Teaching & curriculum development: A cut above with fashion course

Work by Kingston University fashion student Natasha Nugent (2015 Graduate Fashion Week catwalk show)

Work by Kingston University fashion student Natasha Nugent (2015 Graduate Fashion Week catwalk showFashion is a dynamic and challenging discipline that is an expression of what people feel and think. It reflects evolution and radical change through design and is influenced by cultural, social, historical, economic and political trends. Designers working in fashion predict and generate change, which influences the lives of the whole population. It is a rigorous, exciting area to study.

Kingston University’s Fashion Department has led the way in developing longstanding links with some of the biggest names in the business.  Its BA(Hons) Fashion programme is recognised as one of the premier fashion courses in the globe – rated number three in the world by the respected industry website Business of Fashion, and fifth by leading blog Fashionista.com. In 2016, it was ranked second nationally in the Guardian newspaper’s league table of top fashion and textiles courses in the UK.

It is also one of a select few, high-performing courses to be awarded the Creative Skillset Tick. This quality mark recognises outstanding courses and their contribution to the creative industries.

The first year of the degree introduces the design process and design product. In Year 2, students participate in live, industry-sponsored projects and competitions. A number of top labels collaborate on these, offering some of the highest-achieving students paid summer internships in New York, San Francisco, Amsterdam and Stockholm.

Many members of staff work in relevant industry sectors. Students also get their own first-hand experience of working in the commercial world, undertaking live projects, which include placements with a range of UK companies and work with designers in the build-up to London Fashion Week. Their experience of professional practice is enhanced through a careers module, which includes talks from designers, retailers, stylists and recruitment agencies. Banana Republic and Old Navy (Gap Inc.), Brooks Brothers, Woolworths South Africa, Top Shop, Top Man, ASOS, Abercrombie & Fitch, H&M, Tommy Hilfiger and Zara all have close associations with Kingston’s Fashion Department.

Many students progress on to senior roles with these companies after they graduate. Every year, students also develop their own brief for a self-initiated project with renowned designers such as Anne Demeulemeester, Walter Van Beirendonck, Anne Valerie Hash, Jil Sander, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Chloé, Givenchy, Mui Mui and Marni. Kingston University students are regularly shortlisted for international awards handed out by such prestigious organisations as the British Fashion Council and the Textile Institute. In 2015, Kingston University womenswear designer Josh Read commenced a year-long role at Dior’s Paris headquarters after winning the LVMH Graduate Prize. Some years, graduates also get a sought after opportunity to show their work during Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks.

The course includes professional practice modules throughout the three levels to build students’ professional skills as well as their creative talent.  They explore various aspects of the fashion industry from styling to photography, with design remaining at the core of the curriculum.

In their final year, students have opportunities to enter international competitions and work with specialists to create a professional contemporary collection and a comprehensive portfolio of work. They are encouraged to take a real world approach and liaise with fabric and yarn sponsors through visits to international fairs and mills, and collaborate with print, embroidery and accessory companies and designers. The top collections are unveiled to an audience of industry experts and employers who descend on London to review the best emerging talent for Graduate Fashion Week. Kingston University’s catwalk show is always one of the most eagerly anticipated events during the annual showcase.

Further reading