From its vivid street fashion and youth culture to the host of luxury labels lining Mayfair and St James’s, London has long been a fashion capital. It should therefore come as no surprise that the city is packed with schools that host the brightest young minds in fashion – especially when the reigns are placed in the capable hands of veteran designers like Jimmy Choo OBE. And with JCA just about to wrap up its first year of teaching, we caught up with Jimmy to ask him all about the concept behind the school, what to expect if you’re a prospective student and what the future of fashion could look like.
Jimmy Choo on his new London Fashion Academy, JCA
Tell us a bit about JCA – what led to its creation?
JCA’s Director, Stephen Smith, and I had been talking about setting up an academy for some time to finally tackle some of the faults found in mainstream higher education and its reluctance to provide a small, specialist, mentor-styled environment. Rather than following popularism and having large class sizes that result in learner obscurity and design uniformity, we decided to take on the challenge to create a new specialist institution in which small groups of learners, following diverse design paths, are housed in a professional fashion incubator with the collective aim of launching new designers. This idea of developing designer entrepreneurs sets us apart: focusing on developing each learner’s brand, their collection and launching them during their course of study. Fashion is fast-changing and an entrepreneurial and curious mindset is key to cutting through this already saturated market.
Why set up in London?
London is a global fashion hub that has created many of the world’s best and most prolific designers. It’s the city that I myself was educated in and started my own business from and so it made sense to locate JCA here in order for students to be in an environment where creativity and innovation are encouraged. The academy is located in the heart of Mayfair and is literally on the block that connects each of the city’s most iconic high-fashion areas.
Jimmy Choo OBE, Ha Smith and Stephen Smith
What can prospective students expect from JCA?
Courses combine the latest teachings in contemporary design with entrepreneurial skills to set up and drive the successful fashion brands of the future. First and foremost, they’re designers – not those stuck in a vacuum, but those who have the skills and behaviours needed to launch and sustain their own fashion label.
How important is it to learn from people with current industry experience?
Teaching is not only about developing knowledge and taught craft, it’s very much about application and professional experience and this can only be taught through practice and with those doing, not talking. Since Stephen and I started talking about the idea of creating this academy, we knew we wanted to provide students with the best education to become the next leading generation in fashion. All our tutors and instructors are contemporary practising designers and fashion professionals who support learning through a hands-on applied experience through our incubator programme.
What sets JCA apart from other fashion schools?
One of the most important aspects that set us apart from other fashion schools is the freedom we give students from the beginning to decide what speciality they want to focus on. We witnessed that often students are bombarded with a lot of information and training they might not be interested in, so we decided we would let them specialise from the beginning, so they become masters of what they truly want to do. Moreover, we are a practice-based academy, so students get more time to work on projects that are relevant to their practice and to their particular aims and ambitions as fashion entrepreneurs.
Does sustainability play a role in JCA’s teaching practices?
Sustainability and wellbeing are two cross cutting themes at the academy. We have Ambassadors that help to drive these important concepts forward and are working with many external design agencies that make clear our ambitions to create responsible fashion professionals who are resilient to change and turbulence.
What makes you excited about the future of fashion?
Watching our learners develop makes me most excited. They have such great ideas and Stephen and I are amazed with the potential that they are already demonstrating. We have masters students being nominated for awards and first year undergrads already launching their labels. We have a great team of practicing professionals and leading academics and an amazing space on Hanover Square that provides inspirational space for designers to develop their skills and creativity. It’s this new generation of designer that will shape the future of fashion and what role it plays in society.
Open days at JCA will be running throughout the summer. Find out more at jca.ac.uk
Imagery courtesy of JCA