Browse all

What have fashion brands' creative directors studied?

You don't need a degree in fashion to become a designer

What have fashion brands' creative directors studied? You don't need a degree in fashion to become a designer

It's often said that despite years of study, degrees, diplomas, masters and PhD, you always end up doing a job that has nothing to do with your studies. The saying could also be true in the fashion industry, where for a long time now you don't need to have studied fashion or tailoring to design clothes or even to become a creative director, and where, on the other hand, other disciplines can provide a more eclectic and multifaceted background. Looking at the creative directors who now lead the main luxury houses, a clear division can be drawn between those who can boast classical studies in the field of fashion, often at prestigious and renowned schools and those who instead seem to have ended up in the fashion industry by chance, thanks to very different baggage. 

This is the case of Miuccia Prada, who despite a degree in Political Science at the State University of Milan, with the following doctorate - and even an acting course at the Piccolo Teatro - soon found herself directing the brand founded by grandfather Mario. A story that is similar to that of Donatella Versace, who after a degree in Foreign Languages ​​and Literature at the University of Florence, joined the brand founded by her brother Gianni, initially in charge of the communication and image of the brand, before becoming the designer of Versus and later, after Gianni's death, creative director of the Maison. Giorgio Armani also had different plans: after two years of medicine, he was forced to interrupt his studies for the military service, and once he returned home, he ended up choosing a completely different career. In Milan, he found work as a window dresser and clerk at La Rinascente, the place where his career in fashion would start. Demna Gvasalia already had a degree in Economics from Tbilisi State University in his pocket when, despite his family's difficult economic situation, he managed to enrol and graduate from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, where he got a master's degree in Fashion Design.

Both Alessandro Michele and Virginie Viard have a past linked to costumes for theatre and cinema. The Roman designer, who studied at the Academy of Costume and Fashion in Rome, expected a future as a costume and set designer, especially for the theatre, as he said, among other things, as a guest of Muschio Selvaggio; the French creative, on the other hand, after studying Theater Design at the Cours Georges, was already working as an assistant to a costume designer, before joining as an intern at Chanel in 1987, where she continues to work to this day. 

Among the creative directors who don't have classic training, however, there are several who still have artistic preparation. This is the case of Virgil Abloh, civil engineer and architect; Matthew Williams, who studied art at UCLA; Hedi Slimane, who opted for art history at the École du Louvre, before starting an internship in the world of tailoring; and also of Anthony Vaccarello, who after leaving the law course after a year, devoted himself to the study of sculpture in La Cambre, Brussels. Finally, it might be surprising that a designer of the calibre of Raf Simons doesn't have an academic background in the field of fashion, so much so that he began his career in fashion after a degree in Industrial and Furniture Design, creating a furniture collection that is already a cult

The fate of four designers who studied in the same schools is closely linked. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli with a degree from the IED in Rome, who, after having revolutionized the accessory collections of Fendi and Valentino together, now lead, respectively, Dior and Valentino, precisely.

Phoebe Philo and Daniel Lee, both graduates from London Central Saint Martins, have redefined the canons of minimalism and elegance, first at Celine, where Lee was ready to wear director, then at Bottega Veneta and hopefully, in the next namesake Philo brand. Kim Jones also came from the same school, where he studied menswear, and who today puts it into practice at Dior Homme, and Riccardo Tisci, today at Burberry.