Gladys Perint Palmer, executive director of the Academy of Art University’s School of Fashion, admits to being impatient when students or faculty aren’t giving their best. She speaks quickly but quietly and wears oval, tortoiseshell glasses that closely match the color of her hair. She’s fastidious but full of energy. Another thing to know about Palmer: She has little tolerance for technology.
“I see absolutely no reason to draw on a computer,” said Palmer. “There is something so luscious, so juicy about a good illustration.”
Though Palmer heads Academy’s fashion program, she is also known as a leading fashion illustrator, since she’s contributed to publications such as The New Yorker and has worked for clients such as Oscar de la Renta. But she’s also a Central Saint Martins graduate and acolyte, having incorporated its central tenets of fashion pedagogy into the program.
“Everyone needs to learn how to cut, sew and draw,” she explained. “The idea is that you’ve got to learn the rules, and then you’ve got to break them,” lessons, she said, that she learned from the legendary Muriel Pemberton, a painter turned illustrator, who founded Saint Martins’ fashion curriculum in the Thirties.
Palmer signed on to overhaul the academy’s fashion department 10 years ago. Fashion department enrollment has grown five-fold during her tenure. Another Pemberton rule Palmer swears by is to hire “the best people, and let them get on with it,” she said. “Don’t sit on them and nag them. If you’re creative, you ought to be allowed to have some freedom.”