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Fashion Schools Gear Up for Fashiontech – Is It Enough?

As fashion brands grapple with the need for more technology savvy employees, they have been recruiting from other industries to catch up. At the same time, fashion designers who take the effort to school themselves in these new areas – 3D modelling, virtual design, and prototyping, are finding a huge demand for their skills in other industries such as online gaming. The net result has been a Catch-22 for fashion brands – whether to train employees in fashiontech skills and risk losing them to more attractive and better paying industries or pay high salaries to attract talent that’s already there? The latter always means that the new hire might choose to go back to the gaming (or tech industry) that they came from, and brands are left in the same situation as before.

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The vacuum that fashiontech adoption has created is partly of the industry’s own making. Fashion design schools are slow in switching curriculum to new areas. Changing the curriculum means investing in hardware and software, new faculty, additional budgets and a long-winded approval process that can take years. This has led to the industry seeking to fill the gap from outside, and some have managed to do so, though at a steep price. Brands like Reebok and Levi’s have invested in tech teams they picked up from the gaming industry. But attrition can be high as traditional fashion doesn’t offer the glamour it used to – technology is the new hangout and everybody wants to play with the popular toys.

Design schools like Parsons New York are finally catching up, and others are following their footsteps. IFA Paris was the first institute to start an MBA Program in Fashion Technology, covering both the creative and the business aspects of the technology arena as it applies to fashion industry. Others have begun the journey with elective courses being offered in everything from design programming to big data applications.

Veterans in fashion are themselves surprised at the pace of adoption, and many feel the need for reskilling programs that offer them the opportunity to switch over and adapt. Several who took the time and effort to do so during the pandemic, are now reaping the benefit. Designers have even started working with brands on a consulting basis to help them convert their existing collections into digital versions, or train new designers in 3D design and prototyping. Some have even made the lucrative move to selling digital versions and NFTs of their designs to individuals and even brands (gaming or otherwise) in the virtual reality (VR) space.

While schools like Parsons and the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) in Paris offer courses in tools like Clo3D, other institutes from outside the fashion universe are using their tech curriculum to attract fashion employers interested in hiring students with skills in data analysis, machine learning and virtualization. 3D prototyping is another popular area where fashion students are interested.

Like marketing a decade ago, the creative fashion space is now being swamped with the advent of fashion technology and the creative types need to scale up to stay in the game. And after 3D, there is the whole virtual reality, gaming and digital metaverse just waiting in the wings.

So, is there an opportunity to train existing veterans of the industry to learn digitalization and enter the fashiontech world? We believe so, and the need at present is vast. Switching from physical to digital fashion work might seem like a stretch, but the skills remain the same. For example, many veterans who went from traditional industries to technology in the 80s and 90s when the former begun adopting technology solutions, remained on rewarding and lucrative career paths for decades as subject matter experts and even creators of products addressing their industry’s needs.

It is the fashion creator’s time to shine, and we look forward to seeing how the industry shapes up with this change.

Fuel4Fashion is a design, branding and technology consultancy for the fashion and apparel industry. We provide consulting and advisory services across design, business and IT processes to early stage and mid-sized apparel manufacturers and brands looking to grow their business with the help of smart sustainable management practices. Visit our website here and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for regular updates.

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