Changing the fashion business and bringing a more diverse representation in relation to race, gender and body starts in the classroom, said leading industry educators, advocates and creatives, as the curtain has fallen on London Fashion Week in the British capital.
In the heart of central London's energetic and eclectic nightlife district Soho on Tuesday evening, the Conde Nast College of Fashion & Design launched its "Global Fashion Perspectives" initiative in a bid to better promote diversity and inclusion across the sector.
"The idea is to explore ways to bring about new international collaborations in the fashion industry through bringing together views from diverse global and regional voices," Nick Isles, CEO of the college, stressed. "There will be a lot of elements to this including events, symposia, research, publishing, student engagement, new curricula, and new policy ideas."
The program is developed with the African Fashion Foundation (AFF) and the Council for International African Fashion Education and will be marketed specifically to the African fashion and media industries and the professionals who work therein, Isles explained.
"The first part, and this is really exciting for us, is the launch of a bespoke trio of online programs created for and targeted specifically at Sub-Saharan Africa. These course modules will be about, styling and creative direction, the business of luxury and digital content creation and contemporary marketing strategies," he said.
The college, opened in 2013 by the global media giant Conde Nast, provides students education for a career in the fashion, media and luxury lifestyle industries and works closely with the teams at Vogue, LOVE, Glamour, GQ, and other Conde Nast magazines.
Lisa Mann, director of postgraduate, professional and online programs at the college, told Xinhua on the sidelines of the initiative's launch that an area of focus will be attracting creative talent from China.
"China is definitely of interest. We need to encourage more people from China to come and collaborate with us, we would love that," she emphasized.
"London is a place where we can really make big strides towards being more diverse, more accessible, more inclusive, and more equal, with opportunities for so many people," said the director. "The Chinese designers are just incredible, they are amazing. There are a few to watch."
But still, creating a lasting reset in an industry that has long suffered from a lack of diversity remains a challenge.
Roberta Annan, a Ghanaian investor and the founder of the AFF, is one of the pioneers making headway.
"The old norm has to stop and we have to be more inclusive and open to other people and the fact that they are different. I hope this initiative really motivates people to think outside the box and take bold moves," she told Xinhua.
"I am African and I'm a big advocate and proponent for the development of the continent. The conversation I've had with the college has been around how to make the curriculum more inclusive and more global," said Annan, who also sits on the advisory council of the college.
The Global Fashion Perspectives program is designed to be in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, as well as achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, according to the college.