What will happen to fashion system after the crisis is something that concern many insiders, but one of the field that probably has suffered more than others the lockdown is that of fashion schools, forced to invent something innovative to survive. We asked to the 9 best Italian fashion schools how they are changing. Today we speak about Istituto Secoli.
The many people who work in the Italian fashion schools are fighting to survive in a very difficult period that forced them to close the classes and, when possible, to move the lessons from the physical environment to the digital one, to transform the annual appointment with the “open days” into a virtual tour, to invent new communication channels and strategies to engage aspiring fashion students.
In this chaotic and strange period we are living, in which fashion schools seems disappeared from the radar of the Government and are left alone in this battle, we asked directly to the people who work into the best academies how they lived the lockdown and the crisis and what will be the future of fashion schools and emerging designers.
Today we start this series of interviews with Matteo Secoli, President of Istituto Secoli in Milan, one of the most important and internationally recognized schools in the world, famous for the perfect excellence of its patternmaking and tailoring method.
The pandemic of Coronavirus was an unexpected tragedy that shocked everybody and changed the normal plans of fashion system. How Istituto Secoli has faced this difficult period?
We managed the Covid-19 health emergency with a well defined strategy, capable to guarantee students’ safety and the quality of the service offered: in such a difficult period, our priority has been the assuring of teaching continuity. Our Staff together with the entire Secoli’s faculty reacted promptly and, since the beginning, committed to organize in a very short time a new e-learning service. A completely new approach for our Institute, whose training methodology is based, since its origin, on a technical-practical approach, the “learning by doing”.
The didactic method has changed during this crisis. How the school organized the lessons during the lockdown?
For each training course we have introduced new tools and learning methods available also by remote. Through our e-learning platform, the students could live their classroom in a “virtual” mode, keeping a good cultural and human relationship with teachers and classmates. Each student had the opportunity to attend and participate in live lessons, in-depth conference calls and tutoring activities for the comparison and revision of projects and thesis; about 400 hours of video tutorials have been recorded and over 1000 online lessons have been provided. The recorded videos as well as the streaming lessons, together with books and school’s manuals have supported the activities of study and revision on-demand.
Now you are launching a new educational approach. Can you explain something more?
In the last few months, thanks to the development of new tools, we have revolutionised our teaching methodology and launched a new formula based on a “blended” and “flipped” approach. The theoretical subjects, of graphics and CAD will be given remotely; technical/practical subjects, instead, will have a blended attendance with in-presence lessons, that will be available also in streaming. In the theoretical/technical/practical teaching method, based on the Secoli’s “learning by doing”, the online training alone is not sufficient to guarantee a complete preparation to the students: however, it represents an optimal lever to support the traditional one. According to this, in the post Covid-19 health emergency future, the blended methodology will remain an option for Secoli’s students, enriching the educational offer: in addition to the courses mainly given in-presence, there will be those with blended teaching.
The relationship between teachers and also the life into the school’s environment are always fundamental for students. How can you facilitate the importance of human contact despite the social distancing?
Undoubtedly online training makes you lose some of the direct and personal contact between students, teacher and classmates, however, during the lockdown, we have seen this lack being compensated by the students’ desire to learn and to carry on the training undertaken. Many students have experienced it as an opportunity for personal growth. As said before, we believe that for long term and complex courses, the online training alone is not sufficient: also the interpersonal exchange and the chemistry created in the classroom are essential for the students’ experience and the training result and the blended formula is the one that allows to make the best use of the online opportunities with the advantages of the classroom.
As the normal fashion week schedule is changing, also the way to present the graduate collections will request a new approach. How will be the Secoli Fashion Show?
We are studying a new way of presenting the outfits made by our designers, which uses the digital. We are sure of the event’s success and of the prestige of this year showcase thought for our student’s collections; however, I personally believe that the emotions experienced in a live catwalk are unmatched. The catwalk is a collective emotion created in a room where prototypes are transformed into masterpieces; it is unique also the experience of noises and colours during the event. We, therefore, hope to go back soon to reliving that emotion and its magic.
The digitalization can be an opportunity. What is the future of Italian fashion schools?
I cannot speak for the other schools, but for our Institute the future gives the possibility to provide new teaching formulas capable of reaching students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to attend or learn about our courses; just think, for example, of the virtual events that we have organized this year for high school students: virtual open days and online open classes, whose participants’ number have truly exceeded expectations. In the future, digital will definitively have a central position and, if used in a functional way, cuts distances and guarantees optimal results.
Covid-19 is changing fashion market. There will be place for new brands after the emergency?
At a market trend level, I personally expect to experience again what happened with the crisis of 2008: a rediscovery of the fashion technical professions. This would primarily benefit the Italian fashion that for years has been forced to a drastic generational change. Furthermore, there will be a growth of interest in software that allow the remote management of certain design phases such as the prototype’s 3D pattern; and again, the crisis has shown the limits of the delocalized production, therefore there will be opportunities for a strategic change in the sector. Only those brands who will be able to riding these new market frontiers will remain standing.
Can you give some advice to a young aspiring designer how to face this situation?
Every situation, even the one seeming the most complex, can bring new opportunities. I suggest young people, who aspire to work in the fashion world, not to get discouraged but to continue to pursue their dreams, because there is and there will be space for them in the market: this sector is made of many professional figures, which are always (now as in the future) highly sought after, such as tailors, prototype’s makers and patternmakers. Could be precisely the new generations those who, at this stage, rediscover them and fill a generational gap that offers greater guarantees in terms of employment.
Thanks to Matteo Secoli for your time and precious advices!
And you, my dear reader don’t miss the next interviews with the insiders of the best 9 Italian fashion schools!