Academy of Art University’s fashion school made sure to keep in line with the thrust of promoting collaborative work among its students despite the ongoing pandemic.
Learning and working together virtually have had its challenges, but the School of Fashion remains committed to providing its students as holistic an experience as possible. As Flore Morton, Associate Director of the department, puts it:
“Collaborating with people that are just as passionate as you can lead to more than the sum of your individual talent. This is when the magic happens.”
A Tried and Tested Formula
This concept of collaborative learning is no mere hypothesis. After all, the School of Fashion has been working closely with the School of Photography since 2013. Morton, along with Photography instructor John Vano, has been organizing and hosting styling events such as the Fashion Styling Event, wherein students from both departments can meet and collaborate.
This event gathers fashion and photography students together so they can come up with and brainstorm on potential photoshoot opportunities.
“The better collaborator you are, the better images you’ll produce, and you have better chances to get published,” furthered Morton. “It’s all beneficial to everyone, whether you’re a photographer, stylist, model, or designer.”
Among the many productions borne out of this exercise in collaboration are designer lookbooks as well as editorials. The experience garnered from these projects has given the students the chance to develop skills and output worthy of publication in established print media, such as Vogue, as well as the School of Fashion’s very own, student-produced 180 Magazine.
Learning Never Stops with Virtual Styling
More recently, Academy students had their first experience of attending a virtual Styling Event. Given the impossibility of staging a live event–as they usually would–given the current public health and safety guidelines, everyone had to gather and tune in from the comforts of their own home to the online event.
It was definitely a far cry from what they were used to, but it still was a success in its own right, and one that they are grateful for because they were able to pull it off despite the challenging circumstances.
“It was a good test drive to see how we can make it happen, no matter what. We want [our students] to keep building their portfolios, so we wanted to give them the tools to make it happen.”
Styling in Safety
Inevitably, the discussion brushed upon the topic of to best conduct photoshoots safely in this day and age. While classes have fully transitioned online, labs and studios, such as the one used for photography at 625 Sutter, remain open for students.
In adherence to safety and health protocols, these spaces have been added markers to maintain social distancing. Masks are required to be worn at all times as well, with the exception of the model during the photoshoot itself. To further minimize the need for close proximity interactions, the students were encouraged to coach their own models how to dress with a scarf for covering.
Laying the Foundations of A Solo Career with Collaborative Work
For the students in attendance, having this chance to work in collaboration with other students is precisely what they need to beef up their experience and portfolio. The importance of the exercise was not lost on Tirdad Aghakhani, MFA Photography student. “In an art community, you need connections. I need stylists, models, and every year, Flore helps us find that.”
It wasn’t just students who benefitted from the event. Jen McGowan, a 2016 alumnus of the BFA Photography program, joined online as well to seek possible collaborations with the students. While at it, she also doled out some helpful advice on what to expect in the industry.
“When I was a student, I always wanted more experienced people to work with, but it was hard because they were always asking to be paid,” said McGowan. “It’s just a really great way to keep connected with students who are trying to pursue their major. The Academy did so much for me when I was in school, so it’s fun to give back and help.”
For Arohhi Vazir, MFA art direction student, it was a revelation attending the Styling Event for the first time. “Since it’s a creative field, I thought it was very difficult to meet people, collaborate with them, how to understand their ideas. But when Flore sent us this email about a networking Zoom meeting, it was unique, and I thought it was a real good effort to show [students] that you can still collaborate even if you’re still at home.”
Pushing through with the Styling Event, albeit virtually, was important for Morton. “I think we’re going to keep this Zoom component no matter what,” she said. “It was great to have online students with us, and I think they were very grateful to be part of it and some actually found each other. So for me, that’s worth it. We want everyone to be safe and also to keep creating magic for their class projects.”
No doubt, everyone’s looking forward to being able to attend a live styling event once more. But in the meantime, while all that is still not possible, these virtual meet-ups remain to be thriving opportunities for building connections and creating collaborations.
Article originally published in ART U News.