Friday, 4 April 2014

Fashion Education & Networking: Only for the Elite?

After recently thinking about the state of fashion education in the UK, I think it's fair to say that if you don't have spare thousands lying around, you're probably better off skipping the education part. As someone studying English with Film, I understand the difficulties in having conflicting interests. The pressure to choose a degree which will lead to a highly-paid job is immense. However, in today's economic climate, gaining a first does not automatically equal a good job.

I think people should study what they are genuinely interested in, rather than focusing too much on what is considered a 'hard' or 'soft' subject, although this can be increasingly difficult if you have interests on the opposite ends of the scale. Personally, I chose not to do a fashion degree (e.g. fashion journalism) as I felt it might narrow my career paths in the future, whereas an English degree is undoubtedly more broad. 

So what happens if I complete my three years and still have a burning desire to gain an education in fashion? Well, this is where I've been struggling to find accessible paths to take. When The Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design first opened in April 2013, I was incredibly excited. To have an educational institution created by Condé Nast is huge in itself. 

Students working at the Conde Nast College of Fashion & Design.

The company has founded massively successful publications worldwide, including Vogue, Glamour and GQ. I couldn't think of a better company to teach me the ins and outs of fashion journalism. Clearly, I didn't expect the fees to be cheap but realistically, the prices are probably way too high for me to even consider attending without a scholarship. The Vogue Fashion Certificate, for instance, is £7,920 for a ten-week course! 

In my opinion, if you're looking to educate yourself in the industry but you can't afford such high fees, I would look into The London College of Fashion courses. I've completed a Fashion Media short course in the past and I would recommend doing something similar as you will be taught by an industry expert.  Again, the prices still aren't cheap but you do learn a lot in a span of a few days. 

The LCF BA (Hons) Fashion Design & Technology Show 2009.


You Can't Sit With Us 

As I was researching the education aspect, I also wondered what was out there in terms of fashion networking groups. I came across a popular fashion members group called 'The Industry', which meet regularly to attend events hosted by world-renowned designers including Lulu Guinness. There's also events such as digital conferences, where the likes of Matthew Williamson talk about the future of e-commerce. Sounds incredible right? Well, all looked great until I saw what was required to join... 

Ah, so it's all for professionals. I should have guessed. At this point, I was starting to wonder why there is so much knowledge out there for existing professionals, rather than students or people with less than 2 years of industry experience. I tweeted the company to ask whether there any talks of building a new platform for younger people, yet I haven't quite received a response yet! 

Networking should really be about young people meeting up and sharing contacts so why isn't there more for us? Could it be that our 'student' status implies that we are less knowledgeable about the industry? If so, I would completely disagree as I believe there are many people my age with a vast amount of knowledge about public relations, journalism, styling, trend forecasting, you name it. We're not all giddy teenagers looking to join the industry because we believe it will be full of glamour. Some of us are mature enough to attend conferences and network with experts because we are fully serious about our passions. 

In the end, I did find one event which ticked all the boxes: Boost: London Fashion Networking (Featuring Noelle Reno). Early Bird tickets are available for £7.50. Finally, an event which sees full integration between students and professionals! 

Noelle Reno, fashion entrepreneur and former model.