AMFI’s Reality School Concept at Work
AMFI’s Individuals project is probably the best example of what reality school can achieve. It is a 6 month minor that BA students at AMFI can take during their third or at the beginning of their fourth and final year.
During this school wide collaboration, 8 to 10 students from each of AMFI’s 3 departments: Fashion & Design, Fashion & Management and Fashion & Branding together design, produce and deliver to retail a collection for the school’s label Individuals. Every year, 2 successive collections are developed from concept to consumer. They are presented to fashion buyers at the Amsterdam Fashion Week; in July 2012 AMFI presented the 13th collection of the brand. ; It will be sold in a total of 10 boutiques ranging from high end casual to designer/luxury across the Netherlands.
Each season, students design and produce two different types of garments. Production pieces, approximately 20 garment styles, constitute the main body of the collection; produced in a small factory in China they are available for retail and generate revenue. Unique pieces are designed and produced for communication purposes – the industry sometimes refers to such one-off garments as window dressing. They will be used either on the catwalk or for photo-shoots.
Inevitably, the process of designing such a large collection is complex. It starts with the new team of 24 to 30 students gathering for a long brainstorming session; in which they thrash out ideas which they feel reflect the Zeitgeist, the feeling of the moment. These ideas are refined before being developed into a Concept and a design brief which will guide all future work for that season. The fact that the collection brief is the product of the students’ dreams, concerns and passions, illustrates how tightly connected Fashion and Society are.
Following this first step the remainder of the process splits into several projects with students from each department focusing on their specialist area.
Fashion Management students start by organizing the production of the previous season Production pieces’ orders. Their job is to make sure the garments are being produced and delivered to retail in the best conditions. Once this is achieved they assist design students with the new collection, helping them refine their patterns and finalize technical specifications.
Over the first 5 weeks of the project, Fashion Design students are responsible for producing a total of 15 outfits each. At regular intervals they present their latest designs to a group of design and branding students.
They must explain and defend their vision in front of their peers; the feedback they receive helps improve their original idea. Students on both sides of this reviewing exercise initially find it difficult and they struggle to be critical.
They quickly learn however that honesty is vital and that their critical contribution is meant to be helpful to their fellow students and to the team.
After a period of 5 weeks, a solid stock of outfits has been designed. Guided by the Individuals brand values and the seasonal concept, editing can start in earnest. Garments are selected for their underlying qualities. Production pieces must be deemed viable commercially, being both desirable and economical to produce. Unique pieces on the other hand must tell a strong story. Sustainability is a key value for the brand; durability and re-use are two favoured approaches.
Fashion Branding students’ duty is to find ways to promote the new collection. In line with the initial concept they create a mood board that includes key words and visuals to explain their branding vision. This mood board will become the basis for all related outputs including the editorial and look-book photo shoot, promotional and boutique visuals and literature.
Branding students are also very hands on; they think of a concept for the show (location and mood) and they are part of the production team. A key moment, 5 to 6 weeks into the project, is the visit to Paris Premiere Vision fabric fair in order to source material. Following this visit, the range plan of the Production collection is finalised and fabrics are selected. Garments, material and colours are chosen to provide a good balance between types and styles.
A selection of Unique Pieces is finalised not only to allow for the best show but also in order to give students the opportunity to express a more personal vision. Sometimes these Unique Pieces turn out to be so popular that they are included in the main range and offered for wholesale and retail.
Once the design is finished, the management team send the selected garments to the factory in China for a final or sealed sample to be produced. The collection is ready to be presented and sold.
This is reality school at its best; the Individuals program is unrivalled.
Peter Leferink, Hoofddocent or Principal Design Lecturer at AMFI and creative Manager of Individuals, runs the program assisted by a team of professionals specialized in production, management, branding and pattern cutting.
Continue reading Modeconnect interview of Peter Leferink below….
Peter, the latest Individuals collections have been very well received. Your program is a minor at AMFI hence it is not compulsory. What motivates students to take part?
Students have the choices between three minors. Every year there is a big interest in the Individuals. I think this is motivated by the opportunity the Individuals project offers to learn about the fashion industry and to get to know a design driven brand from the inside out.
This is the real thing but within the relative comfort of an academic environment. Of course the very successful image of the Individuals brand, the runway spotlights and relative fame, achieved all play a part!
Can you explain in more details the interaction between brief, design and editing?
My main purpose is to facilitate the development of the students’ creative identity. The students should feel comfortable to express themselves, to put their heart and passion out on the table. The students are the energy and creativity behind the Individuals brand. The collection is entirely theirs; it is their vision, their ideas, their words.
My job is to make sure that they perform to the maximum, and that all this creativity stays focused. I also guard the consistency of the brand. This is however less difficult than one would imagine as students are very much on the right page when it comes to fashion in the context of the real world.
When editing I simply make sure that garments are wearable and economical to produce.
What is the level of separation between design, branding and range planning? Is everybody involved at all levels?
To be honest the project sometimes evolves organically. Different tasks require different methods of organisation. !
When Management students for example are busy with the production of the previous collection, they cannot be as involved with the new one. This is a very good illustration of what happens in real life.
As a principle I try to get students and teams to interact as much as possible. Weekly sessions during which all teams are present ensure that we are all heading in the same direction. This is not superfluous! Any student, who goes off track, is not able to contribute and perform fully. This is clearly frustrating for that student and an added difficulty to the process.
We talked a lot about the design process but who is in charge of the production, sales and aftercare management for the brand?
All this is done by the team; however we do get some external guidance and help from school to sell the collection. We also have an agent that handles sales to retailers but with the experience we now have, we are able to approach sales and marketing from several perspectives. The academic team regularly debrief to analyse each season what happened and to try and find ways to improve both the program and its execution.
How do you link one season to the next?
We do not believe that one season must necessarily lead on to the next. Last season the collection was entitled: Duals. It was dark, it was about urban revolution.
This season Roots was indeed a follow up on the narrative, it was about people after the revolution collecting remains from the past and relying on their primal strengths to take a first and confident step forward. This narrative unfolded because the students felt hope was on the horizon, they wanted to aim for a brave new world. The storyline flowed easily. I can easily imagine however that the coming season may be totally different from the last two collections. There is however a red thread that I guard carefully; it has to do with the product, the fit of the garments and how they are cut.
What do the students get from the experience?
An extreme kick once the train gets rolling. Somewhere towards the middle of the process they start to realise how hard you need to work to get things done and they grow a little tired. Towards the end when we get close to the show, when the collection book gets into shape, they get excited again and their stamina improves. When we hit the show they are in heaven … for all of 10 minutes and then we get back to everyday life again!
Where does the school see the education value of the project?
When you work with young people who are planning to work in a creative industry, fashion in our case, you need to teach them that they can only make a difference if they work from the heart. They should also be aware that it is tough, it is no picnic! We do this with Individuals.
For further information visit the website: iNDiViDUALS
Individuals SS/2013 show