As post-graduate unemployment looms, the horrors of student life are suddenly caught in a different light. Persistent deadlines, surviving on minimal money and eating discounted cheese and onion sandwiches all seem less humiliating once the prize for creative accomplishments transcends from grades to payslips. Outside of university walls, technology keeps turning over, Brexit doesn’t necessarily mean Brexit and a climate disaster is emerging on our doorstep. Can creative education present a curriculum for the increasingly volatile reality of life after university?
Whether or not the universities are failing to equip students with the right tools to enter the fashion industry, there is a degree to which the industry is failing to adapt to cultural and social changes. We are facing ecological decay as a direct result of relentless consumerism. New, sustainable business models will have to emerge that are not dependent on excess and material surplus. And, however necessary it is for students and markets to be adaptable, what are the ethics of educating students for a business based on mass production in a time of mass extinction?
Constructive mentoring, accessible studio space, and time to cultivate creative aspirations all generate opportunities for students to dedicate themselves to disruptive and unruly design thinking. It breeds not only couturiers, but philosophers, sculptors, engineers. Breaching boundaries, entrenching interdisciplinary practices and envisioning utopian realities to this degree are rarely accommodated for in commercial environments. Uncoupling from the college studio often amounts to the abandonment of unfettered creativity, and the compulsion to surrender to secluded parts of a standardised production line. In this process of unlearning there is an element of alienation, as students are forced to face the demands of a profit-driven industry – or ‘the real world’, as they call it. The disconnect between recent graduates’ ideals and the reality of working life is similar to the incompatibility of fashion’s growth model and a world of finite resources. Perhaps it’s time to question their ‘reality.’
For the 2018 graduates of Central Saint Martins’ BA Womenswear, collaboration freed them from the competitiveness that rises from meritocratic education systems. As they fled the CSM nest last year, they joined forces with stylist Mariana Munoz and photographer Amanda Fordyce to create a group editorial questioning the reality they faced and the disconnect they felt. Looking at immersive technologies and the aesthetics of augmented reality, they transformed the drawing studio into an alien marketplace. A year later, they share their thoughts on post-graduate reality and how their experiences have shaped them since that editorial.