A Q&A: Burak Cakmak, Parsons Dean of Fashion

1. As the dean of Parsons, you are equipped with the incredible responsibility of mobilizing fashion’s next leaders. How has fashion education evolved to reflect 21st century needs and values?

During the past decade we have seen how globalization, technological advancement and shifts in societal focus on topics such as climate change and migration influence both societal values and how business operates in a new way. As a result there is now an expectation that the new generation needs to be prepared and aligned with this new reality to succeed as they enter the workforce.

At The New School’s Parsons School of Design, we recognize the importance of graduating designers and business leaders who can bring innovative solutions to 21st century questions and challenges. Our current admission process reflects this more than ever before. For new and aspiring designers, the journey starts when they apply to study with us. As part of the application they need to put together a portfolio responding to ‘Parsons Challenge’. In this creative process we are first and foremost looking for critical thinkers who are ready to learn how to design within a larger context, questioning the purpose and values of their creative outcomes. They are also aware of their past and present, and how it shapes their beliefs, values and emotions that they will need to reflect on as part of their creative process at Parsons.

In the past several years we have also updated our curriculum to reflect the changes we are observing around us from a social, political, and economic perspective as it relates to industry and society. Fashion designers still need to learn the principle design methods and processes to succeed when they graduate. With technological advancements and new making and design tools being introduced every day, we are continuously working towards integrating these tools into our curriculum as well.

To ensure each change in our curriculum is aligned with 21st century values, we are using the following core focus areas as a filter: adoption of new technology solutions, alignment with societal context, and defining sustainable design processes.

More than ever designers, artists, and creative industry leaders need to be agile, operate across several disciplines, and accompany their design skills with interpersonal and business skills. They also must have the ability to work in a more diverse range of institutions and professional fields.

To reflect this change, we have recently introduced new pathways into our BFA fashion design program to support more diverse learning and outcomes for designers. These include ‘fashion collection’ – aiming to re-define garments in a connected but diverse world; ‘fashion product’ – aiming to expand on fashion skills to imagine all physical and digital products from a fashion lense; ‘materiality’ – aiming to bring the traditional and technological processes for materials while defining their use, purpose and impact and society; and finally ‘fashion systems’ – aiming to offer systems solutions to a whole range of topics from creating new sustainable value chain models to developing societal solutions for public engagement.

In addition to referring to our core focus areas for curricular changes, we also changed the incentives for graduating designers to reward innovation through end of year awards. Four new awards we have introduced are Creative Systems, Social Innovation, Fashion & Technology, and Future Textiles.

2. Additionally, how has education changed to encourage students to acknowledge the importance of transparency and ethical, environmentally-friendly supply chains within fashion?

We want our graduates to be conscious designers who understand key societal challenges and are experienced in using design skills to bring innovative approaches to their individual areas of interest.

One of our first steps has been to review all learning outcomes for our required courses and incorporate relevant knowledge on sustainability and ethics as a new baseline for fashion design education.

In addition, we significantly expanded the type of partnerships and projects we are offering to our students. We are now using sustainability and ethics as the main focus of our projects both within the fashion industry and with other institutions. In addition to the top fashion brands in the industry, we are now engaging with all the players across the value chain, building deep relationships with material suppliers, manufacturers, and other industry players that are aligned with our core values. We are intentionally bringing knowledge from local and global, small and large, traditional and technologically advanced partners to ensure there is a clear understanding of the diverse ecosystem in fashion and beyond.

Besides the fashion value chain, we are entering into innovative partnerships with organizations such as AARP, United Nations, NGOs, and even governments to explore the role of design for sustainable and ethical approaches on cultural / societal questions.

And to enable innovative solutions we are working in a cross-disciplinary manner, tapping into the range of degrees offered across our umbrella university ‘The New School’ which offers degrees in liberal arts, performing arts, and social sciences in addition to the over 30 design degrees offered at Parsons School of Design.

3. Fashion is often recognized as a platform for political conversation. What role do you see political statements have in shaping students’ collections?

