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COVID-19: fashion becomes more inaccessible to young designers

COVID-19: fashion becomes more inaccessible to young designers

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The coronavirus pandemic has upset the entire economic and social system, causing completely unpredictable effects in every professional sphere. If even before the pandemic fashion was a world accessible to a few and not without great efforts and sacrifices, after this storm it is perhaps even more so.

Many fashion students, young emerging designers, have been heavily affected by the aftermath of the pandemic. Some had to interrupt their internship program at the very beginning of the lockdown, others still cannot find a suitable program because of the uncertainty still widespread in the sector.

Certainly, there is no shortage of aid and facilities. i-D Magazine, for example, has mobilized to guarantee an online educational service in partnership with Arts Thread, Dazed has joined Gap and SHOWstudio has collaborated with CSM.

Meanwhile, Joy Campbell, the director of partnerships at the Graduate Fashion Foundation stressed that the risk is not to guarantee a future even for future creative classes. This problem is also joined by the increasingly evident issue concerning the interests of universities. Simon Ungless, executive director of the Academy of Art University and former designer at Alexander McQueen explains: “Four years and $120,000 is not all about 40 seconds on a runway,” says Ungless. “I think a lot of university shows have become a marketing tool for the university, rather than getting students a job.” 

To further weigh on young designers, there is also the cancellation of many live events that were used precisely to guarantee visibility and establish first contact with the big names in the industry.

The 29th Graduate Fashion Week program – which normally hosts around 38 UK universities and 40 international ones – has been canceled. However, the organization has mobilized to provide the same visibility and education through other systems; some features for Grazia and Love Magazine, online lessons with established designers, and online conferences, such as those held by the Sarabande Foundation, the organization founded by Alexander McQueen.

Some students are taking advantage of the time available to enroll in other graduate courses, but many others do not have the financial means to attend, and this issue further marks a difference between those who can and those who cannot continue to support their education.

However, there are other voices in the chorus, which declare themselves positive and which highlight the hidden potential in this period of general uncertainty. Andrew Groves, Professor of Fashion Design at Westminster spoke to 1Granary declaring himself confident:“ We are liaising with design houses in Paris and New York that have asked to interview our graduates, so I’m quite hopeful they will get jobs soon. The industry thrives on the energy and new ideas of graduates. It’s actually a very positive moment, to be graduating as part of the generation that will change the fashion industry for the better. It’s long overdue”.

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