IFM Master's students open Paris Fashion Week
Paris Fashion Week has never been the easiest of cities for young hopeful students, though that lacuna underwent a major shift on Monday, when the Master's students of the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) opened this month’s runway season.
Even allowing for the fact that this is overwhelmingly a digital season, this represents a sea of change in Paris, where the scene has always been dominated by giant luxury brands or must-see avant-garde independents. By contrast, shows in London by either Central Saint Martins graduates or the fresh-out-of-college talent in Fashion East are often given key time slots on the calendar.
Granting IFM’s Master's students the opening hour of the hard-to-even-dream-about-entering official schedule of the Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode was a major sign by the French establishment of its ambition to turn IFM into a top-five international fashion college.
The college is unique internationally in that it offers three different areas of study including creative fashion; craftmanship or savoir faire and luxury management.
The Master's video, unveiled Monday afternoon at 5.30 a.m. CET, came from a class that accepts 70 students per year, 20% from France, the rest from all over the world. Judging from the 10-minute video, IFM is off to a strong start, with several graduates blessed with bundles of talent.
Take James Giltner from Colorado, whose concept was a short-lived Printemps department store that opened almost four decades ago in Denver.
“It didn’t work out, closed and became a medical centre. So I imagined going up escalators in this chic space to give blood, past the memories of all this great forward fashion from Paris from the '80s,” explained Giltner, in a private presentation by a dozen students before the screening. The result – a series of excellent phantasmagorical knitted creations; woven around electrical cables to create intergalactic goddess looks.
While Johanna Imbach from France went for a more scientific approach, while still using knit. Combining classical cotton and woollen yarns with high-tech threads to develop brilliantly sculpted creations. Dresses and jumpsuits with memories that moulded into chequered high-tech, Renaissance-royalty ideas, all suitable for major league rock stars.
Or Mudassir Mohammed, whose family hailed from Hyderabad, who fused the memories of the end of colonialism in India into several great looks – from double-layer Madras check blue tunics to super revamps of traditional men’s coats.
IFM Master's graduates also had plenty of oomph when it came to accessories. Such as Agathe Pornin, a French lady who dreamed up a series of pumps, boots and high-heels – all wrapped in leather or even denim, so they seemed almost organically grown. Or Luca Tessarin, an Italian who was inspired by a lockdown spent in rural Lombardy to develop malleable leather bags, echoing design ideas from the studio of Gio Ponti.
All of the accessories developed inside IFM’s own atelier, which uses state-of-the-art machinery to train the students – all the way to 3D printers. The latter employed in a great shoe collection by Xavier Chane Li Sek, who made a series of natty elasticated boots with gutsy mini-tractor-tire soles – mimicking mushrooms from his youth in South East Asia - from the 3D printer. And wowed with a pair of fantasy heels finished with burnished leathers that looked almost alive.
The Master's students were the first graduates from the newly created campus of IFM, a large green building located along the Seine beside the Gare de Austerlitz in the 13th arrondissement. IFM is an amalgamation of a fashion business school pioneered by Pierre Bergé back in 1986, and the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale, arguably the world’s leading school for pattern cutters. IFM opened along the Seine at a sprawling green structure on the banks of the Seine often referred to as Les Docks, and now has almost 800 students.
After a €20 million refit by the building’s owner, the Caisse de Depots, and a €10 million investment by major Paris houses – such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Hermès and Yves Saint Laurent – the school seems poised to really compete with the most sought-after fashion colleges – FIT in New York, CSM in London, the Academy in Antwerp, La Cambre in Brussels and Marangoni in Milan.
“We are a non-profit organization and we have only one goal. Guide and produce the best possible graduates for the fashion and luxury industry. And it helps we have the support of all these great Paris houses. Where else in the world can you get experts on this level to lecture to your students?” notes Xavier Romatet, the dean of the college.
Thanks to the cash injection from these global brands, IFM now has an impressive 8,000 square-meter campus, airy classrooms and advanced professional machinery in a fab lab. French industry leaders have also worked hard to encourage geographical and social inclusiveness. Almost 100 students now are apprentices in Paris-based brands; while internationally over 40 countries now have students studying at IFM.
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