Will French fashion schools be able to keep up with the fast pace of Fashion Tech? Yes, as long as you open the training programs to this new horizon and especially teach students to always think a step ahead. Explanations with Céline Abecassis-Moedas, a professor affiliated with ESCP Europe, and co-academic director of the ESCP Europe Lectra Fashion & Technology Chair.
What challenges do schools face in keeping pace with innovations in the sector?
It is true that the fashion industry is moving fast, while schools a little less. ESCP was one of the pioneering schools in the field, launching the “Fashion & Technology” Chair in 2015. It was the first one tackling this subject in France and probably in Europe. We immediately wanted to associate theory with practice by inviting managers to share their experience with our students, by multiplying the practical cases that offer a “zoom” on specific issues and make students work on real projects. This year, our students analyzed the Instagram strategies of major fashion brands such as Nike or Chanel. They have dissected the publications of the brands, the comments of the Internet users, but also interviewed community managers. All this should allow them to be the most up to date of what is done in Fashion Tech.
What could be the pitfall to avoid in this type of training?
In training, in general, there are two extreme pitfalls: talking only about the past or talking only about the future. In Fashion Tech, one does not go without the other: we must give a historical perspective to these new technologies. We must not forget what these innovations are based on, remember what textile has known before that major changes especially during industrial revolutions. Without that, we can easily feel that what we are doing is new, while not necessary. The impact of certain innovations is to be put into perspective. For example, the internet is not going to sign the death penalty for shops, just as the robots have not yet replaced the workers. This perspective makes it possible to create a common thread with the fourth industrial revolution in which fashion is committed.
How are the French fashion schools facing these challenges?
France and the French fashion schools are well known worldwide. Also, the French fashion industry still enjoys a very good reputation. These new technologies have not made French fashion schools falter, on the contrary. Despite the technological upheaval, the IFM, to mention only this school, remains at the top of the ranking of “Business of Fashion” in 2017.
The Look Forward Perspective
The digital and entrepreneurial wave that is imposing in France does not only affect the business or engineering schools: fashion schools, whether they are private or public, have understood the contribution of technology in their sector, and are constantly reinventing themselves to better meet the expectations of the major groups and smaller actors of the fashion industry (more than important in the French economy) while keeping in mind their cultural and manufacturing heritage..