Younger generations have always been active in voicing their social and political interests. In a creative environment such as ours, students very frequently utilize art and design as a way of engaging in social and politics conversations. Art and design as a language can be a great unifier communicating points of view in a visual and universal way to diverse audiences. As educators we encourage our students to use design tools in engaging with a wide range of topics and exploring tangible solutions and outputs to convey their messages.

4. What motivated you to depart from working in industry and transitioning into academia?

One thing I realized in my 20 years of professional experience has been the importance of the designers role in a brand and their ability to shape a new future for the industry overall. I decided to apply to be considered as the Dean of Fashion at Parsons, hoping that I can use my extensive experience and knowledge across the full value chain of fashion to shape the minds of future designers on how they can reinvent the industry.

All the social and political dynamics around us has a direct impact on business and society. I really wanted to have a chance to work in an environment where I can help engage with the widest number of designers who will work across the world, and build new models to both change the brands we admire from within as well as create new ones.

5. What advice do you have for fashion designers of all levels?

Design skills are as much about finding creative solutions to a question as designing a new fashion collection. Through understanding how a designer fits into society based on their interests, past experiences and their values, they can use a powerful tool like design to work in a broader way in society, designing for the fashion industry and beyond.

It is also a moment to take risks and push for innovative solutions rather than repeating the existing formats of design. There is an incredible appetite for designers to bring creative solutions to a wide range of industries. I encourage all new graduating designers to work across sectors and across different organizations to find their voice and expand on how we create a fashion designer as well as change the industry.

We are also seeing a significant shift towards designers launching their own businesses as they graduate. It is important to acquire business skills as they graduate and take advantage of the interest to support new businesses around the world.

6. How can all professionals across the value chain collaborate better, rather than working in silos?

Unless we are able to create the time to look up and be curious about what is happening beyond our daily activities, we will not succeed in expanding our view on the larger context or explore new ways of thinking from other organizations and disciplines.

It is the moment to find ways to connect outside, online, and in person with areas of our individual interests. There has never been a better time for adult learning, and continuing and executive education, and with the increasing speed of change around us, our careers are dependent on our ability to continually acquire new knowledge and skills through formal and informal training and programs.

For these reasons, Parsons is launching a new Fashion Executive Education Program, which will educate and train industry professionals to innovate and create new sustainable fashion systems in their own companies and advance their careers. The program will also help close the skills gap by educating participants with technical and creative skills.

Farfetch’s Kelly Kowal & Kering’s Laurent Claquin Join Keynote Lineup

ReMode is pleased to announce Laurent Claquin, Head of Kering Americas, and Kelly Kowal, Managing Director, Farfetch Black & White will be joining the lineup of over 150 speakers representing sustainability and innovation across the fashion industry.

As head of leading luxury group Kering Americas, Laurent Claquin drives growth and champions innovation for more than twenty global luxury, sports, and lifestyle brands including Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Bottega Veneta, and Balenciaga.

Before heading up Kering Americas, Claquin initiated and developed Kering’s Corporate Social Responsibility program and helped to develop the Kering Foundation, whose mission is to combat violence against women and promote women’s empowerment worldwide.

With support from Kering’s Chairman and CEO, François-Henri Pinault, Calquin helped to develop holistic initiatives and ambitious reduction targets that have established the luxury group as a global sustainability leader. Claquin will speak to placing sustainability at the core of Kering’s business model for the past ten years, proving that luxury and sustainability go hand in hand. Since joining the Kering Group in 2004, Claquin has collaborated with brands, artists, and designers to empower creativity and seek disruptive solutions needed to transform the industry.

Kelly Kowal, Managing Director of Farfetch Black and White, joins ReMode’s speaker sessions to share her valuable insights on establishing Farfetch as a pioneer of the new retail future.

Since its founding in 2007, Farfetch has been the go-to luxury marketplace to connect consumers with the world’s best brands and boutiques. Now host to over 3,000 heritage and emerging brands, Farfetch has grown from an online marketplace to an innovative global technology platform
connecting the wider luxury fashion ecosystem.

