Fashion students usually reach their final year in June. It’s the month with the longest days, the most shortened nights, and the final stitches that culminates in graduation shows. This year, however, is different for many students. Mid-March is when corona measures are announced. It soon becomes apparent that many graduation shows, like international fashion week, cannot be held. However, in many cases the academy buildings are locked. Students must make do with attic spaces and hem connections.
How does fashion graduate during the corona crises? Below you can read interviews of four fashion students during their graduation year. Leonore Boeke and Katja Ravina, both Bachelor’s students at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, (Amfi), and Inge Vandering and Hanakin Henneriksson, both students of the Bachelor of Textiles & Fashion at The Hague’s Royal Academy of Art (KABK).
Designing in an attic space: Graduation in Corona Time
In March, both the KABK (and Amfi) were forced to close. However, a closure of educational facilities has different consequences for fashion students than for History students. Leonore Boeke says, “The fact we can’t go to Amfi means that we can’t use the sewing machines and special machines, the knitting machines, screen printing room, the mannequins But space also is a problem.” Boeke: “Almost everyone doesn’t have a large enough table at home to work on. Although I am currently working on the floor one one project, I do have a small attic space. It will be tight if there are six of them soon. ”
Inge Vaandering has the advantage of a large studio. This is important because she uses large shapes and other materials for her graduation collection. She doesn’t mind not being able to use the KABK equipment. “It is difficult for me to choose, as there are so many things that I want to do. The possibilities are overwhelming and I become overwhelmed. Now, I have to use my own materials and the machines that I already have: an overlocker, sewing machine and an iron. ”
Katja Ravina is perhaps the most resilient to crisis. Katja Ravina is currently working on a handmade collection, in which she revives old skills and crafts like embroidery and bobbin lacing. She says that the crisis has not affected her work process. “I’m more or less self-sufficient. I have a computer, a foot-driven sewing device, and I don’t need anything else. It is not the same for all students, I can see. Everybody has to learn to accept the fact that you will have to do everything by yourself. ”
Sparing about Skype: Online feedback on your graduation collection
Because the buildings are closed, contact with classmates and teachers is mainly via video calling or e-mail. Students find this difficult, especially during feedback times. Boeke says that it is vital to maintain physical contact with teachers. “Video calling and emailing are so different. It feels more like a reply to a question when you send material to teachers. You can have a conversation and exchange ideas. This is a totally different dynamic. Classmates are also missed.” Vaandering: “It would also be great to be able again to spar well. Skype makes it more difficult. ”
Students cannot show their work to classmates or teachers during these feedback sessions. What can they do to solve this problem? Vaandering: “The tactile side of my work is very significant. It is a challenge for me to find the best way to convey this feeling to images. I tried to capture my material in a way that showed its vibrancy. This was done by placing it on a chair so you can see the fabric fall and also by playing with light. Text is also a part of my work. It allows you to see things you cannot see on the screen. ”
Hanakin Henneriksson also photographs the collection she made with special pieces of secondhand textile. It is not easy, but it has its benefits. I have complete control over the image that I create. What I show is up to me. ”
In times of crisis, a final exam
These skills could still be useful: Many graduation shows won’t take place this year or will be given another interpretation. KABK students present their work via a digital platform in June. The academy’s Graduation Festival was moved to September. Fashion students will open the festival on September 10, with the final presentations of all KABK graduates. It is unclear how exactly. Vaandering: “We don’t have the show to work towards right now. This is both a little crazy and also very relaxed. We can now focus more on what is important to the presentation, and have more freedom with the interpretation. I can concentrate more on my drawings, for example.” Vaandering hopes there will be a show. This makes the experience more tactile.
“Amfi moves the final assessment from August to July. The graduation ceremony has been cancelled. In September, the students will present their work in a new format to the public. It is not yet clear what that form will be. Boeke is part the organizing committee for this year’s presentation. We knew before the corona crisis that a standard show was not what we wanted. We are now working on a solution to the question of what a graduation show during crisis might look like.”
How can students make sure their work is in the public eye? Ravina said, “We need to do something to attract enough attention.” “At the moment we are in the group with the intention of making a documentary on graduating during the corona crises. It is important for me to do something with Instagram and TikTok. However, I haven’t started yet because I am constantly working on it.” Vaandering also uses Instagram. “Although I have never used it before, it has been a great way to express my thoughts and work. A personal website is something I would like to create, which will improve the atmosphere in my work. ”
Fashion during corona graduation: Now and Soon
Both Amfi and the KABK are gradually making their workplaces more accessible to graduating students. Boeke says that Amfi has strict rules. Boeke says, “We work in time slots. There is disinfectant liquid everywhere. One-way traffic is allowed. It’s a test for Amfi’s one-and-a-half meter education. Apart from all these impressions, it is a great opportunity to see some of my teachers and classmates again.” Ravina is happy to see the building open once again. “It is great that the special machines are still available. Next week I will print my patterns on a big printer, which will make it a lot easier than printing them at home. ”
The students are done with their summer courses. What can they do to see the future using the knowledge from today? Henneriksson says she was worried in the initial weeks of the crisis. “But during this isolation I spent a lot time doing things that make my feel good, such as long walks and having conversations with friends. “They have helped me to relax. Fashion is what I love most. After graduation, I would like to start my own business. ”
Boeke is also affected by this. “I would love to work for a fashion company, but it seems unlikely that I will get a job. In recent years, I’ve been motivated to create my own brand with unique pieces I make, sell, and design. Fashion is about garments that are made with care and time. That is what I want people to see.” Ravina, a classmate, also sees international job opportunities decreasing but hopes there will be a shift within the industry. “The crisis can help make it clear that clothing can still be made locally by small collectives of designers, for instance.”
Vaandering is open to all possibilities. “Because it is so different and there’s less pressure to graduate, I almost feel like a graduate – as though I am in transition to another thing. But I’m not sure what it will be. “