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Date 24.09.2015
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Kathleen Grevers


Northern Italy as the muse for heightening international students multi discipline design processes

Kathleen Grevers, Senior Critic, Rhode Island School of Design – USA

How would taking students out of their choice location of higher education benefit their career after graduation? Today all information is online, where students can browse through millions of relevant photo’s, find amateur free- form video content on any subject matter and order just about anything for delivery to their dorm room. So, why do we need global travel classes? The normal classroom sequence is far more convenient.

Our communities are global. Our industries are global. The world is more connected than ever before. How do educators reveal the enormous scope of the Fashion Industry to a student that may only know the country, post code or campus they are familiar with? Students have comfort in surfing the Internet for all of the latest and greatest items, but are missing the uniqueness of experiencing other cultures in real time.

In 2011 the hypothesis was developed of learning about footwear from the masters of Italian design through a kaleidoscope of automotive and fashion design. How would the relevance of true Italian design be captured for students from cross-disciplines and skillsets to evoke a deeper sense of their personal design process?

In 2013, after 2 years of proposals, approvals and budgetary limitations, the first Rhode Island School of Design’s 6 credit, 5 week Italy: Shoe Design and Prototyping class was ready to begin. 20 students, 2 faculty members and 1 teaching assistant.

The pedagogy interpreted from Leonardo Di Vinci’s Creative Principals, giving structure to the daily revolving of touring, lectures and cultural exhibits. 3 Northern Italian cities were highlighted and each had an approximate weeklong stay with a regime of at least 1 museum, 1 academic and 6 industry visits. Each accommodation held another verse of Di Vinci’s Principals; with experiences ranging from a monastery to 4 star accommodations. Meals were eaten as a family, where variety encompassed all levels of dining experiences. Students, without having prior footwear construction knowledge, had 12 days to complete one prototype after returning to RISD studios. The final footwear designs often highlight a specific architecture, emotion or meal experienced during the class. Class peers become resources for one- another for their skill-sets and knowledge of craft and making techniques. The results are beyond the scope of expectation from each year’s student body. Never did the idea that the student would have an experience that affected their view of their discipline, nor would it be expected that students would reflect on the class as a “life-changing” event. By the third year of teaching this class we could see the students, both alumni and current, passionate about international internships as well as career placement. Encouragement was amplified by parents who praised the class for helping build students confidence and gain momentum into more self-awareness and deeper understanding of their talents.

Fashion education by means of international class travel develops a student that speaks a design language of empathy towards environmental issues, global economy and an aesthetic that engages local resources. Travel classes encouraged students to embrace and engage new design processes of making and take in the infinite value of true artesian skills. With this infinite value, new contexts of their design can be further explored and translated into their own realization of unique design process and an openness of global learning.



Kathleen GreversKathleen Grevers is a Senior Critic at the Rhode Island School of Design. She has been a part of the faculty at RISD since 2001 and has over 20 years experience as technology-driven, creative apparel and textile artist.

Currently teaching Apparel Design, Apparel Technology and Footwear Travel courses at RISD as well as maintaining her own studio and contractual work within the Apparel & Footwear industries.