Tough talk from Sara Azzone, IED’s fashion director
Here’s the question we’ve always wanted answered: How do you get a place at one of the world’s top fashion schools? Just how special do you need to be in order to get in?
Fashion-design education is on our radar at the moment because Milan’s prestigious Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) recently opened an Application Room sponsored by Swarovski. (There are others at top fashion colleges in Shanghai, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Tokyo, Kolding/Denmark, Eindhoven/The Netherlands, New York and London.) These Application Rooms give students a dedicated space to play and experiment with a treasure trove of crystals and specialized devices for crystal application donated by Swarovski. Technical training for teachers and presentations on innovations are also provided.
This focus on education stems from Swarovski’s belief that “What goes around comes around”—finding the stars of tomorrow depends on cultivating talent today.So we talked to two key people at IED—Sara Azzone, director of the School of Fashion, and Olivia Spinelli, coordinator of Fashion Design. They oversee around 900 students each year taking three-year degree courses and Masters’ degrees in various aspects of fashion design—all strictly in English. If anyone knows how to get a place at IED, they do…
Strangely, we have a significant percentage of students from a classics and science background. They have no special training in fashion at all! To work in fashion you need passion and fascination for the subject, yes, but you also need strong motivation in order to be able to take the strain of 80-90 hours per week of tailoring and design. This teaches you to handle the pressure that comes with the job.
Today’s designer has to be professional in marketing and business, not just great designers. People see something on the catwalk during a fashion show and they want it immediately. Our students have to work in today’s world—it’s not only interpreting the zeitgeist and channelling it into a product, it’s also understanding and acting upon constantly changing market demands.
Our students have a dream of working in an arena that just happens to be experiencing the fastest evolution in its history. The changes are profound: new markets; fashion shows that combine menswear and womenswear; the digitalization of fashion; the emergence of new roles such as e-commerce managers, regional fashion managers, trend researchers, fashion event coordinators. That’s just some of what’s going on.
For example, what is an e-commerce manager? This professional role is actually highly sought after, and attracts people who understand that the experience of buying online has a completely different dynamic from buying in-store. The e-commerce manager knows how a style should be photographed, how it must be described, and how it can work for different consumers. Above all, he/she knows that the experience of buying online should be easy and always offer more, not less, than the store.
Another career that’s on the rise is the community manager. “Community” is both a geographical macro-region and an online community. Indeed, the two are connected because the platform has different weights, depending on the country of origin—for example, look at the difference between Europe and America. The platforms themselves are also changing fast: Until fairly recently there was only Facebook, but today Instagram and Snapchat are influential.
We also aim to nurture students’technical knowledge, creative skills, and their ability to work in a team. Ultimately, doing the groundwork and understanding the relationships between society, consumers, and the fashion business helps them to develop a strong strategic approach, which is what makes the difference in the marketplace.
Partnerships with leading enterprises are a fundamental factor in the IED’s educational strategy. As a result of our active relationship with the business world, more than 200 firms contribute every year to its student training programs. Our fortunate location in Milan gives our students the opportunity to benefit from the knowledge of top-class professionals working in the fashion capital.
Swarovski crystals are used in an experimental way, as well as from a conceptual point of view. We encourage our students to showcase highly individual creative interpretations within their projects. And the quality of their work is always enhanced by the addition of crystal.
I’m so lucky to be working in the best place ever! It’s a privilege, but it’s also a huge responsibility, and I’m extremely proud of my work. Anyway, I absolutely love fashion, so why would I want to be anywhere else but here?