schools, Travis contends, back up CAD training with their faculty. And the cost of committing faculty to CAD training is often more expensive than the systems themselves.
“C.D.I. has made a sizable donation of software to Parsons,” he said. “Vendors like C.D.I. are willing to waive software fees if schools agree to commit faculty to CAD training. They know faculty is one of the major costs.
“Everything is wrapped up in the funding,” Travis continued. “High-end machines can cost from $50,000 to $100,000.”
Grants totaling $3 million are critical to Parsons’ expansion of CAD training from its textile department to its fashion department.
“It’s only recently that we got the funding for computers in fashion even though we’ve used CAD systems for textile design for five years,” Travis said.
Parsons’ Frank Rizzo said Tomio Taki, president of Anne Klein & Co., is donating $1 million to the effort. Hardware vendor Samsung is donating another million and “various hardware and software vendors” are rounding out the $3 million figure,” according to Rizzo.
Even New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, which boasts a large CAD training program, is acutely aware of the costs of keeping its program and its systems up to date.
“We’ve adopted a philosophy of bringing in the higher-end equipment,” commented FIT’s Aaron Schorr. “We are investing over $1 million a year in turnover and upgrades.”
Schorr said FIT upgrades about a fifth of its computer classrooms annually. The school, which currently has 18 computer labs, will increase that number to 25 shortly.
“You basically have to retire five classrooms a year,” Schorr said. “So every classroom is turned over once in five years. We have to turn the classrooms every five years max in order to stay current with developments in hardware and software.”