PARIS — In a bid to build a world-class fashion school uniting business, design and savoir-faire, France’s IFM management school and École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne have formed a strategic alliance.
Dior chief executive officer Sidney Toledano, who is president of the École de la Chambre, told WWD the fusion would take place over the next few years, ultimately bringing the two institutions under one roof.
In an interview, he said it reflects the fact that managers, designers and technicians collaborate closely at fashion companies, whereas these disciplines tend to be remote in France’s rigid educational system, now undergoing consolidation and liberalization.
“Why shouldn’t designers know exactly how to technically make a dress?” he asked. “Likewise, managers should know what an atelier does and how to deal with designers.”
The combined school is expected to unite 700 students, including about 200 apprentices, about 40 percent of them international.
Founded in 1927, the École de la Chambre Syndicale offers vocational training and higher education programs in design and patternmaking, blending creativity and technical expertise. It has turned out such famous alumni as Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino Garavani, Issey Miyake, André Courreges and Tomas Maier.
The IFM, an acronym for French Fashion Institute, offers postgraduate programs in textile, fashion and luxury, welcoming some 200 students and 2,000 executives each year. It is supported by the French Ministry of Industry and is known for its academic and market research. Nina Ricci’s Guillaume Henri and Ami designer Alexandre Mattiussi are among graduates of the IFM’s design program.
Pierre Bergé, president of IFM’s board of administration, said joining forces with the École de la Chambre would foster diversity by “welcoming students from all backgrounds, from vocational training to master level.”
Pascal Morand, executive president of the Fédération Française de la Couture du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, and Dominique Jacomet, dean of IFM, are to head a steering committee in charge of the alliance.
“We want the school to attract the best talents, because we have many very big companies in France,” Toledano said, noting hires from many graduations of both schools. Peers such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermès also choose from the bunch, he added.
“The world is transforming and our industry is changing, so we need to give priority to education,” Toledano said, adding that technology’s impact on fashion would be another key element in the consolidated curriculum.
Ralph Toledano — who is president of Puig fashion, president of the Fédération Française and unrelated to Dior’s Toledano — noted that the consolidated school would offer the highest levels of education, up to five-year courses, across all disciplines and industry strata. “It will of course be for luxury, but it also for textiles, for retail and for more mass products,” he said in an interview.
The development comes on the eve of a packed couture week in Paris, whose numerous new entrants — including Francesco Scognamiglio, Vetements and J.Mendel — speaks to a growing need for specialized artisanal skills.
Earlier this month, when the École de la Chambre exhibited the work of fourth-year students, it highlighted the growing technical focus of the fashion academy, as it seeks to turn out skilled workers that meet the needs of the industry. Some students presented a creative concept alongside their graduate collections, while others skewed toward interpreting sketches in three dimensions — what is known in French as “modélisme.”