First of all, congratulations to you to take the new role of the education director of Accademia Costume e Moda, we are happy obviously delighted to have you as part of the team.
You have been focusing on fashion education for the past 12 years, and engaged in teaching and management at several top fashion colleges, such as Central Saint Martins and Istituto Marangoni. Why have you chosen to join ACM in 2014?
What a lovely question.
True I have been involved in one way or another in fashion education since 1980 when I was first a Fashion Student at Central Saint Martins then onto the Royal College of Art where I was student representative for the whole design department.
Being a Fashion Student, anywhere in the world is an amazing unique experience just because of our subject area. And fundamentally I still am a “Fashion Student” just a rather grown up one. This feeling helps me in my day-to-day job. I have never lost the “I can change the world” attitude of the early 80’s fashion student, I totally believe as a subject fashion can change our world and the fruits are now showing. We have the opportunity to change how society looks and behaves we change culture, we are culture, I can talk about this all day.
I like a challenge; so I moved to ACM and the eternal city of Rome, let me explain:
I had taken IM though all it’s major changes and developed the contemporary curriculum across all campuses as well as its first validations etc. Which was an extremely exciting moment and I learnt a lot, IM is still close to me.
But I still feel young, I wanted another challenge and I fell in love with the city of Rome, I mean who wouldn’t …? It’s true students often choose the city then the school so in some ways I did the same. But ACM has something else, it’s a family business, that needed a little international development from someone like me and I like being part of the family.
Compared to other institutions, how do you evaluate ACM? What’re ACM’s distinguishing features and advantages?
You can’t really compare fish to meat. All these institutions are very different form many points of view. I always advise students to choose “the best school for their needs, the one that offers them the style of education that fits their personal needs”.
So it’s not about “The Best” it’s more about “The Best for YOU” – Saying that I would say that ACM has it’s roots in a traditional arts school style similar to CSM, Middlesex, Antwerp or Royal College London, where art and culture in central to learning, to mention just a few.
ACM focuses a lot on its cultural heritage, based in the most historically beautiful city in the world, while preparing our students for the future. As the great William Wordsworth said, “Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future.
Our core course “Costume and Fashion Design” does just this, with the team at ACM I am developing courses that reflect the needs of tomorrows industry but with our tradition and heritage intact as I truly believe this makes culturally well-rounded creative individuals. Other than that, purely on a practical basis, our ACM students just love being here now that’s unique!
There are many fashion capitals where students can choose to study fashion design and related subjects. Fashion capitals, such as Milan, Paris and London, have become the often first choices of most students. What do you think are the advantages of Rome in fashion education?
What will students benefit if they choose Rome as the destination to study fashion?
Students do naturally focus on the obvious fashion capitals. However I would like to remind future students that the “Made in Italy” started in Rome.
Milan is the business capital and did become at one point the ready-to-wear heart of Europe.
The big Italian heritage names like Valentino, Gucci and Fendi are all here in Rome. Rome is the Cultural Capital of Italy, Alta Moda (the Italian Couture Industry) is still here and Rome has become a bearding ground for new designers and creators in many fields.
We create the “new” here, we are happy being creative in this beautiful place where students can create the future while living in a historical location.
Fashion and Costume Design is the highlight , the traditional course of ACM. Could you introduce the course of Fashion & Costume Design to our new students, who perhaps know little of this unusual subject area?
What are the characteristics of the curriculum and teaching?
What are the advantages of graduates especially when they seek for jobs?
It has been a huge pleasure getting to know ACM’s fundamental three year degree course first created by the legendary Rosana Pistolese.
When I first visited the academy I was introduced to some of the main professors, two of them really stood out to me as “people I could learn from”. Andrea Viotti – an international figure in the area of costume design is an inspirational figure, he opens the world of costume design, in particular European Historical Costume so that students on our course will also know the origins of garments that we wear today as well as teaching the art and craft of a contemporary costumier.
It is true to say that this, totally unique course, produces a “different” kind of Costume Designer or Fashion Designer as the student has “lived in both worlds” and some of the project work allows students to analyse the differences and similarities of the two areas.
For example student analyses the text, character relationships and the role the costume plays within the performance in the area of costume design. This is a very different design methodology to the design path of a fashion designer who will start with a subject, trend and or market analysis. However the experience of one enhances the other. ACM Costume & Fashion students also study the technical areas of fashion & costume again they are different in terms of garment construction and cut.
