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The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Anke Loh Discusses a Theatrical, Artistic, and High-Tech Approach to Fashion Design

Written by FS StaffMay 30, 2013

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has been educating artists and designers since 1866.   What makes SAIC unique is the artistic and theatrical approach fashion majors are encouraged to embrace, receiving training alongside painters, sculptors, architects and performance artists.  Students have access to world-renowned art exhibitions and research facilities of The Art Institute of Chicago, located just one block from campus, and can further their education a bit further away, on study trips to fashion capitals including Paris, London, Antwerp, and New York.  To cap off their studies, future designers for decades have produced a cutting-edge student fashion show to display their collections.

We spoke with the Fashion Design Department Chair Anke Loh about the program.

FS:  Please give us an overview of your program

SAIC:  Uniquely situated within a vibrant contemporary school of art and design, SAIC’s
Fashion Department builds on the connections and relationships between art and fashion that have been evolving over the past century, to reach an unprecedented level of integration in contemporary practice today.

Did You Know.... Academy of Art University’s School of Fashion offers BFA's in Fashion, Fashion Merchandising, Textile Design, Fashion Marketing, Fashion Styling, Costume Design, and Fashion Product Development. Learn more.

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FS:  What are the common career paths for your graduates?

SAIC:   SAIC Fashion Department graduates hold senior design positions in firms as varied
as Yeohlee, Jones New York, Levis, Nike, Charles Chang Lima, and Tommy Hilfiger; and design for Anna Sui, Calvin Klein, Tiffani Kim, Betsey Johnson, Triple5Soul, and Moschino. Upon graduating, many have opted to intern for international houses including Viktor & Rolf, Alexander McQueen, Wendy & Jim, Castelbajac, Zac Posen, Threeasfour and William Ivey Long, or to launch their own fashion lines.

FS:  Tell us how technology has changed the fashion business

SAIC:  Technology has changed – and is changing – the fashion business in a huge way.
Virtually any step toward realizing the creative design product can now be assisted with technology, and the industry itself definitely has been transformed with ongoing advances in technology.  Design software, pattern software, 3D and digital printing are bringing enormous changes to the ways of working with materials – as the materials themselves are changing dramatically.  Yet at the same time, for creative thinking, hands-on experience is most important in order to inform and stimulate the creative process. This can be sparked through anything from a more intuitive, primal approach to a high-tech approach.  Ultimately, when innovating, the sky is the limit as long you stay open to both ends of the spectrum – and everything in-between.

FS:   What core classes that are not directly related to fashion, are required of students?

SAIC:  In their first year at SAIC, fashion students test the ideas and techniques that drive
contemporary art and design in the Department of Contemporary Practices Core and Research Studio classes.  Contemporary Practices combines skill-based instruction – from drawing to new technology – with studio-based methods of conceptual exploration and artistic research.

FS:   Are internships a requirement?

SAIC:  No, but they are highly recommended.

FS:   Tell us about your career placement services or any on-campus recruiting efforts for fashion students.

SAIC:  SAIC’s Career + Co-op Center helps students find work and Co-op internships, prepare
résumés and portfolios, develop a career strategy and employment skills, apply for professional opportunities, develop proposals, pursue exhibition opportunities, apply for graduate school, and develop networking and interviewing skills.

FS:  Talk about the SAIC fashion show and other opportunities for your future designers
to show off their work

SAIC:  Each year, students and faculty work to create a truly professional fashion runway
show—stunning design, intriguing soundscapes, exquisite garments, and cutting edge
looks—by incorporating and combining techniques from the fields of sculpture, performance, design, technology, architecture and installation.  Fashion 2013, SAIC’s 79th annual fashion show, presented an electrifying runway event featuring more than 250 original garments created by undergraduate students.

Recently, students and faculty from SAIC’s Master of Design program in Fashion, Body
and Garment, under the direction of Nick Cave, used Swarovski’s signature jewels to
create and install a window display at the brand’s flagship boutique (540 N. Michigan Ave.) in celebration of their “Passport to Sparkle” spring/summer campaign. Combining principles of sculpture, architecture, design, and fashion, students had the opportunity to display their creations at the boutique April 15–May 5.

FS: What are some highlights for you as an educator?

SAIC:  It is gratifying for me to see students evolve during the course of the rigorous 3-year
undergraduate program, as well as through the 1-year Postbacc and the 2-year Master
of Design in Fashion, Body and Garment programs.  I appreciate watching them become
able to find their place in the competitive fashion industry and/or in the wide range of
other possibilities in the Field of Fashion and Art.

FS:   What are the most common misconceptions incoming students have about pursuing
a career in fashion?

SAIC:  That fashion design is very glamorous.   Before anything else, it is very hard work.

Check out more interviews at the Fashion School Interview Series.