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SWEDISH SCHOOL OF TEXTILES

In 1866, Sweden’s Technical School of Weaving was inaugurated, becoming the Textile Institute in 1936. Half a century later, the Institute was nationalised and evolved into the Swedish School of Textiles, which is part of the University of Borås. Since 2010, the school has been unique in offering artistic research education into fashion and textiles.

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Edited by Robin Douglas Westling Words Ella Johansen Photography Lisa Broms

Erik Eklund is in his third and final year of the bachelors’ degree in fashion design at the University of Borås. Originally from rural Dalarna, where fashion is less of a consideration than in Sweden’s urban centres, Eklund was late to discover a passion for working with clothing.

What are some of your favorite aspects of fashion design?

— I enjoy everything more or less. But for me, the idea — including research around this initial idea and practical research in silhouette, aesthetic and details — as well as the editing, styling and presentation of this, are my most inspiring and favourite parts of making a collection. In this, I also enjoy working in teams, partially just to discuss how we want fashion to evolve and how we can contribute to each other’s work to enhance the whole group.

How has the school helped you evolve as a designer?

— The fashion programme at the Swedish School of Textiles is open to projects that treat the subject of designing shape in relation to the human body. This includes fashion design but also, for example, garments and body in movement as in dancing. It’s not separated in women-and menswear designers as in many universities, which creates tension, discussion and greater understanding

What are your ambitions as a designer?

— I do not believe in creating a new brand just to realise my own ideas. The dream is to create change for the better and my investigations right now are concentrated around gender fluidity and genderless expressions from different points of aesthetic, and to explore sustainable thinking in material and methods of design. I do not believe that there is an end game, but to be able to choose is definitely a goal to strive for. And as described, I would like to work in a team.

Eklund has just applied for the MA program in Borås, and thinks studying for two years and to keep developing at the school would be a great opportunity.

Malin Ewen is a sporty sci-fi and fantasy nerd from Värmland, Sweden. She discovered fashion design after after taking some courses in pattern construction, which she fell in love with, and is also a third-year fashion BA student at the Swedish School of Textiles.

How have the topics you've studied related to science?

— We are trained to make our design decisions on scientific basis, not to just ”think it looks nice”. We get to prove out point through different material experiments and test in different ways, high and low.

Has school encouragedyour development in the ways you expected?

— I’m very technically interested and the school provides several technical labs with skilled technicians and teachers who can help you explore your area of interest. You have the opportunity to shape the education, it’s very self-driven and you work on your own project. A deadline is a deadline in education as in the industry and you get feedback on your work. You get good opportunities to redo and make it better and better every time.

Ewen sees herself specialising in sportswear and functional materials, as well as getting the opportunity to study more 3D software programmes, which she thinks will be an important part of the future.

Clemens Thornquist is a professor at the Swedish School of Textiles, and he also started his educational path studying fashion design at Borås. After that, he learned about men’s tailoring at Oscar Jacobsson tailoring workshops, but ended up extending his studies. These included completing the fashion business programme, the textiles engineering programme, and eventually a doctoral programme in art and organisation at Stockholm University. Apart from that, his main artistic training comes from working at Vivienne Westwood and under the visual artist and theatre director Robert Wilson. Thornquist returned to Textilhögskolan mainly because of strong interest among faculty staff and students to develop the education programme by building up the research environment.

— One of the first steps in this case was to introduce new courses that had been rid of the former idea of fashion design as a purely practical and technical activity, executing or giving form to a concept. Instead, these were replaced with courses and training modules that were based on an experimental approach, similar to areas of the natural sciences, where concepts and ideas are instead found through experimental activities in form and material. In one way this is also to say that in order to learn the foundation of fashion design, one needs to rid oneself from fashion for a time and instead devote oneself to the expression of body and dress unaffected by current trends and contexts. We introduce new methodologies, new ways of teaching and training based on my own and other’s research, and of course the research done through the doctoral programme in fashion design at the school.

What kind of training do you think is necessary for a fashion student?

— The main skill of a fashion designer concerns exploring, developing and giving form to ideas on the body, or in interaction with the body. To do this there are several tools one needs to learn through education modules, for example experimental material processes, design methods, garment construction techniques, sketching techniques etc. Although these skills are perhaps not always as respected in the industry as they should — without them there would not be anything to sell, market or critique — these skills remain central. In relation to this, another central quality for designers today is creative confidence, the belief that one’s capacity to realise what one aims to do long term, in one’s way, even when facing industry doubts or other challenging circumstances.

Textilhögskolan is widely known within textiles and is fully equipped with labs, machines and workshops. The orginaisation isar the forefront of design, innovation and product development - How do you work with producing and promoting sustainable fashion?

— Education in textile and fashion has a tradition of dealing consciously with ethical and environmental issues since several decades. However, whereas various issues connected to the harvesting and consumption of natural resources may be more dominant in textile technology and fashion business, there is in fashion design a habit of handling various ethical issues connected to the cultural and social life. Concretely it means that issues such as gender, norm criticism, power structures and other ethical issues are therefore constantly recurring subjects in seminars, courses, design projects and research work, in relation to perspectives on textiles as an artistic discipline, as well as questions about textile and clothing production and consumption, cultural appropriation of textiles and textile artifacts, and gender issues and power structures in relation to clothing and fashion.

What is the future of fashion educaion?

— There is not only room for change; I think there has to be. Even if one ends up at square one from time to time. However, I believe the creative skill and confidence will always be central as these capacities are the root for creating difference in society.