The Beckmans College of Design, located in Sweden’s capital Stockholm, was founded in 1939 by advertising executive Anders Beckman and fashion illustrator and textile designer Göta Trägårdh. Since the very beginning, the college has interacted with the fashion industry through partnerships with businesses and institutions. It used to be private, but became a university college in 2003 and was approved for full government funding.
Adam Swärd is a fashion student at Beckmans College of Design and is in their third and final year. Swärd is a person who is driven by a need to create and search for something meaningful. During their time at Beckmans, they’ve undergone a personal development that is reflected in their work. Gender identity issues come naturally since after many years of confusion about their own gender identity, Adam now identifies as non-binary.
— For me, fashion is my way of self-realisation. My creation is as much an exploration of myself as it is an exploration of fashion.
Has Beckmans given you the opportunities to grow as a designer the way you’ve wanted?
— When I was going to choose my education, I looked at which one would benefit me the most both during and after my studies. The reason I chose to apply to Beckmans was that the school offers great opportunities for the students to make contacts with the industry. You get very close to the actual profession. Also, the fact that Beckmans does shows during the fashion weeks in Stockholm was decisive. Students’ names are highlighted, which itself opens up for future practice and work. So the choice to apply to Beckmans was based on what happens after the school, what benefits my future, and also the expertise from teachers who are at the school.
What do you think of the collaborations between Beckmans and the industry? You’ve just completed a collection together with Filippa K Soft Sport; Tell us about that collaboration and what it was like working like that. Did you get to choose the company, or was it the school, or even the brand that picked you?
— The partnerships were one of the most educational things I’ve ever done at Beckmans. To collaborate with established companies was, of course, challenging since we (e g the students) have to relate to the companies’ aesthetic and values and integrate that with our own aesthetics and themes. The entire project began with the announcement of the participating companies, followed by presentations of them. The school chooses which companies participate each year, and this year the theme was sports and function. We could say which brands we would like to work with, but ultimately, we were assigned to them by our course instructors. I was assigned to the Filippa K Soft Sport, which I also wanted. The project as a whole went well and I was personally satisfied with the result.
Sandra Saedi is studying her last semester at Beckmans fashion programme, and works from a personal perspective of focusing on storytelling through colours, print and décor work. She finds styling an interesting element of design, and has always used clothes as riots of creativity.
What is the best part about fashion design?
— I love to be free within a framework, when the creating becomes spontaneous but still relates to the concept. Somewhere in the process, before all those big decisions are made, there is a moment when the project feels completely luminous and amazing, almost like love. That is, for me, the most beautiful part of the design process. At a later stage, it is when I notice that my work makes others feel connected and happy.
Are you happy with your development during your time at Beckmans?
— Yes, absolutely! I have developed a sculptural expression that I didn’t even know I had. It began taking shape somewhere at the end of the first year and the beginning of the second. Through workshops in different courses something new emerged, that was very new to me. My tutors promoted the development and gave me additional tools both artistically and technically. It has definitely opened up to concentrate on my aesthetics and given me more tools to create with. I prefer to create by draping.
What were your expectations before entering the school?
— I was hoping that the education would promote my skills. It was not until the first academic year was over that I realized that it’s basically impossible to excel at everything that is taught, instead I was advised to create a niche based on my strengths but still be open to new knowledge.
Pär Engsheden, one of the most renowned designers from Beckmans, is the Programme Director of Fashion. He studied at Beckmans from 1988–91 and developed a close bond to the school, which led him to start teaching regularly just a few years after showing his graduate collection. Ann-Sofi Back was one of the students in his first class. Some years ago, he was asked to become Programme Direcor and has enjoyed the assignment so far.
What does this position at Beckmans mean to you?
— It means a fantastic opportunity to participate and contribute to the students’ development, it’s a privilege to follow Swedish and international future fashion in close proximity. It is, of course, an assignment with great responsibilities, but I feel I have a lot to share. It’s also about me managing the legacy of Beckmans’ pedagogy and unique school spirit that my predecessors created. I mainly think of the founder of the education, Göta Trägårdh, but also of the previous programme directors Lena Kvarnström and Marie-Louise Nordin.
What kind of pedagogy is prevalent in fashion education today?
— I would say seminars, lectures, and studio-based methodology, namely supervision of experts during work in progress.
What qualifications are required to become a successful fashion designer?
— What is most important is that you have a passionate interest in fashion and to be very creative. If you have a basic understanding of sewing and construction it will become much easier. Other important factors are great driving force and curiosity. At Beckmans we help the students to develop their design persona and to find their own argument for being in the fashion industry. The uniqueness of their design and their ability to develop their expression are the most important criteria when we look through the applications to the school.
In terms of slow-fashion and sustainability, which position does Beckmans take in these subjects? How do you think the fashion industry will work to make the industry and the world a greener place?
— For us at Beckmans, sustainability and fashion are one and the same, and that’s a fashion that will never be outdated. Sustainability and creativity go hand in hand and that’s why the designers of tomorrow are so important. Sustainability contains many different aspects and is included in most of our courses. We teach the importance of designing sustainably as a fashion designer, for example by practising zero-waste. We aim to widen their reference framework by talking about how to get fashion into circular cycles and slower cycles. It is also about social sustainability and choosing a diversity of models for a show.
In your words, what is fashion?
— A whimsical and sometimes slightly bored visionary who moves between contemporary and future.