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Vancouver fashion programs design their own take on virtual learning

Posted on May 15, 2020

Originally published in The Georgia Straight

Whether it’s learning to feel the difference between textile fibres or to steer an industrial sewing machine, fashion education comes with a hands-on element.

So what does that look like during social distancing, as instruction pivots to more e-learning? And how will that education shift as the entire fashion industry grapples with the challenges of fitting and producing garments during a lockdown that’s only gradually loosening? Local institutions are in the midst of finding that out, getting creative amid COVID-19 measures.

Over at Vancouver Community College’s fashion design and production program, coordinator Andrea Korens explains how shifts in the industry prepared her team well for the changes that are happening now. “One of the great things about working in fashion is we are so poised for a pivot already,” she observes. “I think we had less stress than other programs.”

Theory classes easily moved to virtual learning, and the school has found creative ways—both high- and low-tech—to translate more hands-on instruction with social distancing.

One example is VCC’s Fashion Cycle 4 collaborative garment-production class for custom clients. Though it had to be put on pause because of COVID-19, instructor Jason Matlo and producer Brenda Gilbert decided to donate their time to hosting a Zoom-based “What’s Next for Fashion” series. “They’re meeting with students every week about what’s coming up next in the market given the current climate, to keep them inspired and engaged,” Korens says.

Elsewhere, Korens has used a simple tactic message to get into the tactile world of teaching fabric and textile studies right now. “I am actually mailing them pieces—I’ve got swatches and I send them to them in the mail,” she says with a laugh, pointing out that, as she’s based at home, the fabric pieces are sitting all around her.

With large studio space at VCC and the chance to return with social distancing in the fall, she looks forward to finding ways use to the classroom with some new approaches.

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