fashion schools and the apparel industry
This post is about fashion schools, mostly drawing on my own experience.
The glamour factor. No one goes to fashion school dreaming of becoming a production manager, a sample sewer, or a pattern drafter. So naturally the programs are geared towards the glossier fashion design aspect. That’s just good marketing.
Fashion schools are growing. I know from my own experience that classrooms are packed to capacity and there’s a definite motivation from the school to put bums in seats – therefore the glossy brochures that assure prospective students that they will move on into glamourous and lucrative positions in the industry.
Schools are not totally self-serving. They have contacts with large companies which recruit at our schools. Therefore the training we receive is geared towards grooming us for a narrow set of positions within a certain category of company. Schools are interested in securing “prestigious” positions at name-brand companies for their students, naturally it raises the profile of the school. These companies for the most part do not support local manufacturing. As far as the school is concerned, the local industry is already dead. Toronto’s fashion design graduates are basically expected to move away to other countries, mostly the United States. Manufacturing positions don’t hold the same sort of weight as design positions. There’s a sense that all of that stuff is done “away” now, and that’s the way it is. Schools have given up on Canadian manufacturing, and they aren’t looking back.
Of course the schools pay lip service to Canadian fashion. The few graduates who’ve managed to eke out a level of local celebrity are constantly referred to. There is an effort towards teaching students the basics of business and production. Hopefully these programs will remain and improve (unfortunately many standards, especially regarding patternmaking, fitting and production have not been updated in years and years), because realistically not all graduates are going to trek off to fashion capitals or find corporate recruitment is right for them. There are a wide variety of career approaches that a fashion school could address. I think for the most part my school did an fairly good job at attuning us to the realities of the industry, but I feel that the program is growing narrower.
It used to be a lot broader. My school used to be a practical polytechnic instead of a prestigious university, and had a reputation for training industry-savvy graduates for the local apparel companies. Of course the industry was a lot larger here then. Times have changed.