Many of us are looking for ways to make the most of our continued time spent indoors. You might be trying to read more books, double down on your at-home workout routine or advocate for social justice. Another idea? Learn something relevant to your career in the ever-evolving industry we call fashion.
Digital learning opportunities abound these days, but few of them are offered by top-ranked fashion schools. Beginning in July, Florence, Italy-based Polimoda begins offering a suite of e-learning courses that blend digital interaction, new online learning materials and traditional classroom methods — and that anyone can take.
The long-revered but forward-thinking institution is offering 10 different courses in durations ranging from 28 to 80 to 300 hours on topics that one might find complementary to their previous studies or helpful in their current careers: In Collection Merchandising, students will analyze the retail supply chain and learn how to meet profitability goals; Fashion Business will be invaluable for anyone looking to launch or run a brand; and Personal Branding promises to provide killer career advice.
To be clear, these aren't YouTube tutorials or Ted Talks. These courses are comprised of live, interactive, one-on-one meetings with teachers. What makes them particularly unique is that Polimoda has also brought on prominent industry mentors who will lend their expertise and real-world experience to students: Caroline Issa, Chief Executive and Fashion Director of Tank, will mentor those taking 28-hour courses. Laudomia Pucci, Deputy Chairperson and Image Manager at Emilio Pucci, will mentor those in the 80-hour courses. For the 300-hour courses, the mentors will be Polimoda's heads of the Fashion Design and Fashion Business Departments, Massimiliano Giornetti and Niccolò Sbaraglia, respectively.
"I have been blessed with 35 years of fashion career, first working in my family's company then as part of LVMH," says Pucci. "I hope my experience can be of some help and guidance for the younger generation."
"We are a school and the difference between education and information is human interaction," explains Danilo Venturi, Director of Polimoda. By incorporating mentors with industry experience, the courses feel even more similar to an in-person setting.
"All Polimoda courses have a collaboration (e.g. Gucci, Valentino, Missoni, Vogue, etc.) or a mentor (e.g. Bruce Pask, Elise By Olsen, Anita Wong, etc.) and since we want online courses to have the same characteristics as the in-person courses, we asked Laudomia and Caroline to mentor," explains Venturi of that decision. "I think these two women have a lot to say in terms of technical skills but also in terms of human interaction. When you attend an online course, you are in front of a computer alone and knowing that you have a mentor makes this experience warmer."
According to Venturi, Polimoda had planned an e-learning program "for years" but never launched one until now. "We are a bit snobbish on this point because fashion is done by hand," he admits. "We only used the online teaching platform to allow overseas teachers to teach remotely. Then, the pandemic led us to deliver more than 1,000 hours per week of online teaching and we told ourselves that it was also worth launching the native online courses that we had postponed for so long."
For Venturi, each course length fills a different need. "The 300-hour courses are, to all effects, 'faster Masters.' The 80-hour courses can be compared to summer courses, usually attended to understand if a certain topic is for you, and then perhaps followed up with an entire in-person course when it will be possible to travel. Finally, the 28-hour courses are toolboxes and insights, considered professional enrichment to your personal background," he explains. "Cross-education is key. With an online course, a creative person can acquire a business toolbox and a business-oriented person can discover that in reality, we are all creative in one way or another."
It's becoming clear that the ongoing pandemic is pushing the fashion industry, and fashion education in particular, towards an increasingly digital future. And while there will no doubt be a return to in-person learning — especially for such a hands-on profession as fashion — one cannot discount the benefits of effective virtual options.
"I was honored to be a founding part of what will surely be a normalized way of accessing some of the best resources, wherever you may be in the world, for the future of considered and open growth of our fashion industry," shared Issa of her decision to be a mentor.
Courses range in price from €600 ($682) for 28 hours to €9,000 ($10,226) for 300 hours, and there are a number of sessions from July through October. And while Polimoda is based in Italy, we're told sessions will be timed so as to be accessible for the widest number of people.
"The pandemic is an opportunity to do what you already wanted to do for a long time but physical distance did not allow you to do it," notes Venturi. "Everything else works the same way: sign up, hang out and enjoy it!"