There is one connection to fashion, however, that students tend to overlook: the actual garments. While they spend more time than is physically healthy listening to TikTokers explain the history of the puffer jacket, it’s actually very rare to see students leave the comfort of their shared studios and adventure into the stores where their heroes can be touched and felt. We act as if books and screens are our only access to knowledge about fashion history.
It’s a problem we stumbled across as we were working with Valentino on the second edition of Valentino Vintage. The project, first launched in 2021, included a brand takeover of four legendary vintage stores in four cities worldwide. Inside, clients could purchase past Valentino collections and bring in Valentino garments from their personal collections in exchange for a gift voucher to a Valentino store. The initiative had us thinking about the value of clothing outside of trend-based consumption and raised interesting questions about the stories hidden within second-hand pieces. As we joined for its second edition, we naturally approached the project with an educational angle. Could this global network of vintage garments be of interest to schools and students?
Yes, fashion reflects the current zeitgeist, but it does so by commenting on the future and by borrowing elements from the past.
With the project expanded to seven cities in total (you can visit the Valentino Vintage stores in London, Paris, Milan, New York, L.A., Seoul, and Tokyo, by the way), it was evident that each location brought its own cultural taste to the collection. Would each city interpret and style the garments differently? We all know the tremendous cultural significance a stylistic detail can carry. The same goes for the time in which these clothes were originally designed. Something as small as the colour of a stitch thread or the finishing on a collar can reveal a wealth of information about the context in which the garment was born.
The observation relates to the uniqueness of fashion as an art form. We like to think of fashion as a linear sequence of trends – shapes and colours that reflect the cultural context only to disappear when society changes. But the reality is more complicated than that. Yes, fashion reflects the current zeitgeist, but it does so by commenting on the future and by borrowing elements from the past. Every garment exists in a constellation of disparate references. There is just as much to learn from a single garment as there is from a book about the brand that made it.
This realization was only strengthened as we continued working on the project. There is nothing we love doing more than building bridges and so we connected Valentino to a fashion school in each of the cities. As we organized these meetings, we learned how a closer collaboration between industry and education benefits everyone.
Being a heritage house, Valentino occupies a wide-ranging and global network of creators, makers, and producers, and it also understands very well how its expertise has transformed and grown over time – or over the past 63 years to be exact. The longevity and strong DNA of heritage houses provides unique insights into our cultural history, knowledge that isn’t always available in libraries.
With the number of yearly collections growing from two to six or even higher, there isn’t always time for education inside the studio. Designers are expected to arrive fully formed. Could brands help schools adapt to this transformation?
The problem is that students don’t have hands-on access to this knowledge and craftsmanship during their time in school. The issue relates to our organization of creative design education: with its roots in art pedagogy, fashion design courses tend to focus on individual expression and personal taste. The idea is that creativity needs to be fueled in isolation first and that the tools to express it through commercially-produced clothes can be taught afterwards.
But the industry has changed. With the number of yearly collections growing from two to six or even higher, there isn’t always time for education inside the studio. Designers are expected to arrive fully formed. Could brands help schools adapt to this transformation? To Valentino, the question is a no-brainer, considering the fashion students of today their colleagues of tomorrow. As part of Valentino Vintage, they donated a selection of looks, embedded with the house’s specific craftsmanship and codes, to one school in each of the participating cities. Students are also invited to join the exclusive Valentino takeover events in the vintage stores, where they can meet and learn from expert vintage curators.
It’s a small but effective gesture that opens a conversation around the potential of vintage clothes within fashion education, and the role of heritage brands in its transformation. Vintage clothes are a source of information, and in return, have the power to inspire new ideas. While a design garment contains infinite layers of insight into material, construction, and fashion history, it can also nourish future creations. Let’s hope we can move to an industry where that knowledge is made accessible to everyone.
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