Fashion Courses: International trendsetters

Andy Sharman on scholarships Armani is funding at a school based in London, Paris and Milan
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The Independent Online

Fashion design may spring from the creativity of the individual but those who know the industry acknowledge that brute talent needs years of nurture to blossom into a cultural brand.

Artistic flair, technical expertise and a deep theoretical and historical awareness are the hallmarks of today's trendsetters, which is all the more reason to enrol on one of the many fashion courses available.

Istituto Marangoni operates in Milan, Paris and London. From a wide range of courses, students can choose fashion design, styling or business.

All programmes run concurrently over the three campuses. So you could do each one of your three years in a different country, at no extra cost. "Being able to experience the three cities while you're learning about fashion and learning a language or two is what gives students the competitive edge," says Ana Nikovska, director of the London campus.

The London branch is based in Fashion Street, the creative hub of the capital. Classes are kept small and individual feedback is given to the group as a whole. "You can see how you're doing against your peers," says Nikovska, admitting that "there have been tears" from students on the receiving end of criticism, "but it's what happens in the real world." With a 90 per cent employment rate, it's hard to argue with that.

Marangoni has introduced a new scholarship this year, funded by Armani. It is awarded to the best graduates from each of the fashion design, fashion styling and fashion business courses so they can do a masters at the campus in Milan. The London College of Fashion, celebrating its centenary this year, is launching a degree that hints at a modern sartorial dilemma. The BA in bespoke tailoring has been developed with the backing of the Savile Row Bespoke Association, amid fears that the prestigious street faces extinction.

But course director Alan Cannon-Jones insists that bespoke tailoring is still a strong niche market. "The people that can afford it will always want it," he says. "The industry needs a person educated to degree level because they're running the bespoke tailoring businesses of the future."

Students will learn skills to open up a range of careers in the bespoke suit market, from tailor, cutter, and designer to managing director. And thanks to its close links with Savile Row, London College of Fashion will be able to offer masterclasses from top tailors and placements at the cutting-edge of the industry - not just on Savile Row, but across London.

Students can even specialise in womenswear, which, Cannon-Jones says, is an expanding market. Savile Row has reported a rise in enquiries from high-profile businesswomen.

A number of new universities also offer degrees. Sophie Williams, 22, from Derby, has just graduated with a BA in fashion from Manchester Metropolitan, and recently watched her final year's work go down the catwalk at London Fashion Week. "Third year gives you an experience of how hectic and busy you'll be in the industry," she says.

Williams hopes to work in swimwear design, overseas if necessary. "We were told that it's hard to get on the ladder, particularly in womenswear, so they try to help you find your niche. It's a really good course to prepare you for getting a job," she says.

'We're a close-knit class'

Rosie Brodhurst-Brown, 21, from Doncaster, is studying for a BA in fashion futures at the University of East London.

We do sketchbooks to predict what will become a fashion trend and find photos from the street to back up our ideas. Our tutor has made a real effort to introduce us to the fashionable areas.

We're a close-knit class and you find you work hard because you know everyone will be seeing your work. So, I'll be a lot more confident going into the industry.

The experience is invaluable: it's not just academics. It's the people you meet, being in London and also the social scene that comes from being at university.