The emergency of Covid-19 forced all the Italian fashion schools to close the doors of laboratories and classes and to invent something new to continue the educational programs. But what happened during the lockdown and how they changed their training method to survive? We asked to the best 9 fashion academies in Italy to answer this questions and today we speak with Adrien Roberts, International Director of Education at Accademia Costume & Moda in Rome.
When the 9th March 2020 Italy closed everything in a long lockdown lasted 69 days, the situation of emergency caught unaware anybody. Forced to stay home, students and teachers have seen their daily routine completely changed and the fashion schools had to drastically revolutionize their plans.
In all this time, while other fields of Italian economy were supported in some way, that of fashion educations seemed forgotten, despite the large number of people involved. That’s why we decided to give our small contribute speaking about the best Italian fashion schools, investingating the way they survived to the hard task of Coronavirus’ pandemic and their projects for the futures.
Today we speak with the creative Adrien Roberts, International Director of Education of Accademia Costume & Moda, one of the most important fashion schools in the world, among the best 3 for the Undergraduate and Graduate Fashion Design courses for the BoF Ranking.
Covid-19 shocked people’s lives changing everything in our daily routine. How did Accademia Costume & Moda’s people, who are a kind of big family, live this difficult period?
We all had to adapt very quickly, students, academics and support team. A great reaction and manifestation of strength from the Accademia Costume & Moda community. Without a doubt if this had occurred ten or fifteen years ago it would have been difficult as the means of communication that we now have didn’t exist then. All remaining in contact, for both work and non-work conversations, it has been wonderful from this point of view. Fear is the biggest danger in these situations and is caused by the lack of information, being in the dark, instead we have all been sharing information and updates regarding the pandemic. The Italian government has been quite clear given the complexity of the crisis, also in terms of which activities we could undertake in the higher education sector, so we had a path to follow as we reorganized our academic activities.
During the lockdown did you experiment new didactic approaches?
Certainly, we had to move quickly, within a week, reorganizing our activities to blended learning, theory online teaching, moving industry projects – with great help of partner companies – online. Accademia Costume & Moda’s DNA is about being hands-on, with a humanistic approach, dedicated and committed to provide a student-focused experience. But we have all, staff and students learnt many good things about this new approach and have experienced the benefits. But, having students back in Accademia physically has never been so important, never to be taken for granted, the “real life” element of what we do remains unique and probably will never be replaceable by the online experience.
Despite the pandemic emergency the school decided to open a new headquarter in Milan, a really courageous decision. Can you tell us something more about this new project?
The project was already underway before the start of the pandemic and we will make our debut in Milan next Autumn 2020. The new Campus is situated very conveniently in via Fogazzaro 23, in the city center, just steps from Piazza Cinque Giornate and Corso di Porta Vittoria. This new venue is dedicated to education in the areas of communication and design management for fashion and the performing arts and will start with the 2020/21 academic year. The new Campus – directed by Sara Azzone – will offer courses dedicated to the 360-degree training of professionals operating in the world of communication and management within the fashion and entertainment industries. Two three-year Undergraduate courses, one in Fashion Design Management and the other in Fashion Editor, Styling & Communication, as well as a 1-year Masters and various Full- and Part-Time Specialization Courses.
The contact with other young designers and teachers is always fundamental for every student, especially in the creative field. How can you facilitate human contacts despite the social distancing and the new need for security?
Firstly, we have maintained contact through video calls etc., and being a small agile school, we have been able to respond quickly and efficiently to the safety measures required. Taking one-year group for one course into Accademia at a time and have an intensive learning experience throughout the whole building respecting social distancing has been possible. Masks and distancing just become a way of life, masks are like another accessory, smiles are communicated through our eyes and body now.
Following the changes of fashion weeks and fashion shows, probably also graduate collections should be presented in another way. How do you want to support your students in the delicate moment of the Final Work? The next will be digital or a physical event?
Not all events have become or are being planned to be only digital. Graduate Fashion Week London (GFW) was swiftly moved online but a physical event is in the calendar, moreover for industry in London in September. So even GFW has become blended. At Accademia we are planning final work for both Undergraduate and Postgraduate students for much the same time frame as previously scheduled. Naturally there might be some compromises with the process, but we are still planning physical events for January. Watch this space and Covid-19 permitting of course.
How digitalization can influence the future of Italian fashion schools?
As mentioned earlier practice has changed and, in some ways, perhaps for the better, we were all moving to enable online research, this has reinforced the work that’s already started and brought the time frame nearer. Accessibility is an advantage of the digital age and gaining access to information how and when, as a student or researcher, you need that access can only be a plus point.
Coronavirus is deeply changing fashion system in its foundations and productive processes. Do you think there will be place for new brands after the emergency?
Fashion will always require to regenerate and to be contemporary, for both an existing brand or a new one, but certainly the industry pre-Covid was not set up to encourage the growth of new brands. Perhaps perversely, it might enable the smaller new brands to get samples made and communicate their identities in a more focused industry. Maybe fewer fashion weeks, more online platforms for the future? We can hope as always for a better future.
Can you give some advices to a young aspiring designer facing this situation?
It’s a great time to study, specialize and take your talent in a new direction. Prepare yourself for newness. For new designers the challenge remains to create something that we don’t already have, that’s not necessary and not a necessity of life, but something that makes us dream and feel better about the environment and ourselves. Tomorrow will be different, that’s always been life, now our tomorrow will just be a little more different, so be imaginative, it could be a great opportunity.
Strangely, in recent years, large fashion brands have “played safe” with their collections in the middle of an economic crisis, a pity to have witnessed this shortsighted kneejerk reaction to creativeness. In addition, too often buyers also buy safe and offer the consumer less interesting fashion options. Maybe going forward there will be a larger market for the individual looking for “uniqueness“, new aspiring designers of the future will be by-passing the buyers though social media or other new technologies to promote and sell.
Thank you Adrien for your time!
And you, my dear reader, don’t miss the next interviews to discover the best Italian fashion schools and how your creativity can survive to this difficult moment!