AMFI, an International School at the heart of the Dutch Fashion
The Amsterdam Fashion Institute, or AMFI, is unique in the Netherlands; it is the only higher education institution to focus uniquely on fashion, covering all aspects of the industry. It has over 1100 students and an academic body in excess of 100. With three different departments its curriculum covers the entire spectrum of fashion disciplines.
A responsive structure
Established in 1992, AMFI was born out of the merger of Meester Koetsier and Academy Charles Montaigne. For over 40 years, these two iconic Fashion Institutes provided the Dutch apparel industry with highly qualified professionals.
Meester Koetsier a technical and commercial school became part of the Amsterdam School of Applied Sciences in 1987.
The Academy Charles Montaigne was a private school that taught couture and styling. In 1994, the newly formed institute – originally called Fashion Management and Design (renamed AMFI in 2002) – settled at its current address on the Mauritskade.
A global vision in the heart of Amsterdam
AMFI is part of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, the largest in the Netherlands with 43,000 students. Its location in the centre of Amsterdam offers a number of advantages. Numerous national labels as well as many international fashion companies have their headquarters in Amsterdam. This proximity to the industry offers numerous opportunities for work placements and jobs.
AMFI has accepted that today Fashion is a global industry; it offers all its programs in both English and Dutch. A quarter of students at AMFI follow the international stream, totalling 54 different nationalities. AMFI encourages students to take full advantage of its wide international network, offering study trips and exchange programs as well as internships abroad.
A far reaching curriculum
AMFI curriculum ensures a broad perspective on the fashion industry.
Three departments deliver Bachelors in Fashion Technology: Fashion & Design, Fashion & Management or Designer for the Industry (Branding). Each department in turn offers three pathways each reflecting the variety of specialities of the industry.
Fashion & Design graduates have the skills required to work as Designers for the industry, Fashion Forecasters or launch their own label. Each student from this department is encouraged to develop a strong and personal vision of fashion and the skills and capabilities to experiment and translate their ideas into garments and styling concepts.
The Fashion & Management department trains hands-on fashion driven business managers who have not only a professional knowledge of buying, producing and selling fashion, but also have the strategic and analytical skills necessary for creative and innovative thinking. Graduates from this department can work as Production Coordinators, Buyers and Product or Retail Managers.
Fashion & Branding graduates from AMFI are trained to become Brand Engineers, Concept Developers or Creative Managers. They have learned to successfully convey the message of a label or a brand. An AMFI Fashion Brander is a conceptual thinker, able to create fashion identities and to engage the consumer at a strategic and emotional level.
Leslie, today you are head of faculty of two of AMFI’s three departments: Fashion & Design and Fashion & Management which represent ¾ of AMFI student population and a team of 60 tutors.
What did you do before becoming an educator?
I graduated from the Royal College of Art, London in the mid-80s. I worked for Byblos and Stefanel, in Italy then back in the UK as the designer for Alfred Dunhill. With this experience I decided to start my own design and manufacturing company working for Dunhill, Liberty, Gieves and Hawkes, Aquascutum and Burberry. I also got involved in education, heading the Design & Marketing department at the American InterContinental University in London. I wound my company down in the late 90s, but carried on designing freelance, working in education and studying for my PhD.
How do feel this experience helps you in your current position?
My previous experience has given me a far reaching and international knowledge of the fashion industry and fashion education.
What is fashion for you?
Fashion can be so many things: poetry, style, taste, passion, addiction and glamour but also hard work, precision, technical, professional, industry, technology. Fashion is a hybrid, the synergy of many different conflicting tensions which makes it the most wonderfully exciting fascinating and ball breakingly hard business
How important are creativity, marketing and technical skills in AMFI’s teaching?
Creativity is first and foremost at AMFI. Five years ago we redesigned the curriculums of all three departments; we named this initiative Creativity First. Creativity is key to fashion; while designers must be able to express their own creativity, product and brand managers must be able to understand how creativity works. The same principle is applied to marketing management and technical subjects. It is essential that designers for example, know how to cut the patterns which they design.
Students from each department learn how to communicate between disciplines, between creativity and commerce.
Which aspects of AMFI fashion training do you feel are unique?
I think the way we link creativity throughout all three departments is pretty unique. We also have a reality school concept: we link education with industry and promote real life projects. Organised in teams, students from the three departments run a commercial label called Individuals. Twice a year they design, produce and actually deliver for retail a 100 piece collection. It is presented at Amsterdam Fashion Week and is sold in key retailers in the Netherlands. The garments are manufactured in a small artisan factory in China.
This is a very exciting project that we are featuring on Modeconnect.
Another reality school project is our magazine which we publish once a year, at the end of June. The magazine has a different identity each year and a different name depending on the students who are working on it. It is sold in 20 countries.
Another is Digital Body Sculpture. This is a minor for design and management students; it is run in collaboration with Lectra. Students design and cut patterns utilising the Lectra 3D virtual prototyping software, creating a small collection presented to the industry.
Is AMFI working on new projects? What are you looking forward to do in the next few years?
We are very focused on building on our latest achievements and would like to carry out further research around our practice. Beside this we are talking with a prestigious UK University in order to collaborate on a joint Masters which we hope will run from 2014. This course will address design and enterprise; core subjects for AMFI.
What would be your advice to someone who considers studying fashion?
Oh, you have to be prepared to sell your soul! Fashion has to be in your blood. You have to be emotionally touched by clothing. You must cultivate your own aesthetics and sense of style, but at the same time be prepared to let the world and your surroundings affect you. You must be prepared to work hard! There is never enough time to learn everything, but you must try.
What do you enjoy most in your current job?
I work alongside a great team; my colleagues are enthusiastic, talented and passionate about their jobs. What we do today at AMFI will, in some ways, I believe, impact on the future for the industry. We are forging the fashion professionals of the future. I love my job.
More information can be found:
www.amfi.nl, www.hva.nl/amfi-int and facebook.com/amsterdamfashioninstitute