In 2015, Farfetch launched Black and White, an innovative, white-label, ecommerce platform powered by Farfetch. As Managing Director of Farfetch Black and White, Kowal builds seamless ecommerce solutions and operates sites customized for luxury brands and retailers. Joining Farfetch in 2010, Kowal has since build and led all digital marketing initiatives, as well as led the company’s international growth and development strategy, and overseen expansion and localization for all markets.

At ReMode, Kowal will speak to how Farfetch is successfully reinventing the luxury retail space by making it a truly omnichannel business. Farfetch Black & White offers an advanced technology platform with unparalleled customization, allowing startup brands and luxury retailers alike the ability to seamlessly transform into powerful omnichannel sellers.




ReMode Agenda Live: Rebecca Minkoff Joins Speaker Lineup at ReMode

Originally featured in WWD, the article is reprinted here for your convenience:

Rebecca Minkoff, Co-founder and Creative Director of her namesake designer brand, along with a cadre of sustainability and technology experts from H&M have joined the roster of speakers at ReMode, which will take place Nov. 13 and 14 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Organizers of ReMode, which is described as a “disruptive and sustainable” fashion event, said the goal is to “bring together innovators across the entire value chain of the fashion industry to share ideas, find practical solutions and forge new connections.”

Aside from Minkoff, additional speakers joining the event include: Anna Gedda, Head of sustainability at H&M; Arti Zeighami, Global Head of Advanced Analytics and AI at H&M; Erik Bang, Innovation Lead at the H&M Foundation; Jennifer Silberman, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Target Corp.; Nina Farran, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Fashionkind; David Breslauer, Chief Scientific Officer and Co-founder at Bolt Threads; Adam Pritzker, Chairman and CEO at Assembled Brands and Co-founder of General Assembly; Patricia Ermecheo, CEO and Founder of Osomtex, and Jifei Ou, Researcher at MIT Media Lab.

“As an industry we need to evolve,” said Minkoff, adding that the event is “an incredible opportunity to rethink how we do fashion and will bring the best minds from fashion and tech together.”

This latest round of announced speakers adds to a lineup that includes: Mary Renner Beech, CMO of Kate Spade; Michael Preysman, Founder and CEO of Everlane; Andréa Mallard, CMO of Athleta; Amy Hall, Director of Social Consciousness at Eileen Fisher; Paul Dillinger, Head of Global Product Innovation at Levi Strauss & Co.; Joey Zwillinger, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Allbirds, and Rati Sahi Levesque, Chief Merchant at The Real Real.

Organizers of the event said the content is “designed to equip professionals with a strong action plan for an omnichannel growth strategy executed in a responsible and sustainable way.” ReMode is structured into four separate but connected pillars that focus on different aspects of fashion innovation: ReMarket, ReMake, ReInvest and ReThink. These pillars aim to address the “industry-wide need to approach change from all angles and will be tagged so that brands and businesses of all sizes can attend the sessions most relevant to them,” organizers of ReMode said in a statement.

The 75 or so sessions have topics that include building a sustainable brand, funding direct-to-consumer brands, wholesales strategies, on-demand manufacturing, sustainable sourcing and the role of venture capital in early-stage fashion brands, among other themes.

“In addition to panels, workshops, keynotes and networking events, attendees will have the opportunity to complete their profile on ReMode’s AI-powered matchmaking app to receive customized recommendations on fellow attendees who share similar interests and expertise, speaker sessions that they would benefit from, and solution providers who can help them address unmet needs and goals within their business,” ReMode organizers said.

Attendee dinners and networking mixers are also planned. ReMode was created by UBM Fashion.

Everlane CEO Joins ReMode Lineup, Which Now Boasts 100-Plus Speakers

Originally featured in WWD, this article is reprinted for your convenience.

