Microsoft enters the Fashion Innovation fray with the London College of Fashion

The tech giant invests in Fashion Education on a new cross-disciplinary program focusing on futuristic ideas for the industry

in brief

Microsoft is joining forces with the London College of Fashion to co-create a custom program, giving students access to its latest innovations and enabling them to come up with forward-thinking solutions for the future of the industry. An advanced course which aims at challenging them to use and then leverage cutting-edge technologies to disrupt the fashion industry as we know it.

Fashion Education is a key area to ensure that future professionals will be able to bring new depth to an industry currently reinventing itself soundly. While it is in no way surprising to see Luxury & Fashion consortiums getting closer to big fashion schools throughout the world and develop programs in order to accomplish this goal, which is all the more logical considering the existing synergies and possible opportunities it offers to both parties ; tech companies in the meantime seemed late to the party. Until now !

Firmly believing that its technology can empower the next generation of fashion creatives, tech giant Microsoft is joining forces with the London College of Fashion to co-create a custom program, giving students access to its latest innovations and enabling them to come up with forward-thinking solutions for the future of the industry. The short-term program, dubbed the “Future of Fashion Incubator”, will offer students across the school’s media, design and business departments the opportunity to test innovative ideas and hopefully come up with creative solutions addressing current industry issues and consumer needs ; ranging from topics that include retail experiences, supply chain management and the design process.

Learning about HoloLens technology
Credit: Microsoft x London College of Fashion

The custom curriculum for a semester-long incubator will allow students to explore a range of Microsoft technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and Mixed Reality, before choosing one area of study to focus on. This advanced course aims at challenging them to use and then leverage cutting-edge technologies to disrupt the fashion industry as we know it, with a mindset focused on solving real problems rather than just integrating tech, which often leads to developing something excessively gimmicky.

A student group is exploring ways IoT could disrupt the fashion industry
Credit : Microsoft x London College of Fashion

“It has been fantastic to see how the students are answering an industry or consumer need and ideating a solution which technology is part of — but they didn’t start the challenge with the tech in mind. This is key for us to ensure that the solutions we work on have longevity and a true purpose.” Maruschka Loubser, Senior Global Marketing Manager at Microsoft to WWD, May 2018

It is far from being the first attempt by the London College of Fashion at integrating technology in the way fashion is taught at universities. Last year, it opened the Digital Learning Lab, which allows students and staff to experiment with equipment such as Virtual Reality headsets, depth cameras that can track a body’s movement, 3-D printing and scanning and also offers one-on-one consultations for students from all disciplines who want to learn how to incorporate technology into their work.

“Collaborating with Microsoft to empower our students with emerging technologies across courses through this project is incredibly exciting. Fusing business ideas with mixed reality, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, ultimately, will allow a pathway to creating the digital designer businesses of the future.” Matthew Drinkwater, Head of Fashion Innovation Agency at LCF – official statement

Working in six multi-disciplinary groups, students have been developing prototypes and proposals for their projects, which they’ll present soon during a big event. In the meantime, they’re getting technological assistance from specialists at Microsoft, and pressure-testing their concepts with input from a series of experts, amongst which Charli Cohen, Hayley Elsaesser, Sofia Barattieri, Natasha Franck and Bia Bezamat ; who have been appointed as ambassadors of the new program and will consult with students to help them develop their ideas into prototypes that will drive digital transformation and forge new frontiers within the industry.

Incubator Ambassadors Bia Bezamat, Sofia Barattieri, and Charli Cohen
Credit : Microsoft x London College of Fashion

“The fashion industry has driven some remarkable innovations in the last couple of years, but due to consumer, industry and environmental changes it is imperative to continue asking the difficult questions. We need to evolve the way we use resources so we can be more sustainable in the future, and innovate the creative process itself to be more cost-effective, time-efficient and collaborative. ” Maruschka Loubser, Senior Global Marketing Manager at Microsoft to WWD, May 2018

Through weekly workshops, mentor and advisor check-ins, and close group work, these small teams of students are seeking to evolve every aspect of the fashion industry, from design and manufacture to consumer engagement and retail experience. This program is expected to culminate at the LCF BA18 exhibition, with an unveiling event on the 5th of June in London, UK, which will offer an interesting glimpse of what the future of fashion might look like.

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