By  on March 25, 2009

With the fall collections wrapped up and retailers training a far flintier eye on clothes that may or may not sell come September, there is a debate afoot in another corner of fashion, though it is hardly purely academic. Design schools are reporting a near-record surge in applications, requiring deans and faculty to reexamine how to prepare a new generation of designers to enter a field that may not need — indeed, may not even want — them.

The question of how to train aspiring fashion designers is in no way new: Design schools have built their reputations on particular approaches to education, from a freethinking, conceptually based curriculum (as with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago) to a technically focused one that underscores marketability (the Academy of Art University and Parsons The New School for Design, among others). But with jobs rapidly disappearing for industry veterans — let alone freshly minted graduates — and stores glutted with clothes, both art- and commerce-centered programs are scrambling to reevaluate themselves.

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