PARIS — The “world’s best fashion school” just got better: not only has the Institut Français de la Mode recently been granted the ability to confer master-level degrees for its fashion design programs by the French ministry of superior education, but it has a brand new academic chair with none other than Chanel.
Revealed Thursday, “Chanel and le19M Chair in Fashion Savoir-Faire” is part of a five-year partnership between IFM and the fashion house to create a center for research and teaching excellence in fashion’s specialized crafts.
“For Chanel, it had long been a crazy dream to find a subject that would mobilize us with the IFM, because it was important to us to go further and pledge ourselves on a subject that is important to us: the know-hows in fashion — not just the ‘métiers d’art’ [specialized crafts] but all the skills that, combined together, give us unique products,” said Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion and president of Chanel SAS.
He was quick to add he was also speaking as chairman of the executive committee at the Institut Français de la Mode Foundation when expressing his satisfaction at having found a way to engage companies and groups on a subject as apparently theoretical as this one.
“Techniques are plentiful, they can be developed and passed on, but to really interest our young students and get them to learn and combine, they have to be attached to a tangible reality. Fashion is creation, but creation is embodied in tangible products that are underpinned by know-how, by people who have learned [these skills] and who transmit a kind of magic touch to these products,” he added.
Pavlovsky was speaking in front of a full house in the auditorium of the newly opened IFM campus inside the futuristic-looking Cité de la mode et du design, during a roundtable with the school’s general manager Xavier Romatet, moderated by its director of research, Benjamin Simmenauer.
The overarching goal of this new academic chair is to produce knowledge on the relationship between specialized crafts and the industry, a topic that is currently too shallowly understood especially in France, in order to strengthen support the industry’s continued development. “The stronger we are on a subject, the better we are at transmitting it, both to students but also to [other types of audiences],” said Romatet.
The relationship between know-how and fashion will be approached through social science and humanities, rather than the angle of objects or design, Romatet said, explaining that discussions had turned up cultural and societal aspects such as transmission and that Pavlovsky had described the program as being “not for Chanel but for the industry, something open-source.”
This played into the school’s goal of fostering interdisciplinary studies among its students to ensure that graduates would “speak each other’s language” when entering the industry. “A good designer is someone who can take concepts and go beyond what’s existing while being keenly aware of feasibility,” he remarked.
Research and teaching will be supported by le19M, the complex inaugurated by Chanel in 2021 and home to 11 of its specialty ateliers, particularly through a 13,000 square-foot space called “La Galerie du 19M,” which is open to professionals, students and the public in a bid to foster conversations.
“There isn’t one city — not just a school or university — in the world that can offer the same breadth of know-how, skills and expertise represented, and we hope that we can continue to project Paris as capital of fashion,” said Pavlovsky. “Without craftspeople, where will we be in 10 years? And that’s not just a question for Chanel.”
Since 1985 Chanel has steadily been acquiring suppliers in a bid to secure their supply chains and preserve specialized crafts. The Paraffection subsidiary now has 40 entities under its umbrella, including embroiderers Lesage and Montex, jewelry makers Goossens, milliner Maison Michel and Italian knit specialist Paima.
The “Chanel and le19M Chair in Fashion Savoir-Faire” will be led by Emilie Hammen, who currently teaches fashion history and theory at IFM and was chosen for her academic credentials but also for her experience in the industry. Romatet praised her “intimate knowledge of processes and ways of functioning of creation” due to her track record as a designer for Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs, a curator and a scholar.
“As an individual, I’m glad to see this opportunity emerge to give space and research time to questions that have shaped my studies, my first experiences and most recently, my doctoral studies,” said Hammen, who noted that academic research on fashion was still in its early stages in France, despite the wealth of archives and materials available in the country.
She also received a doctorate in history of art from the Université Paris I Panthéon — Sorbonne, after presenting her research on the historiography of fashion and its relation to art in front of a jury that included Palais Galliera’s director Miren Arzalluz and FIT’s Valerie Steele.
The “Chanel and le19M Chair in Fashion Savoir-Faire” has been endowed with 150,000 euros a year, a figure that comes in addition to Chanel’s other contributions through the IFM foundation.
Two other chairs have been created at IFM: one with industry trade show organization Premiere Vision, titled “The Economics of Creative Materials for Fashion” and one on sustainability with luxury group Kering.
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