“Learning is the New Trend”: Danilo Venturi on the Future of Fashion Education

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On March 31, POLIMODA hosted their first #AlumniNight with a special event in Florence, Italy. Hailing from 40 countries, over 300 graduates gathered under one roof for the first time at Villa Favard alongside Danilo Venturi, Dean of the school. Himself an alumnus, Venturi was one of the panelists during LUISAVIAROMA Fashion & Technology Summit I recently hosted. There, the Genoa native shared thought-provoking insights on digital anthropology and the future of fashion education.

Danilo Venturi, Dean of POLIMODA

How is Fashion education adapting to the fast pace of technology?

Our staff are all industry insiders who bring professional expertise to our ever evolving course content. Experienced-based learning is fundamental to the Institute. We must remember that technology is fast-paced but that fashion is also constantly reinventing itself too. The more these two worlds converge, the more relevant our flexible way of teaching becomes.

What are the specifics of teaching fashion to millennials or Generation Z who are digital natives?

Technology means different things to different people. For many, particularly of my generation, technology is a tool, like a sewing machine or a lighter. But digital natives – exactly in the way their name implies – live inside technology. The boundaries of a city or a country are becoming less relevant, because a millennial’s Facebook page defines their identity. Their news feed constitutes their community, replacing traditional geographical parameters. Millennials’ virtual environments are as important as their physical experiences and thus they engage in a very different way with the fashion industry. Their ease with social media enhances their knowledge of an industry in constant flux and when set within a framework of academic expertise, our courses become a mutual exchange of information between the students and teachers.

In your own words, digital natives or millennials are the new primitives. Please explain this strong paradox between modern times and the past, and what you refer to as "techno humanism".

So far, technology has limited our emotional responses to the world around us: Instagram allows users only to “like” content, and Facebook reduces our complex human reactions to angry, sad, happy, or shocked. The way social media has shaped, and mediates, human interaction has defined our era of techno-humanism. This poses political difficulties and has forced governments and industries across the world to readdress communications strategies at breakneck speeds.

The internet and social media specifically is also constantly redefining our notion of identity. Individuals are multi-talented and now have access to platforms to show how multi-faceted they are. Does being multi-hyphenate or dimensional play a role in the selection process of students who enroll at POLIMODA?

Often, the multi-faceted nature of an applicant’s origins indicates great potential. Adaptability in fashion is important because the industry is reliant on change and innovation must be inherent, both within our students’ professional attitudes and across our curricula.

Danilo Venturi on The Future of Trends panel at LVR Fashion & Technology Summit, Jan 2017, Florence - Courtesy of LUISAVIAROMA

How did the partnership with LUISAVIAROMA come about for their Fashion & Technology 2017 Summit?

I have known the CEO, Andrea Panconesi for a while and, naturally, we began to draw parallels between our two ‘brands’. He has driven his business as a pioneering fashion concept store and is internationally renowned for innovation and simultaneously for championing centuries of Italian artistry. I consider our university to share this trait. Many POLIMODA alumni also go on to work across the board at LUISAVIAROMA and so it is fitting that we partner together in a visible and concrete way.

You mentioned the term "ethno classic" during the event. What is it and how does it translate on campus at POLIMODA?

BOF listed POLIMODA as one of the best fashion schools in Italy, and among the top institutions in Europe. With 1,500 students hailing from over 70 different countries, our institution is a global talent magnet. Students study every aspect of the fashion industry, with around half majoring in business-related degrees and the other in design. Our wealth of diversity shapes the shared fashion student experience in Florence; I call this their ethni-city. Florence is a beautiful Renaissance town and I have observed that fashion is returning with vigor to classical styles and uniform-dressing. This clash of new identity concepts, informed by cultural diversity, with centuries’ old artisanal ideals is incredibly interesting and characterizes our brand ethos.

You closed The Future of Trends roundtable with a strong statement, "learning is the new trend" - how so?

Our school methodology is sociological. The recognition of learning as being the new trend is based on data that reflects the rise in higher education enrollments, especially at fashion schools. It’s also vital to look beyond data. People are increasingly driven to invest in experience and knowledge, rather than consumer goods, which befits our digital age. The POLIMODA curricula are geared towards professional skills that will stand our students in good stead throughout their entire career, from intern to CEO.

Tell us more about the joint educational program between POLIMODA and LUISAVIAROMA, when it will launch?

We have created a new masters course called Fashion Store Concepts. The first intake of students will begin this June. It’s exciting because this is a collaboration with LUISAVIAROMA, who are leaders in curating a multi-brand spaces, e-commerce and building experiences. Our apprentices will learn from the best about integrated emotional experiences that span the offline and online worlds.

Disclaimer: The author is a Polimoda alumna and host of LVR Fashion & Technology Summit 2017.