Over almost 150 years, the fashion industry has transformed many aspects of Western culture. On the course, Understanding Fashion: From Business to Culture by Institut Français de la mode (IFM) learners are invited to explore the interaction of fashion, society and business. The course features exclusive input from fashion industry leaders, including designers such as Simon Porte Jacquemus, Christelle Kocher, Paul Smith, and CEOs at Chanel, YSL and Hermès, and the recent run saw over 100,00 enrolments nearly overnight. We spoke to Delphine Wharmby, Marketing and Communications Director at IFM to find out more about the success of this course.
Can you tell us a bit about this course, who it’s aimed at and what it aims to achieve?
The course offers a dual approach to understanding fashion, both as a cultural phenomenon and as a creative industry. It is mainly intended for students or experienced fashion professionals looking to enhance their knowledge of the fashion industry. The course is also relevant to fashion entrepreneurs who need a holistic view of the industry’s key success factors.
What has been your experience of running this course online? What differs from a face-to-face course?
You need to be really sharp and straight to the point: you really need to stick to the core of your topic. It’s great because when you design the course, you need to identify what is really essential: it helps a lot, being an academic, to clearly pinpoint the backbone of your subject. Of course it does not allow for digressions, and direct interaction.
Another difference lies in the pace of learning: students have time to study at their own pace, which changes tremendously how people learn. Some of them will take more time to come to terms with some of the more complex issues in the course. Also, while in a traditional class you would typically go from content A to content B and so on, here learners can go back and revise areas of content at their leaisure. This is something to keep in mind when you design the course.
Finally, we also see that online courses trigger much more peer-to-peer interaction and mutual support among students. Some learners rephrase the content of the course – simplifying it for others who are experiencing difficulties.
This course recently saw huge success, with the current run enrolling over 100,000 learners from around 200 countries. What factors would you say have contributed to the success of this course?
There are three main factors, I would say.
The first is the fact that the course approaches fashion from a social sciences / humanities perspective. This interdisciplinary approach is something that most learners appreciated, and which many of them discovered as they were not familiar with the concept of “fashion studies”.
The second is that the course has a very contemporary feel to it, even though some of the references in the course are historical. This is done through the testimonials of professionals and designers, the examples that illustrate the course, but also through the discussions among participants which are often very interesting.
Finally the fact remains that today’s lockdown situation has made online learning particularly valuable. Many people have time to rethink their priorities. Fashion is a business more and more people want to be a part of, so they seized this opportunity to become more knowledgeable about the real drivers of the industry. And some of them are fashion professionals who suddenly got more time to spend on broadening their understanding of their own practices.
The course features input from fashion industry leaders, including designers such as Simon Porte Jacquemus, Christelle Kocher, Paul Smith, and CEOs at Chanel, YSL and Hermès. What impact do you think this had on enrolment figures and why?
It was absolutely instrumental: if you want to get a complete overview of the fashion industry you need to give the floor to the different stakeholders: designers, CEOs etc. Of course some of them are world famous so it helps to bring people to the course. Some of the learners initially thought Simon Porte would be the teacher all along, I hope they were not too disappointed!
What have been some of your key learnings from running this course?
All of the above: great interaction and discussions, amazing interest from all over the world as learners shared experiences from all parts of the globe, making fashion understandable to a large number of people. The experience has been great.