The MA Fashion Strategy is a two-year MA programme that is concerned with fashion’s intangible practices. We examine where fashion lives beyond the cloth – for example in language, networks and spaces – and explore how fashion can play a fuller role in the production of real social, cultural and economic alternatives, moving towards a more honest and equitable reality for everyone involved. What kind of language is needed? How should we organize ourselves? What kind of networks can we embody? What spaces can we occupy?
Fashion as a symbolic cultural product
As fashion is a symbolic cultural product – versus clothing as the tangible material product – it is built on a belief system, supported by an institutional structure: what we refer to as the fashion system. Through a growing gap between this symbolic cultural product and tangible material product – a consequence of excessive branding strategies and putting fashion designers on pedestals – the fashion world seems to have lost its human dimension. It ignores the lived experiences of the people who are producing and consuming clothes. It is this friction between the tangible and the intangible we are interested in exploring within our MA programme; through a wide range of research methods, design principles and creative strategies we examine what kind of affirmative alternatives we can create.
Historian Tony Judt once wrote: “We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth.” Relating this quote to fashion, now more than ever is the time to question our ideas on value and worth. In 2016, the fashion industry was projected to reach a staggering $2.4 trillion in total value. If it were ranked alongside individual countries’ GDP, the global fashion industry would represent the world’s seventh largest economy (The Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company, The State of Fashion 2016). The industry is booming, but it comes at a high price, as the collapse of Rana Plaza, a Bangladeshi clothing factory where 1134 factory workers where killed in 2015, showed. In the same year it was also revealed that the clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world … second only to oil. Everywhere so-called sustainable, circular and ‘green’ fashion initiatives are popping up, but how green can fashion be? Aren’t most of these green initiatives geared towards easing our minds into guilt-free (fashion) consumption?
Shouldn’t we look beyond simple financial maximization, and fundamentally rethink the concept of ‘value’ and how we as individuals and communities relate to our environment? Shouldn’t we focus more on the emotional, ethical and social value of fashion? And if so, how? How can we unlearn inherited modes of consumption that define limiting conceptions of fashion and the world around us? What strategies do we need to develop to explore this? What kind of affirmative alternatives can we create?
Within our programme, we explore these questions from a value-based perspective. First we dive into the students’ personal values, to then connect them to the values of the programme, and the community surrounding our programme. Our core values are honesty, transparency, critical thinking, autonomy, community and empowerment.
We provide an open, interdisciplinary learning community for our students, where open knowledge exchange is key. Together, we explore a wide range of research methods, design principles and creative strategies. The MA Fashion Strategy is part of a learning and research community that is closely connected to the Fashion Professorship, led by Dr. Danielle Bruggeman, the Centre of Expertise FutureMakers, the MA Fashion Design, with Pascale Gatzen as Head of the programme, and the ArtEZ Graduate School.
As we highly value interdisciplinarity, we invite students from varied backgrounds into our programme. We are interested in students who are critical optimists, independent, curious, and above everything else, are interested in fashion’s transformative capacities and are dedicated to contributing towards a more honest and equitable fashion reality. Collectively, we work towards disrupting conventions, challenging beliefs and stirring change within the fashion system.