Making an Impact in the Fashion and Design World
Madison, SAI Ambassador
March 7, 2017

Although many may not notice it, the impact of the Fashion and Design has a far reach, touching almost every aspect of our lives. I was able to speak with SAI Program Coordinator, Claudia Castaneda, about her view on the impact of the fashion and design word.

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Claudia moved to Milan in 2012 to pursue a MA degree in Visual Arts and Curatorial Studies and joined the SAI team in 2013. A typical day for Claudia includes designing on site visits and student trips to cultural areas around Milan, as well as teaching visits for SAI faculty led programs in fashion, design, and business. Although she came to Milan with little interest in the fashion industry, she says that living there has made it “…difficult not to be interested about the design and fashion trends that move the city and see how they are important in the world of art and design.” She also notes her first encounter with the fashion industry as a visit to the Stone Islands Showroom in Milan and speaking to Dr. Carlo Rivetti about his brand identity philosophy and the textile developments they do in their textiles laboratory and factory. She also talked about the elasticity of the term “fashion industry”, remarking, “it isn’t just the clothes. It’s the science behind the textiles, it’s the theatrical development of fashion shows, it’s the window displays in showrooms and stores — it includes graphic design, product design, brand identity, photography (now even more with the use of VR photography), staging, and sustainability.”

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Achille Castiglione’s electronic Switch

When asked what ‘making an impact in the fashion and design world’ means to her, Claudia says that the main idea behind making an impact in the industry consists of “…being able to see that impact ripple outwards beyond your own personal individual sphere;” meaning that it is about creating something that “…affect[s] change outside of your personal successes and onto the lives of other people or even other industries.” An example of an impact as such is an electronic switch invented by Achille Castiglione, which although simplistic in design, has reached its way into every household in Italy. It is present in everyone’s home, impacting their daily lives, with little to no knowledge of who made the switch. And that is what it is all about, creating something, complex or simple, recognized or unnoticed, that impacts the lives of others.

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Armani Silos Museum

Designers are the most regarded keys to creating an impact on their industries, and there are several ways in which they can do that. Claudia notes “A designer’s job is not only to be creative but also to innovate.” They can be innovative with the ways in which they use materials; they can be aware of their environmental impact; and they can also create impact through designing products that expand across several demographics. The past couple of years have consisted of an explosion of impactful movements such as apparel lines and products catered to androgyny and the gender non-conforming community, as well as the movement of sustainability and ethics in the industry. This branches off into the impact consumers can make on the fashion and design world. Claudia states that consumers can make an impact on the environment and the workers in the industry by consuming responsibly. They can achieve this by knowing a bit about the designers whose products they consume and their efforts to impact the industry. Designers can also work to inspire the industry, such is done by examples like the Milan Prada Foundation which has a focus on contemporary arts; or the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, and the Armani Silo in Milan. Each of these showcase the importance of the arts and their link to the fashion industry. Therefore, consumers can also create an impact by consuming more art and design “…in order to spur the creative process, which will in turn inspire fashion designers to new motifs, new technologies, new materials, new ways at looking at things.”

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H&M Conscious Collection AD

As mentioned earlier, sustainability has been a popular buzz word in many industries as of late, especially that of fashion and design. When asked, what sustainability means to her, Claudia stated “Sustainable fashion to me refers to using sustainable materials that don’t negatively impact our environment” and that “Designers and retailers who look to be socially responsible and sustainable are making their mark in the industry – and the more these companies start coming up, there will be a push for other companies to follow those steps.” Essentially, sustainability is all about the emphasis of quality over quantity and the source of that quality. As the rise of the sustainable era continues to grow, it is becoming increasingly accessible for consumers to buy responsibly, thus, making an impact. She notes the various outlets today’s conscious consumers have such as H&M’s Conscious Collection, which use local and sustainable fabrics; and toxic free production methods taken on by companies such as Levi’s and Zara.

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Levi’s Toxic Free Campaign

The reach of the fashion and design industries is vast, and it is both the jobs of the designers, as well as the consumers to make an impact. Innovation, creativity, and social responsibility/sustainability all play key roles in making an impact in the fashion and design world.

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Madison Natasha Block
Madison Natasha Block
Indiana University of Pennsylvania

During my time abroad, I was able to attend the London College of Fashion and be taught by industry professionals that did everything they could to educate their students in their field of study. I was able to make connections and friendships with people from all over the world, getting to engage in various cultures I had not been previously exposed to. I also got to travel more than I ever thought possible, visiting around five countries and eleven cities in a matter of three and a half months. I have gotten to experience so many places, people, and cultures that I never would have been able to see had I not studied abroad. It was certainly the most incredible experience I have had to date.

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About SAI

SAI Programs is dedicated to providing academic and cultural learning experiences abroad that enhance global awareness, professional development and social responsibility. We concentrate our programs in Europe, with a focus on in-depth learning of individual European countries and their unique global role in the geopolitical economy, humanities, and in the arts.