July 19, 2024

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Fashion education: A paradigm shift in cultural immersion in Moscow, Delhi, Beijing and Cape Town

5 min read

  • The BRICS+ Fashion Summit pioneered a unique educational approach, focusing on deep cultural understanding to navigate the sensitive terrain of modern fashion ethics.
  • Fashion educators from 15 countries are pushing to diversify the history of fashion studies, traditionally centered on European narratives, to include a global perspective.
  • The Summit has spotlighted the imbalance in fashion education, advocating for a curriculum that mirrors the global diversity of its consumer base and production locales.
  • A complimentary educational video course, based on fashion lectures delivered by top-ranked educators, will be available to African, Asian, and Russian students and emerging fashion brands.
  • Moscow Fashion Week is set to enhance its program with the inclusion of lectures and master classes, targeting the upliftment of young fashion professionals.

Fashion students are required to study The History of Fashion, which is often very Europe-centric. In Africa curriculum is being nuanced to be more inclusive of indigenous history therefore exploring and understanding the history of fashion from an African perspective. First and foremost, fashion students need to understand their own heritage to be authentic and relevant in their own countries. This provokes national pride and creates thriving domestic industry and in turn is evocative globally to spark desirability of the counties product”, explains the Head of Institution of Cape Town College of Fashion Design Gregg Maragelis, who was in the group of the Summit’s educators.

As part of the inaugural BRICS+ Fashion Summit in Moscow, selected applicants partook in a specialized course titled “Globalization in the Fashion Industry: Local Solutions for Creating a Successful Fashion Brand” (30 academic hours). Remarkably, it was in Moscow, rather than notable fashion meccas like Paris or Milan, where an examplar for multicultural education was established — a vital requirement for contemporary fashion designers.

Typically, modern fashion education is founded on ideal conditions: a thriving ecosystem, well-developed infrastructure and a century of experience in the American or European fashion industry. Yet, such optimality exists in a limited number of nations and doesn’t always reflect global realities, especially since significant fashion production is set in developing countries which also harbor massive consumer bases. With China dethroning the United States as the largest fashion market just before the COVID-19, the Russian-hosted, BRICS-informed educational concept warrants attention.

With cultural appropriation being a tenuous issue, fashion students should be encouraged to spend more time exploring their unique cultures. Exploring and understanding the heritage of other countries is essential as a learning tool to analyze how these can be applied successfully regionally”, says Gregg Maragelis.

BRICS, the collective economic and geopolitical space for the world’s most substantial emerging economies, founded by Brazil, Russia, India, and China in 2006, commonly champions a multipolar world. Promoting this perspective, the debut BRICS+ Fashion Summit convened representatives from 60 nations, making it arguably the most significant international fashion forum in a decade. The primary themes revolved around the modern fashion industry’s democratization, diversity, and multiculturalism.

Top-ranked educators from 15 countries, including BRICS, Great Britain, Namibia, and UAE, led the seminal course, shedding light on topics ranging from global trends in fashion and identity-based design to ethical production management and leveraging artificial intelligence for brand promotion.

Fashion education at all stages has to be immersive, current, relevant and pioneering. Many BRICS countries are deprived of access and contact to a full spectrum of specialists and or access to platforms that provide these fundamental needs. The education program presented at the BRICS+ summit provided a host of diverse specialists that will elevate the craft, thinking, the business and ultimately the products of the participants. One of the biggest aspects of Fashion is collaboration and networking! The BRICS education program assisted not only the participants in growing their knowledge but provided imperative connection for fashion educators to enhance their own curriculum and exchange possibilities for students. The BRICS program has offered much needed opportunities for many countries to establish authentic pathways to international success”, – states Mr. Maragelis.

The course integrally focused on practical application, leveraging the expertise of a multi-faceted group of practitioners. For instance, the lecturer at The Hague University of Applied Sciences and consultant for Ethical Fashion Brazil Luciana Duarte spoke of the Amazon Rainforest’s transformation into a vital source of eco-materials for Brazilian fashion. Other notable presenters included Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Vice President of The Indian World University of Design, and Doreen Mashika, a Swiss-based luxury goods specialist turned Tanzanian brand founder. They emphasized embracing local identity, honing cross-cultural communication skills, and recognizing local market opportunities.

Li Hibing, Dean of the School of Fashion Art of Hubei Institute of Fine Arts, also emphasized the vital role of 3D technologies in fashion collections creation and the methods for applying AI to fashion collections presentation such as virtual catwalks that are already in use by many Chinese designers.

Lecturer at the Istanbul Fashion Academy, former director of digital content for Conde Nast and Hearst Bediz Yildirim shared insights on using digital media strategies to heighten awareness for emerging fashion brands. Olivia Merquior, co-founder of Brazil Immersive Fashion Week, showcased technology’s role in optimizing design processes. Meanwhile, Oscar Ruiz-Schmidt from the University of Véritas and the University of Costa Rica highlighted the fashion industry’s environmental problem, revealing the concept of zero-waste production via global traditional attire examples. The course ended with a master class by Ajai Singh, founder of Sri Lanka Fashion Week and member of the board of the Commonwealth Fashion Council. He emphasized how critical it is to diversify in order not just remain relevant but thrive in today’s fashion world.

The knowledge accrued during the five-day course was unmistakably global, drawing upon the assorted yet practical wisdom of an experienced roster of guest educators. Critically, student insights were adaptable to specific country conditions and took into account distinct nuances in the creative and consumption cultures of diverse nations like China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria and many more.

The success of the 2023 BRICS education program has laid the groundwork for more of the BRICS countries to participate and create a strong BRICS community of shared excellence. In my opinion the program should consider extending certain topics into workshop formats so that participants are fully emerged in the process and can directly apply the knowledge attained within a workshop format. The participants will benefit greatly from more time with specialist educators”, – concludes Gregg Maragelis, the Cape Town College of Fashion Design.

Leveraging expertise gained from the Summit and advice from esteemed professors, Moscow Fashion Week, scheduled for March 1-8, plans to incorporate lectures and master classes into its agenda to boost young professionals’ engagement in the fashion sector. Moreover, the BRICS+ Fashion Summit team, collaborating with educators hailing from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, intends to launch a complimentary educational video course based on lectures delivered in Moscow. While the course will be accessible on Russia’s Skillbox platform, it also aims to cater to students in African and other countries through an extensive network of fashion schools and affiliated fashion weeks. This globally-minded, inclusive educational program will continue to evolve for the next BRICS+ Fashion Summit, tentatively set for fall 2024.

In an era when consumer backlash and boycotts can be provoked by instances of cultural appropriation, getting hands-on insights into a broad range of cultures is more important than ever — and could well represent the future template for training designers creating name-sake brands.


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