After about a month spent in lockdown, it feels that our personal earths have shifted a bit on their axes, leading to monumental disruptions in our personal and professional lives. Being an educator by profession, I am seeing the current health crisis from that lens.
As custodians of education, I believe it is our responsibility and purpose to safeguard the future of the youth by not allowing anything to come in their way of quality education, which they rightly deserve. And I am proud at the way in which the institution and our students have managed to turn the limitations and challenges into opportunities.
Just as necessity is the mother of invention, constraints give rise to creativity. From creating digitized lookbooks to using software to reroute production orders depending on the stage of the pandemic in a particular location, global brands have been solving for design and manufacturing, and supply chains in innovative ways. Meanwhile, we at Pearl Academy’s School of Fashion have been, for some time now, engaging with the why, what and how of the future. We have also been teaching 25% of our curriculum, asynchronously online since 2015.
We see this unprecedented scenario as an opportunity to allow our students to critically evaluate their role as designers and stylists in the New Reality. As a School, our focus has always been on sustainable systems and the future of craft and we believe this is the perfect situation for thinking about a reset. Here is a glimpse of what has been happening in the virtual world of School of Fashion since the lockdown.
LEARNING IN THE NEW REALITY | Our future ready approach has really paved the way to see this current challenge as an opportunity. Ever since the lockdown, all Pearl students are learning remotely over 1,300 weekly online classes scattered across five platforms. Pearl’s investment in this technology dates back to 2015, and has played a huge role in seamlessly transitioning to 100% online teaching mode almost immediately. On-demand uninterrupted learning through Coursera, guest lectures from the best-in-class subject matter experts from the industry and internationally, coupled with our students’ own ingenuity have turned this quarantine on its head. Additionally, within the School of fashion, all courses teach a module called ‘Fashion Futures’, which focuses on imaginary dystopian futures. As design educators, we realize that teaching tactile subjects like garment construction, weaving, photography etc. may seem challenging to teach online. However, we have been successful in teaching these by using the appropriate technology and context.
PRACTICAL LEARNING | We have ensured that the online classes are interactive, engaging and well supported with practical assignments. For instance, for technical subjects like ‘Garment Construction’, our Department of Fashion Design is encouraging students to deconstruct their old garments at home, reassemble them and document the entire process so that they can understand construction better. Textile students are developing prints creating natural dyes from materials available at home. Fashion Styling students are using found objects, sock puppets and phone cameras to build and share engaging visual narratives. We are taking a step further to ensure that project development continues online, while exploring more ways to ensure that learning, training and application of what students have learned is not compromised. Reeturparna Biswas, one of our final year students from Pearl Academy Jaipur, has developed her collection online as a video, while some of our students from the Mumbai campus did a styling project online, all the while ensuring that quality is not compromised.
INTERNATIONAL MASTERCLASSES | The international assignments students were engaged in before the pandemic are continuing as usual, just that the mode has gone virtual. We regularly hold masterclasses with experts in the field of Fashion Design, Styling and textiles that are attended by students across Pearl Academy campuses pan India – the most recent one being with Julian Roberts and Mari Bendeliani of Royal College of Arts UK. The tone of these masterclasses also revolves around the changing reality for the industry and business. Local sustainable solutions and Woke Styling are some examples of projects we have recently run.
ACCESS TO GLOBAL LEARNING | Our students have free access to the best of global programs offered by Coursera and The Business of Fashion and now more than ever before, they are utilizing the lockdown period to supplement their knowledge and skills by taking these programs.
WE CARE | Difficult and uncertain times like these can take a huge toll on mental health. Pearl Academy, under its ‘We Care’ initiative has launched a counselling helpline for its students and alumni to ensure they have professional help at hand to overcome mental stress.
The ability of humanity to cope with a crisis can be gauged from its aftermath. The benefit of social media and the hyper-connected world we live in are that we can see almost in real time all the positivity unfolding around the world. Another thing I am really proud of is the contribution of our students during the crisis and how they’ve creatively devised solutions to help protect people and the society they live in. It tells me that the future of the world is in good hands. Pearl Academy’s legacy of 27 years in creative education has been earned by being committed and innovative. Our students are always at the core of everything that we do – crisis or no crisis.
Stay safe and keep learning.