For colleges and universities like Academy of Art University that teach fashion journalism, the ability to adapt in the digital age has been the key to their survival.
A decade ago, the Internet—along with blogs and social media platforms like Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook—turned fashion journalism into the Wild West. As the way people consume fashion information has changed forever, many traditional fashion journalism college programs are playing catch up, struggling to keep pace in the new digital climate. But there’s hope. A handful of nimble fashion journalism schools have been able to adapt to these rapid changes. They innovated, improving their programs to align with the times and to meet the rising demand of next-generation fashion journalism professionals.
In a recent Huffington Post article, five schools from around the world were recognized for outstanding fashion journalism programs.
These schools share key attributes that aspiring students look for when searching for the right fashion journalism program. What made these schools stand out? Read below to discover key criteria for choosing the right program for yourself.
A Game-Changing Innovation
Previously, only a handful of would-be fashion reporters were lucky enough to work the great fashion-industry professionals. You had to live in New York or Paris, the competition was immense, and the odds of getting noticed was near impossible. The idea that students could get personalized mentoring from the top was simply a pipe dream for most novices back then.
Times have changed.
Today, the most innovative fashion journalism schools are hiring top fashion industry professionals to be their instructors. Students get to rub elbows, quite literally, with the best in the business. In addition to the classroom, students receive tips from the top, by attending on-campus guest lectures and panel discussions.
Academy of Art University and Other Schools
For example, one of the schools mentioned in the Huffington Post article is Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California. Offering Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in fashion journalism, The Academy has a long track record of hiring practicing journalists and editors with a wide range of skills and experience working for newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs, social media channels, podcasts, and television.
The list of industry heavy hitters that are teaching at the Academy of Art University is impressive—each of these instructors are also currently working professionals. Notable faculty include the fashion journalism program director Stephan Rabimov, contributing writer at Forbes Life; Diane Dorrans Saeks, San Francisco correspondent for W Magazine and Women’s Wear Daily; Dena Silver, lifestyle editor for New York Observer; and Cynthia Durcanin, founding editor of Elle.com, to name a few.
Another school mentioned in the article, University for the Creative Arts in the U.K., employs instructors with experience working for outlets such as FHM, Time Out, Harrods, The Independent, Metro, The Guardian, and InStyle. The mentoring doesn’t stop in the classroom. Access to guest lectures and campus visits also plays an important role in a student’s overall college experience. Insights and real-world anecdotes from industry professionals only makes a student’s work as an aspiring fashion journalist that much stronger.
At the Fashion Design Institut in Berlin, Germany, frequent lecturers include the assistant to John Galliano, the creative director of Maison Margiela, and fashion editors and stylists from magazines like Vogue Italia, Vanity Fair Italia, Vogue Germany, and MySelf.
Suzy Menkes, style editor of The International New York Times, was a guest of honor at the Academy’s 2014 School of Fashion Graduation Fashion Show. Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion critic Robin Givhan of the Washington Post, and former prominent New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn have also visited the Academy. With this many experts at these top institutions, it’s no wonder these schools become vibrant creative hubs that attract big names.
“Learning how to look at fashion and express its contextual importance are vital skills that the Academy’s fashion journalism students develop due to two key building blocks of the program—the breadth of courses offered and the depth of experience the instructors bring,” Academy Instructor Jacqueline Phelan said. “There is a true passion for the expression of fashion knowledge here, and it’s this dedication that makes for such an invigorating, stimulating environment for students and instructors alike.”
Without This, Remaining Relevant is Impossible
If the pen is mightier than the sword, what does that make the laptop, smart phone, and a good wifi connection?
A quality fashion journalism program encompasses every aspect of fashion media, from traditional print platforms to the expansive world of online journalism and social media. Graduates should be fully trained to report, write, edit, and promote fashion editorial pieces for magazines, newspapers, websites, blogs, and social media.
Of course. Social media.
How can a student actually use this in the working world? According to the social influence marketing platform Crowdtap, individuals between the ages of 18 and 36 spend an average of 17.8 hours a day consuming different types of media. With such a large chunk of time being spent online, the job market exploded for those who had skills in both social media and fashion reporting.
In Italy the demand outweighs the supply of candidates in the digital fashion world. The Huffington Post article notes that Polimoda in Florence, Italy does offer a one semester “crash course,” which includes a heavy workload in digital style and blogging.
The London College of Fashion (LCF) is another stand out school, becoming a leader in digital design and media as it explores a variety of practical and theoretical journalistic skills. The focus on research techniques, visual communication, media law, and cultural and historical significance is also important to their success.
In order to meet rising demand for social media specialists across different industries, Academy of Art University has gone one step further by creating a state-of-the art Social Media Center as part of its fashion journalism program.
“In order to be successful, you have to be able to translate not only fashion, but the zeitgeist that surrounds it. Sentiments that are shared over social media can empower a story, if used correctly. The exciting world of fashion journalism benefits from the explosion of mobile apps in a variety of ways, they are becoming indispensable tools for journalists’ on-the-go,” Rabimov said. “We train our students to use social media for journalism; we teach them topics like ethics and social media law as part of best industry practices,” Rabimov said.
In this digital environment, it also makes sense that students would have the opportunity to earn their degrees online. For the fashion journalism student, the benefits of online courses are particularly poignant. Instructors can teach the craft live and direct from fashion weeks, trade shows, and other industry events the world over. And online students have the same access to support and resources as students who attend onsite.
The Best Way to Jumpstart Your Career
One goal of every truly successful student studying fashion journalism is to make lasting connections within the industry. Knowing the right people can help a student propel their career into the industry. When top schools partner with established companies in both fashion and technology, the student gets a valuable taste of what it takes become a fashion journalist.
For example, London College of Fashion (LCF) enjoys close working relationships with leading organizations and institutions who operate in the wider fashion context, including retail, design, media, digital and technology, finance and investment. To put it another way, it’s an actual business school for fashion students.
This business school approach has created collaborations with successful industry at LCF, where students have collaborated with Nike, Amnesty International, the English National Ballet Costume Design group, Sony Wearable, Speedo, and more.
While it’s clear that the students benefit from these collaborations, the companies also see the rewards.
“It is inspiring to see the creative and innovative approach the students have taken to produce their products,” President of Speedo David Robinson said on the LFC website. “[The students] captured the technology and originality of the Speedo LZR Racer and combined it with unique cutting-edge fashion.”
In another case, tech giants like Tumblr, Flipboard, Weebly, and Issuu, are part of the Global Advisory Board at Academy of Art University’s fashion journalism program. Their role? Ensuring that students learn, practice, and connect with the latest products from Silicon Valley. These partnerships enable students to produce cross-platform stories that are nuanced and sophisticated for print, digital, or social media.
“I came to San Francisco from Indonesia two years ago to attend the Academy of Art University, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with the education that I’ve received,” sophomore Fashion Journalism student Marisa Tania explained. “My training and connections with industry leaders made by the school have equipped me with substantial reporting skills to build my voice as an aspiring fashion critic in the industry.”