Zowie Broach, cofounder of the fashion-meets-art label Boudicca and a longtime educator, is the new head of fashion at London’s Royal College of Art, which offers a two-year MA program. Alumni include Zandra Rhodes, Ossie Clark, Christopher Bailey and Erdem Moralioglu. We caught up with Broach just before her first student fashion show this week at the college in Kensington.
This story first appeared in the June 3, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
What are you aiming to instill in the students?
I want them to be independent thinkers, to be present to their time, and that means philosophy, science, technology, material — and history. It’s also about understanding great cut and drape — and what is excellence. I think the smartest people in fashion, Miuccia Prada or Rei Kawakubo, are deeply connected to the present intellectual thinking. And I think they would expect the same of the people they employ.
How are you preparing the students for the brutal world of fashion?
They’re sharp to the business of life, sharp to understanding what they know — and what they don’t. They also know the current business model is taking a while to shift: I had a student who said: ‘I can work for Ralph Lauren and still sell clothes online.’ You don’t have to have one job. You can be fluid. You can be part of the structure, but you don’t have to have a narrative of a collection that’s really costly and that you know won’t sell.
Two academic years is not much time at all. And it’s costly. How have you organized the M.A. program?
You need the first year to be playful, exploratory. I think putting a cage around the students is wrong. As soon as they get to the second year, they’re very keen to go out and meet people and connect. We’ve had different people coming in from different stages, very different journeys, asking ‘Must you be based in London? Can you be based in Iceland or Berlin? What does the geography of the Internet give?’ José Neves [founder of the luxury fashion platform Farfetch.com] came and gave a talk, and I think they found that really positive.
How’s Boudicca faring?
We’re still alive, but not doing shows. It’s a lot of private orders, artists and musicians. I’ve learned more about fashion doing private orders than anything else. You learn about people’s bodies, their insecurities, what mood they’re in, what their lifestyles are.