How does the Fashion Design curriculum at Moore balance fashion history with current trends and future insights? Are there any future-facing trends that students are gravitating towards?
Fashion is so integrated into every aspect of society. You want to pay attention to what was done traditionally, and at the same time, you have to be aware and inclusive of other voices and narratives that are not only seen through Caucasian or European-based points of view. Students have to be aware of what happened before and what's happening right now. Why are they wearing the clothes they're wearing, right now? What societal aspects are influencing those purchasing behaviors? How can the conversation be more global and less driven by or narrated through a European perspective?
For the future, the question is: Are we going to keep going on the track that we’re on, or are we going to evolve and do something better for ourselves? I'm a humanist, intrinsically, so my first motivation is the well-being of people. Without a planet and ecology and water sources, people are screwed. Fashion is the second-highest polluting industry in the world. We pollute almost as much as the oil industry. There is a socio-economic impact that fashion has in our lives, such as companies taking us for a ride with fast fashion. I don't have as much purchasing power as I think I do, just because they're offering me tops and pants at two dollars. Is it democratic, that they are so cheap? We have the opportunity, as a college, to give Fashion Design students a sense of how they can be more sustainable in their practices.
Our students want to be more inclusive, race-wise, size-wise and gender-wise—a lot of them are designing pieces that are genderless—and our job is to help them understand that all bodies are important and should be part of the conversation when it comes to fashion. People with disabilities, for example—why aren't we designing more for people who have prosthetic limbs or for people who use wheelchairs? In placing the narrative through the eyes of somebody else, we foster empathy and a sense of community. We’re trying to prepare students for a world that is very competitive, without losing sight of the fact that a designer does not work alone on an island.
Tell us your thoughts on the future of fashion design and how we're preparing Moore students to meet those changes and opportunities in the industry.
We have to train students to take advantage of what technology has to offer, in order to be more effective and efficient in terms of cost and sustainability. That includes being more inclusive, more ecological, more sustainable—and those are advantages that software can provide, but we also approach this through our everyday practices. We want students to have a robust body of knowledge and to understand that they can actively change the conversation and be impactful in the way things are seen and talked about.
The conversation has to happen on a personal level with each student, because they have many different interests. Some start with fashion design but then they fall in love with the knitting machine and create wonderful pieces that are very complex, and then it's not feasible to produce multiples. So we want to have a robust body of knowledge but also cater to personal interests. We give them the toolbox, and then, if you want to use the hammer or you want to use the screwdriver, that's up to you. I am always promoting the resources that the school has to offer: use the 3D printer, use the laser cutter, maybe go into the ceramics studio and fire some clay and then see what it looks like woven or sewn into a piece. We just started an annual collaborative project, creating costumes for the Philadelphia Ballet, and we’re using both a 3D printer and the laser cutter to create feathers. Real feathers dissolve, they shed—so with these tools, we have the opportunity to take washable and dryable fabric and cut it in a way that looks like feathers.
Right now, we’re acquiring three-dimensional software, CLO 3D, which can be beneficial for sustainability and help us be more inclusive, size-wise, beyond the dress forms we drape on that were sculpted in the 1950s. CLO 3D produces clothing without having to sew. You can make prototypes, or what we call muslins. You assign measurements and the program generates an avatar, so you can be very inclusive, because size-wise, you're changing the game. On the other side of the screen, you have two-dimensional software, very similar to Adobe Illustrator, where you are creating the pattern pieces. Then the program allows you to dress the avatar in 3D clothing—you start sewing, basically. You decide you're going to integrate this seam into this one, or you're going to gather it or pleat it. You input all those instructions and the avatar gets dressed up. You can make the avatar perform tasks to model the clothing: it can walk, it can run, it can jump. So if you're doing active wear for yoga or any other activity where you need the clothing to perform, you can assign the avatar that action, and then you'll see how the clothing reacts.
The useful thing about the program for companies is that you don't need to spend time or effort producing prototypes. You can just make it, see how it performs, see if it fits, and then just go into production, so you're saving on material and time. It links beautifully with sustainability; there is much less fabric waste. So it’s going to give the students an advantage in the workplace. Obviously, we have to be very analog in our curriculum as well. The students have to know how to take measurements with a ruler, and on an actual person, in order to extrapolate that into the virtual scenario. But at the same time, you have a lot of possibilities with NFTs and the Metaverse…all that conversation is happening and creeping into the fashion industry at a very fast pace. It’s a bright future ahead, and Moore is prepared with the tools to embark on the journey with our students.