Aspiring fashionistas at the University of Rhode Island might draw inspiration from the nearby mansions of Newport. Students can take cues from the beautiful architecture, art, interior design, and gardens of the Gilded Age.
Another incredible resource can be found right on campus. The URI Historic Textile and Costume Collection contains almost 20,000 objects, costumes and textiles from all over the world, including a pair of wedding shoes from 1768.
We spoke with the co-chairs of the Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design, Dr. Linda Welters and Dr. Martin Bide, about the program of studies and how they prepare future designers.
(This interview was conducted via email & edited for length & clarity)
FS: Please begin by giving us some of the highlights of your program.
URI: We cover the whole supply chain, from design to merchandising, so if you know you want to study fashion, but not sure which part, we will help you find the answer. We have a large Historic Collection, a textile gallery, and well equipped textile labs to support our teaching. More than 50% of our students study abroad and a similar number do internships. Our annual 'Spring Splash' fashion show and fundraiser is a campus highlight. We have an active advisory board on which industry professionals serve.
URI: A committed and well-qualified faculty, and a school that provides an all-round education as part of the degree: not a technical or vocational approach. A Masters degree is helpful for those who do not have that all-round educational background.
FS: What advice do you have for students considering fashion as their academic major and, down the line, their career?
URI: Go for it! The world population continues to grow, everyone wears clothes, and they must all be designed, manufactured and merchandised. The graduate who understands the business and technical aspects as well as the design of fashion will always be in demand.
FS: Where do you see opportunity in the field of fashion?
URI: Everywhere! But especially in supply chain management, and those with technical skills and understanding (fabrics, pattern making, color…) will do especially well.
FS: Which skills do you consider to be most critical for a career in fashion?
URI: The skills listed above. Also, technical background plus social media, digital dexterity, and key software knowledge (excel, photoshop, illustrator..)
FS: How much has technology changed the fashion design world and how is URI addressing those demands academically?
URI: Change is rapid and constant: as mentioned above, globalization, computerization. Faculty maintain contact with the industry to hone their skills. Courses are updated regularly, new faculty are hired.
FS: What core classes that are not directly related to fashion, are required of students?
URI: Economics, art/art history, chemistry, writing/communications, plus "professional electives" appropriate for the student's chosen career path.
FS: What do students in your program cite as the "best" parts of the fashion program at URI?
URI: Our students consistently refer to a caring faculty: we foster a sense of community, and our programs have a high visibility on campus.
FS: What is unique about your campus?
URI: We are in the historic village of Kingston, RI, on a beautiful campus that is close to beaches, Newport RI, and within easy reach of the fashion capital of New York.
Check out more interviews at the Fashion-Schools.org Fashion School Interview Series.