As the fashion industry becomes increasingly digital, brands are trying to help fashion schools keep up with the pace.
Yoox Net-A-Porter Group announced earlier this week that it will partner with the Italian university SDA Bocconi to help support its Master’s in Fashion, Experience & Design Management program. The effort will be centered on launching a new course in digital strategy, marketing and e-commerce focused on emerging technologies that fashion schools have, to some extent, struggled to integrate into their curriculum.
As part of the course, Yoox Net-A-Porter will require a field project be formally presented to executives at the company, and top performing students will be granted an internship after graduation. The venture builds upon Yoox Net-A-Porter’s existing educational efforts — particularly around coding and business management — and acts as an extension of peer-driven efforts like The Kering Group’s environmental profit and loss educational partnership with The New School’s Parsons School of Design.
“A growing portion of [our graduates] go on to work in positions that require vision, skills and expertise in digital technologies,” Emanuela Prandelli, director of the fashion program at SDA Bocconi, said in a statement. “Our students are digital natives, and companies expect them not only to be familiar with digital technologies in their day-to-day lives, but also to be able to deploy digital skills and technologies in their businesses.”
In addition to playing a role in bolstering digital skill sets in fashion and the arts, the Yoox Net-A-Porter collaboration serves as an extension of the European Commission’s Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, which aims to train one million people in digital jobs by 2020. In December, Yoox Net-A-Porter hosted informational coding sessions for students in Italy and the U.K. to teach tactical computer science skills, and supported the opening of a digital business center in Bologna.
Top fashion schools in the U.S., like the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons, have increasingly waded into technology-focused coursework that teaches concepts like 3D printing and augmented reality in partnership with brands. FIT recently launched an innovation center focused on interdisciplinary technology, as well as worked with 3D body scanning companies like TC2 and Optitex. Likewise, Parsons offered a course in fall 2015 focused on sustainable fashion sponsored by Tide.
“We consistently reevaluate our current offerings in the classroom — not only to meet transforming needs, but also to set the standard for what design education should look like on a global scale,” Burak Cakmak, dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons, told Glossy in May.
Greg Foley, an adjunct professor in communication design at Parsons, said that while brand partnerships can be especially beneficial to bringing resources to students, they can at times be difficult to push through red tape.
“In my experience at Parsons, they made it prohibitively difficult to work officially with brands, for legal reasons, to protect the students’ ownership of their work,” Foley said. “In my opinion, there’s great untapped potential for brands to collaborate directly with design students – to help fund better work and make something ‘real.’”