In this Jing Meta Insider op-ed, Leslie Holden, co-founder of The Digital Fashion Group, outlines the challenges and opportunities for digital fashion curriculums.
Despite the growing acceptance of digital tools for designing and developing products, the incorporation of 3D technology into the fashion industry is progressing at a slower pace compared to sectors like automotive and product design.
This slow adoption can be attributed to various factors inherent in the complexities of the fashion industry and its supply chain. However, there is a compelling argument suggesting that the conventional approach to fashion education, which centers on physical garment making, is failing to adequately address the knowledge gap related to screen-based 3D design and development.
Digital fashion is transforming fashion, which, in turn, calls into question the body of skills and knowledge traditional fashion education considers appropriate for fashion designers. Many creatives are now embracing digital design to explore novel approaches to express their creative visions, and the fashion industry is recognizing the need to keep pace with digital natives.
Digital fashion education in the periphery
According to McKinsey & Co’s “State of Fashion Technology Report 2022,” fashion companies are forecast to double their technology investments by 2030. But while there is growing recognition of the need for digital integration in traditional fashion education, current efforts are inconsistent and often peripheral.
A four-week elective course for 3D fashion design software program Clo3d during the second year of a fashion design degree is no longer adequate to ensure a comprehensive level of digital fashion education.
One of the primary challenges in transitioning towards a more digital curriculum in higher education lies in the proficiency of the teaching team. Although an increasing number of academics are engaging in research and producing papers on digital fashion, there is a critical need for a clear and collective vision among educators.
Long and winding process
As a first step, understanding the intent behind integrating digital elements into the curriculum, defining learning objectives, and establishing the requisite body of knowledge and skills are crucial.
However, for an academic team to achieve consensus on these aspects is a time-consuming process, typically taking an average of three years to rebuild a curriculum. The current structure of higher education, where educators are expected to fulfill roles as lecturers, researchers, and administrators, further complicates the process.
Rethinking the curriculum is often viewed as a luxury amid these multifaceted responsibilities, and implementing changes typically requires committee decisions.
In this challenging environment, where time is precious, the reconsideration of the curriculum becomes a prolonged and intricate undertaking, and the fast-paced nature of technological advancements, makes it challenging for educational institutions to keep up.
Experts like Matthew Drinkwater, the head of the Fashion Innovation Agency based in London College of Fashion (UAL), highlight the challenges faced by academic institutions, particularly in validating and re-validating courses.
They point out the need for education to keep up with the rapid advancements in technology, emphasizing the importance of informing and educating both students and staff on the latest developments to stay relevant in the rapidly evolving digital landscape.
Drinkwater says that fashion education needs to consider the skill-set related to 3D as the most important entry point, centered around 3D design, 3D animation, and game engine technology.
Utopian vision, or potential reality?
As for the future of fashion, a utopian vision might involve a more sustainable and inclusive industry. Imagine a world where digital technologies not only streamline design processes but also contribute to reducing waste and environmental impact. Virtual fashion could play a role in minimizing the need for physical production and excessive consumption, fostering a more eco-friendly approach.
In this, a digitized world would empower a diverse array of creatives. Technology could democratize the industry, allowing individuals from different backgrounds and geographies to participate in fashion creation. Blockchain and digital platforms might revolutionize the way we perceive ownership and authenticity, ensuring fair compensation for creators.
However, the industry faces several challenges to realizing this goal. Issues like data privacy, digital inequality, and the environmental impact of technology need careful consideration. The fashion industry has historically been exclusive, and transforming it into a truly inclusive space requires overcoming deep-rooted biases and systemic issues.
Controversially, some argue that the rapid digitization and digitalization of fashion might risk losing the tangible, artisanal aspects that make fashion a unique form of art. The emphasis on speed and technology could overshadow the craftsmanship and human touch that many value in traditional fashion.
In all this, education plays a pivotal role. The teaching and learning of digital mindset and skills is fundamental in ensuring a balance between preserving traditional craftsmanship and embracing digital innovation. This balance is crucial for the industry’s future.
Source: Jing Daily