Time Out caught up with the London College of Fashion
‘If your CV includes the line “I have a passion for fashion”, get rid of it now!’ says London College of Fashion (LCF) lecturer Toby Meadows. His task is to divulge as much fashion industry insider info as possible during a swift one-day course for the region’s fashion enthusiasts. And it’s obvious from the blushing faces and slightly nervous chuckles of students taking part in the short LCF courses that his plea has struck a chord with more than a few fashion-obsessed participants.
The success of the first LSF events, which took place in Dubai in 2009, has demonstrated the thirst for industry knowledge among the Gulf’s students and fashion fans, and prompted LCF to schedule more courses throughout the year. Open to all, the events aim to give enthusiasts an insight into one of the most fiercely competitive industries in the world. It’s a universe where innovative vision and imagination are revered; a forum for popular culture and a battleground where big budgets and even bigger personalities collide.
‘Now is one of the most exciting times in fashion, because no-one knows what is going to happen,’ reveals Toby. He begins by explaining that the only brands to suffer at the hands of the recession are those that have stopped being relevant to consumers. We’re all here to learn ‘The Essentials of the Fashion Industry’, a one-day course being offered by LCF (along with others including ‘Starting Your Own Fashion Label’, ‘Fashion Journalism’ and ‘The Power of Visual Merchandising’), as a pilot to determine whether there is potential for LCF to open a permanent campus in the UAE.
Following brief introductions to reveal a mixed class of aspiring designers, store owners, PR professionals and those who simply share a love of fashion, Toby initiates a quick brainstorming session by asking: ‘What is fashion?’ Next up is a historical overview, as we ponder the role of Rose Bertin (fashion’s first influential designer and confidante to Queen Marie Antoinette) and Charles Frederick Worth (the ‘Father of Haute Couture’) and the impact that the Industrial Revolution had on production processes. It’s all insightful stuff and a far cry from those drab timeline-heavy history classes we all had to endure at high school. And there’s no sign of dull school lunches either – instead, we tuck into sweet pastries, cookies and cappuccinos during frequent breaks throughout the day.
Industry sectors, the role of manufacturers and retailers and the recent collaboration between online retailing and print publications, which Toby calls ‘the future’ of fashion (referring to the colossal impact that online fashion retailer ASOS.com has had with the release of its magazine), are all discussed. Contemplating our shopping habits, it seems men are as loyal as a trusty collie, while women are far more fickle. ‘Once you have men hooked, that’s it – they’ll stick to the same brand for years,’ says Toby. ‘Women are more susceptible to advertising and will succumb to the lure of the “must-have”.’ It makes sense. Teenage girls are happy to play dress-up, reinventing their look to coincide with the latest pop fad or celebrity trend.
The supply chain, seasons, trends and the impact of street culture (Tokyo residents in particular are credited with being risk-takers by way of their experimental style) are all tackled. Ever wondered why designers tend to channel the same trend at the same time, such as spring/summer’s focus on underwear as outerwear, or last season’s obsession with the camel coat? Well, there’s a whole business devoted to the prediction of trends and, as it turns out, it ain’t rocket science. ‘If clean lines and masculine tailoring dominate for a couple of seasons, it’s a safe bet designers will be working on the return of ladylike chic with feminine eveningwear,’ says Toby. ‘Most trends follow a 10- to 20-year cycle – the real mission for designers now is to come up with something new entirely.’
As the day draws to a close and we’re treated to images of John Galliano, Anna Wintour, Mario Testino and other influential icons of fashion, it’s hard not to feel inspired – there’s a definite buzz in class, cemented by collective applause and a quick-fire succession of questions for the lecturer, whose vast knowledge of fashion as a ‘business’, an intricate industry and well-oiled selling machine, is so profound.
For those who believe fashion to be little more than an outlet for the vain imaginings of wacky art school-types, think again. As Sarah Mower, the British Fashion Council’s ambassador for emerging talent, said recently, ‘Fashion is not like any other industry… it’s a calling. It’s an entire way of life.’ A range of three- to five-day LCF courses run regularly throughout the year at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers in Dubai. For more information, visit www.fashion.arts.ac.uk/dubai.