Historical garments, details and social influences are fully explored in costume design, all these areas are missed in a standard traditional Fashion Design Course, so we feel that our Costume and Fashion Design students have an extra insight when it come to designing fashion as well as understanding the profession of the costumier. The cultural subjects are a very strong element on the course they stand out and make it a very unique experience. Students live history while studding with us and are able to relate art, costume and fashion within their project work this is very special.
The other professor being Luigi Mulas who’s unique hands-on approach to creating accessories as well as his cultural and artistic aesthetic and analytical mind is able to get the students to produce the most amazing accessories.
Our students have clear career area choices, Fashion Design, Costume Design and or Accessory Design – with all the variants of professional figure within those distinctive areas. This is a very positive characteristic of the academy – not focusing only on one career direction – universal learning that develops minds and skills that are able to approach a variety of careers. A career path is not a straight line, thank goodness, creative thinkers should be able to develop their careers and many different directions and this is exactly what ACM courses have always done.
Likewise while creating new courses they maintain the cultural core and also have a multiplicity of career directions, as does our original course. Fashion Accessory Design (Made in Italy) prepares students for Bag Design, Shoes Design, Jewellery Design, Small Leather Goods Design, Eye Wear Design, Fabric Development and many other sectors for the accessory industry of tomorrow. As it says in the course title Fashion Editor – Styling and Communication prepares students for careers in these three main areas, Written, Visual and Organisational, very exciting.
I see my role here as developing, not changing, enhancing what we do best.
It is true to say that ACM teachers have related working experience in their expertise, such as fashion, theatre, accessory design, history and the arts and etc, and some of them are even well known in industry around the world like Andrea Viotti.
But what are your main criteria of your school when selecting and recruiting someone to teach at ACM?
True – Industry experience and “currency” in their professional practice is essential.
But I also want to see a youthful passion for our subject areas from all involved in the teaching and support team.
It is important that we all share our common values of heritage and a family teaching environment.
Doors are open at ACM, staff and students mix freely, when not teaching, exchange ideas and conversations in a friendly manner.
We have our “Boutique” manner of educating here at ACM, not wishing to grow too big that the conversations become impossible because of large numbers, all staff enjoy this method and family environment.
And as a new addition I feel confident in saying this as the past few months I have experienced this first hand.
My door is open – students come and discuss their work with me, tutors collect me form my office and involve me in the class – pure joy, how lucky I am often to be saved from paper work.
We at ACM never loose sight of our mission and goal – our students – the industry leaders tomorrow.
Over the years ACM has collaborated with renowned fashion companies in Roma (and other Italian) working on live projects, seminars, discussions and presentations regarding human recourses etc.
How do you see the students benefit from these interventions?
Since the creation of the academy (not only form last year) ACM has enjoyed the patronage of the leading figures in Italian Fashion Industry and internationally I understand.
We are in constant conversation with our great industry partners/ friends of the academy.
Actually I have never worked at a school where they have so many amazing contacts.
So we sustain their input in the current courses and have developed the new courses consulting with them and also with the view of imbedding modules, live projects with the leaders of the fashion industry, as well as the important companies that develop the exclusive fabrics, yarns and manufacturing techniques that are only know to the industry itself work with ACM.
I have to say this is exciting for me too.
Only last week did I visit, with a group of students, both archives and the laboratories of a world-renowned leader in fashion accessories to see the process where they develop new products.
Different figures from the companies give seminars and partake in roundtable discussions with our students not only from a design point of view but also product managers, archivists, merchandisers, and very importantly the heads of human resources visit ACM. These interventions are a phenomenal opportunity for our students as they prepare them well for the Fashion and costume industries.
I hasten to add ACM invites world leading figures from the world of theatre also to meet with our students.
Recently Gucci appointed Alessandro Michele as the new creative director, who is the second creative director in Gucci history that graduated from ACM.
It is the dream of most students to work for such famous fashion companies. Could you give some suggestions to them based on your experience?
What I say to all students – “take every opportunity as it comes”. Not all students will get the opportunity of a “Stage” or work placement with a world famous company, although many of our students here at ACM do end up working with many of the biggest names.
Take whatever the first job or work placement offer you get, build your experience and professional practice skills and then see what opportunities arrive.
Yes, aim to work for “the famous companies” but to get there a graduate might firstly have to work for a less well-known brand or a different sector of the fashion industry, but it’s all part of developing a career.
It is also important to understand what kind of designer (or fashion industry professional) you are?
Our courses aim to develop your true nature and help students locate their true vocation in life.
Let me quote Malcom X
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”.
I’m looking forward to preparing the best.