MILAN — According to leading trend forecaster Li Edelkoort, “nurturing textiles is a way for fashion longevity.”
She is the latest marquee fashion professional to be conscripted by Florence-based fashion school Polimoda to helm a new master course in textile design, dubbed “From Farm to Fabric to Fashion,” which will bow at the end of September.
The two-year program is aimed at educating the next generation of “textile thinkers,” and will cross-pollinate knowledge of fabrics, sourcing and weaving, craft and high-tech materials with broader cultural notions of sociology and anthropology, in an attempt to provide future fashion professionals with the means to overhaul the industry.
“Education has largely participated in the demise of fashion by closing textile design departments, neglecting fabric knowledge and promoting virtual sketching over draping and patternmaking,” Edelkoort said during a digital press conference Friday. “This is why we need to reconstruct the system and introduce a radical new educational model based on the ancestry of textiles and its affinity with fashion.”
Although the course’s syllabus is still a work in progress, Edelkoort outlined her plans via a booklet-size manifesto called “A Declaration of Change: Radical Metamorphosis,” a 3.0 version of the Arts and Crafts movement’s ethos.
Citing overproduction, the climate crisis and a general aversion to wild consumption among younger generations, Edelkoort opined that “opportunity needs to lead to greatness, not to fastness. Even the venerated luxury houses will have to abide by the various new tides and adjust their practices, reining in their goals of systemic growth. Nobody needs as many things as currently being suggested and people start to scale down their possessions as ownership is no longer considered cool.”
The trend forecaster underscored how textile design once stood at the foundation of the fashion process and helped shoot to international fame such luxury houses as Missoni with its zigzag pattern and Burberry with its checks. “Nurturing textile is a recipe for longevity…couturiers would think textile before trend and chose their fabrics to lead fashion,” she said.
In the current business- and financially driven scenario, fashion has become less inventive or creative, leading “the sporadic use of a jacquard [to] become an overnight TikTok sensation,” she contended.
“There’s so much money [involved in the industry], whereas elsewhere there are people who are not even paid for making our clothes,” Edelkoort said. “Small-scale companies may be the answer. Nobody needs one of those fast-fashion brands in every block of the city.…I believe a new economy can be written and imagined. Sharing things and not always buying things is one of the major ideas, but there’s also modernity in a well-designed garment that can last forever,” she said.
As part of the course, which will be mentored by Trend Union’s Philip Fimmano, first-year students will be tasked with rediscovering and learning all the steps across the supply chain, which entail cultivating crops, grooming animals, discovering fibers’ composition, yarn design, dyeing techniques and fabric design.
In the second year, Polimoda will offer further insight into the world of textiles, integrating the study of high-tech innovations and future-proof materials, as well anthropology and archaeology, asking its students to write a manifesto about their vision. The master’s course will be completed with on-the-ground experiences at leading textile makers throughout Italy.
Edelkoort described this holistic approach as “empathic design,” aimed at shifting students’ perception and helping them become “collectors and collaborators versus consumers.” This is very much in sync with people’s COVID-19-induced move from cities to less urban environments, the emergence of rural styling, rediscovery of crafts and closer-to-nature lifestyle, she said.
Massimiliano Giornetti, director of Polimoda, said he expects the master’s course to leave a mark on the industry.
“Together with Linda Loppa [Polimoda’s strategy and vision adviser], we thought about the necessity to teach our students the true necessity of curing an industry that has become only interested in embellishments and decorations. As we move from the real [world] to the metaverse, we wanted to highlight a vision to reshape the industry,” he said.
“My aim is to find people that can embrace with us this change in fashion.…The industry is in demand for innovation and out-of-the-box approaches. I want our students to be autonomous, spontaneous and very much individuals, bringing to Florence their different backgrounds,” he said.
Polimoda has been nabbing marquee names to enhance and strengthen its course offerings. Last year it enlisted Kris Van Assche as mentor for the master in creative direction program and appointed An Vandevorst as its head of the fashion design department.