INCLUSIVENESS: THE WORLD OF VIRTUAL FASHION EDUCATION SYSTEMS
Alberta St.John-James, School of Art and Design, Nottingham Trent University, Burton Street, Nottingham NG1 4BU – UK
This presentation recognizes the importance of engaging with fashion systems from around the world in the search for a new global fashion education. The ubiquity of the internet as a source of creativity and inspiration has been touched on in previous fashion colloquia, and more broadly examined in the context of education programmes in the creative industries (Adams and Hiett, 2012). These have tended to reflect the western world’s, and particularly European, design traditions and perspectives but as “New African Fashion” demonstrates, the continent can be mapped as “fashion’s new frontier” (Jennings and Ude, 2011). In order to make fashion – and fashion education – more accessible to Africa, to add value and meaning to the internationalisation of fashion education, requires a further assessment of the possibilities provided by the internet.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) enable societies to participate in the benefits of globalization. More specifically, Wang (2011) argues that the meaning of ICTs depends on how they are used within any cultural setting and that they are well-suited to design culture. Online media extend the learning experience of fashion students, develop their creative abilities and skills and promote communication and enterprise. These objectives are fundamental to the internationalisation of fashion education in which Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) can provide important platforms to achieve them (Park, 2011).
This presentation argues that developing continents such as Africa can benefit from modern technologies but lack the resources to successfully share information online. Drawing on Ghana as an example, it demonstrates that access to media may not be the most significant challenge, and that adult literacy and ability to interpret online content may be more problematic. Following Wang’s (2011) position that the use and appropriation of ICTs may vary according to the environment in which they are used, VLEs may therefore require more visual and interactive approaches that enable users to respond to fashion.
Lessons can be learnt from projects such as Inter-Life, which echoes the promotion of equality and diversity for under-privileged learners by providing access to learning through a virtual platform (Inter-life project, 2008-2011). The main focus of the project is to explore the use of creative practices including photography, digital filmmaking and fashion (Lally and Sclater 2012, 2013). It demonstrates the possibilities for an inclusive and open study space for fashion education in both developed and developing countries; it extends knowledge and confidence and provides the opportunity to promote collaborative exchanges of knowledge by students from different parts of the world. A recent project, “Room 13”, provides a second example of an international virtual collaboration (Gibbs, 2012). “Room 13” is a school project managed by its pupils, which provides a different insight into the possibilities for skills development as an online platform for adult learners in developing countries. This leads to the conclusion of the presentation, that for fashion to be truly global it must understand the needs of learners at its new frontiers. Consequently fashion educators must develop appropriate strategies to provide learning content and media that will sustain interactions with the established centers of the fashion world.
Alberta studied at London College of Fashion and trained further as a tailor in Savile Row, London. She holds an MA in fashion design and enterprise and is passionate about the globalisation of the African fashion industry. She works on projects for fashion development and sustainability to promote inter-cultural fashion collaborations.
Alberta has a vision to support a fashion colloquia event in Ghana to increase rich fashion exchanges across the globe. As a designer working mainly with clothing waste, she fuses her western upbringing with traditional African craftsmanship in her practice. She designs and upcycle selected second hand clothing from Ghana as a means of promoting sustainability and creative enterprise.
Having worked in Ghana as a lecturer and a researcher, she became concerned about the dependency of majority of the population on used clothing from the western world and its effects on fashion education and industry. This has informed her current research as a doctoral student at Nottingham Trent University. Her research interest includes Internationalisation of fashion, fashion education and sustainability.