The Edinburgh College of Art and All Walks Beyond the Catwalk Diversity Network.
“People constantly talk about the economics of emerging markets – Brazil, India and China. Surely it’s time to join the dots between commercial thinking and emotional understanding. We live in a diverse world. The fashion industry can send out a more conscious message, develop a more emotionally considerate practice in pursuit of a more lucrative business proposition. It all begins in education.”
All Walks, Co Founders Caryn Franklin, Debra Bourne and Erin O’Connor.
We launched the Edinburgh College of Art and All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, Diversity Network in with the help of Government Minister Lynne Featherstone at Graduate Fashion Week June 2011. It continues to be an important hub for developing innovative educational methods, and promoting a positive attitude to body diversity within fashion education.
Based at Edinburgh College of Art, we are delighted to be working with Mal Burkinshaw MA (RCA): Director of the Diversity Network and Programme Director of Fashion, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh, who explains more in the Q&A below.
What is the Edinburgh College of Art and All Walks Beyond the Catwalk Diversity Network?
“The philosophy of the Diversity Network promotes the responsibility of fashion educators to teach our future fashion designers/influencers the importance of developing “Emotional Consideration” to the wearer through creative and exciting educational methods. We are pioneering projects that encourage students to engage with the needs and feelings of the end user in practical terms. The Muse project above is one example.
The Diversity Network will connect to academics across the UK to share best practice on the theme of Diversity. Such exchange of expert knowledge will strengthen the delivery of design education.”
What does “Emotionally Considerate Design” mean at E.C.A and why is this important?
“My academic research focuses on the interpretation of emotions into design process through the viewpoint of the designer. Put simply…how our continuous life experiences influence our body and movements, and how this can be considered within garment cut, proportion and structure.
I explore how research is a continuously absorbed source of creative information by eliminating standard research methods and as a result I am aware of two vital factors within design; the emotional brain of the creative and also the emotional experiences of the customer, neither of which should never be dismissed. However, many students consider their design work from a somewhat narcissistic viewpoint – discounting the experience of the customer. Students seem to be very preoccupied with being liked for their design work, being the best student, having the strongest catwalk impact, winning prizes, being featured in the press, and so on.
We understand why these drives exist and our current culture does encourage pre-occupation with media but if students are aiming only for media endorsement and recognition then is the end product really ‘fit for purpose’? It is my motivation to encourage our students to replace much of this ‘fame hungry’ mode of thinking with more consideration to the emotional needs of the wearer. I believe that these factors in combination will create a more diverse, considerate and modern vision of design that will have appeal in the commercial market place.”
What is the commitment at ECA to maintaining a Diversity Network?
“The Diversity Network fully commits to sustaining an academic promotion of diversity, as all members feel passionate that this is one of the most appropriate and necessary movements in modern design education. I will endeavor to lead this within ECA by developing our core curriculum projects based on the philosophy of ‘emotionally considerate design.’ There will be further emphasis on this within the early stages of the curriculum in order to impress the need for a new way of thinking about design from the start of the course. This way the students will, by their final stages of their education, consider diversity as an inherently natural part of design process and product.”
How are students responding to the promotion of Diversity through fashion?
“I have found that students are willing to engage with the concept of diversity, although they are reticent at sketching and illustrating their work to more realistic proportions. Currently an MA student is focusing her research and design on producing a collection of work that can be worn by many body proportions. Many of our final year students are considering design from the emotional viewpoint of the wearer and how their work may embrace a broad spectrum of body shape beyond catwalk.”
Below are a few excerpts from recent final year collection feedback, which demonstrate how our educational vision of diversity is becoming inherent within lecturer – student communications:
‘I do feel that you are guilty of not considering women fully within your design, and as a result your work tends to by unsympathetic to the body and body proportions. Try to develop a personal vision of why women would desire to be dressed by you- imagine how they will feel in your work. Can your work be worn by more than the model size stereotype?’
‘You possess a sensitivity and subtlety to your work that you should explore far more through creative cutting. Such a sensitive and thoughtful approach to design should also be used to consider the feelings of the wearer – how can you be more emotionally considerate to the wearer in addition to your emotional and creative needs as a designer?’
‘Explore the body further – I feel that you may only be considering the standard model proportion when you are designing and you should try to consider how your ideas will work on a variety of body shapes’
‘I would also advise you to develop your customer profile even further, by considering how your work addresses and considers a diverse variety of body shapes and proportions. How can your design work be adapted to be desirable to a wider customer base than the standard model body stereotype – I feel that you have the sensitivity as a designer to fully address this need within contemporary design’
‘How can your work celebrate the beauty of the body in its diversity, and how can you consider the emotional impact of your clothing through the way that it feels on the wearer? This method of emotional consideration within design is an exciting and relevant area to explore, and one where I am sure you possess much inherent information to apply to your design process.’
What is your ultimate vision?
While I recognize that students will engage with industry pressure to conform to standard modes of practice once they graduate, I feel strongly that we must encourage thinking ‘outside the box,’ in order to activate an independent and inquiring mind. Maverick thinkers are the ones who take forward new ideas. Sustainable sourcing has now become an issue for for most big brands, but it began as a conscious thought. Sustainable body and beauty ideals are currently in the ‘conscious thought phase,’ it is only a matter of time before they find their way into the commercial arena.
See launch at Graduate Fashion Week.
See academic team.
The 2012-2013 Times Higher Education World University Rankings’ Arts and Humanities list, places the University of Edinburgh as 11th in the world.