IED, Istituto Marangoni, Università IUAV, Accademia Costume&Moda, POLI.Design, Domus Academy, NABA, Istituto di Moda Burgo, IAAD, Accademia Koefia and Accademia Del Lusso: fashion schools in Italy are growing more than the fashion business itself, it would seem. While the best schools have created alliances among each other, new schools sprout daily–such as Raffles Milano, opened in October 2017–and companies launch their own initiatives. So what will be the future of fashion education? How many fashion designers will be really outstanding? And in which way schools can be competitive? For our current Italian Issue, we talked about this with Danilo Venturi, director of Polimoda, founded in 1986 in Florence and still considered one of the best fashion institutes in the world, with currently 2,000 enrolled students (34% more than in 2016).
We boast an 88% placement rate within six months after graduating.
A school to teach and nurture people
Thanks to its vast offer of courses including Fashion Design, Fashion Business, Art Direction and Design Management, though also masters and undergraduate courses, Polimoda is highly appreciated among insiders. "Differently from British and American giant schools, Polimoda’s campus is quite contained, so we are very competitive. But the real success of our offer is determined by the students,” says Venturi. “Our school is strongly connected with the industry and our teaching method is project-based, meaning that already whilst at school you learn the reality of the working environment. That is why we boast an 88% placement rate within six months after graduating,” he continues.
Italy has some diamond heads among younger generation designers. Among them are Alessandro Michele, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Riccardo Tisci and Pier Paolo Piccioli, though they are not as young anymore and fewer than one might expect–especially considering how vast this country’s past prestigious offspring has been.
Among Polimoda’s alumni there are Francesco Risso, recently named as creative director for Marni, and Federico Cina who has already been featured in runways across the globe and won the 2017 Fashion Clash Talent Award. Although he studied elsewhere, Marco De Vincenzo, too, has been collaborating with Polimoda on a number of projects. “I think the goal of a fashion school is simply to teach and nurture people,” continues Venturi. “Set against the cultural backdrop of Florence, Polimoda brings attention back to the student as a person. Pupils are introduced to the concept of concentrating on content and research, which in turn provides them with the keys to open the doors of knowledge: to become what they are.” He continues: “Ours is very much a fashion school for independent thinkers, an experience that changes your life.”
Diversity as a value
With a didactic offer constantly updated to comply with international standards, Polimoda is highly appreciated by international students as 70% of its pupils come from 70 different countries worldwide. "We value diversity against close-mindedness or standardization. Every country has its own creative and aesthetic standards that have to be taken into account,” says Venturi. Even the educational paths are different: some are more artistic, others more technical or business-oriented, but they ultimately aim at shaping the all-round designer. "These figures share the focus on a specific know-how. Without artists, this would be a sad world. Without pattern makers, we would do shapeless rags and, without an adequate attention to the market, fashion would belong only to the elite, which wouldn’t make it the complex economic and virtual driving force that it actually is. There’s enough space for everyone–the only thing that matters is being aware of what you want to be, what you want to do and which forms of learning will lead you to your goal.” For this reason, the institute only recruits teachers with experience in the industry. Furthermore, from their third year onwards, undergrad students are offered the chance to partake in applied projects created in collaboration with leading companies and guaranteed internship programs once their studies are completed. "Starting this year, we have launched a number of courses with important corporate partnerships such as the master in Fashion Retail Management with Gucci that will take place in April 2018 or the collaboration with the LVMH Institut des Métiers d'Excellence, which has selected Polimoda as its first partner for leather goods professional training.” Furthermore, Polimoda has recently announced an upcoming collaboration with The Council of Fashion Designers of America as the CFDA’s director of education and professional development Sara Kozlowski has been appointed to mentor the final-year students of the undergraduate course in Fashion Design. Finally, two rendez-vous during the Pitti Uomo January 2018 edition are scheduled: one with Dylan Jones, author of the recently published book David Bowie: A Life and British GQ's editor-in-chief, meeting Keanan Duffty, award-winning designer and mentor for the school’s Masters Program in Fashion Styling, about digital publishing. There’s another with Barneys New York’s Sarah Blair, SVP divisional merchandise manager women's accessories, and Christopher Lacy, director of customer experience, for a lecture about art and customer experience.
A technical focus on jeanswear and sportswear
Within its vast course selection, Polimoda offers education paths that also include learning the fundamentals for jeanswear and sportswear. It is not a coincidence that one of its students, Farah Wali, won the 2017 Isko Denim Talent Award. "To attain the most dynamic and complete education possible we don’t offer specialized courses on jeanswear and sportswear, but a technical focus on them,” explains Venturi. These classes consider how this market often develops fast and often takes an opposite direction in very short time spans. “Farah Wali won that prize as she managed to transcend denim beyond its everyday use and simplicity,” he adds.
Find out more about the stars and shapers of our Italian ISSUE in the brand new print magazine or check the digital magazine here.