ReMode, the innovation and sustainable fashion forum set for Nov. 13 and 14 in Los Angeles, has added Michael Preysman, Founder and CEO of Everlane, to its lineup — which has now swelled to more than 100 speakers. Organizers also said the event is supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which includes collaborating with the Conscious Fashion Campaign and the U.N. Office for Partnerships.

Other confirmed speakers include: Andréa Mallard, CMO of Athleta; Paul Dillinger, VP of Product Innovation at Levi Strauss & Co.; Jeff Carvalho, Managing Director, North American of Highsnobiety; Amy Hall, Director of Social consciousness at Eileen Fisher; Adam Taubenfligel, creative director and head of sustainability at Triarchy; Karla Gallardo, ceo and cofounder of Cuyana; Anu Bhardwaj, founder of Women Investing in Women; and Lawrence Lenihan, cofounder and co-ceo of Resonance. Additional speakers include Joey Zwillinger, cofounder and co-ceo of Allbirds; Mary Renner Beech, chief marketing officer of Kate Spade; Rati Sahi, chief merchant of The Real Real, and Bob Lamey, cofounder of Shopbop.

The alignment with the U.N. is also part of a “larger partnership with UBM Fashion that will include activities at Coterie and at the United Nations General Assembly 73rd session SDG Media Zone in September,” organizers of ReMode said. “The initiative aims to harness the power of retailers, media and celebrities to embrace impact-driven fashion brands to create positive change and drive conscious consumerism,” Organizers of ReMode said in a statement. “Supported by the United Nations Office for Partnerships, the Conscious Fashion Campaign drives awareness and advocacy to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.”

Pierre-Nicolas Hurstel, founder of ReMode, said the event was launched “to redefine the industry narrative and catalyze a positive transformation for brands to operate more responsibly on all fronts — socially, ethically and environmentally. With an impeccable lineup of thought leaders spanning innovation, sustainability and finance, ReMode will provide fashion decision-makers the ideas, solutions and contacts that will enable them to thrive.”

Additionally, ReMode is offering a “Hosted Buyer Program” and is inviting qualifying “decision-makers from established fashion brands and direct-to-consumer fashion start-ups to apply at Remode.com. In exchange for participating in eight valuable 10-minute meetings with innovative ReMode exhibitors, participants will receive: a complimentary pass, access to all sessions, workshops and networking events, as well as a travel and hotel allowance.”

Executives From Kate Spade, Shopbop and Allbirds Added to ReMode Lineup

Originally featured in WWD, the article is reprinted for your convenience:

“Organizers of ReMode said they’ve confirmed additional fashion retail and apparel c-level executives to the event, which is set for Nov. 13 to 14 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The event, which organizers describe as a conference focused on “disruptive and sustainable fashion,” added confirmed speakers that include: Joey Zwillinger, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Allbirds; Mary Renner Beech, Executive Vice President and CMO of Kate Spade; Rati Sahi, Chief Merchant of The RealReal, and Bob Lamey, Co-founder of Shopbop.

ReMode said it is convening “innovators across the entire value chain of the fashion industry to share ideas, find practical solutions and forge new connections.” Event organizers said the conference’s programming aims to “address relevant topics such as artificial intelligence in fashion, omnichannel retailing, sustainable production, circular fashion and financing.”

To date, there are more than 100 speakers lined up for the conference. The structure of the event is built upon four pillars with content themes focusing on marketing, technology, investing and innovation. The pillars are ReThink, ReInvest, ReMake and ReMarket. “Each pillar features panels, workshops, keynotes, networking events and a curated selection of innovative solution-providers,” organizers of the event said.

Other confirmed speakers include Marie Chassot, head of Baume; Steven Kolb, President and CEO of the CFDA; Rosario Dawson, Actress and Co-founder of Studio One Eighty Nine; Janie Yu, Partner at Fung Capital; Orsola de Castro, Founder of Fashion Revolution; Adriano Goldschmied, Founder of Genius Group; Ryan Babenzien, Founder and CEO of Greats; Ned Monroe, Chief Global Design Officer of Activewear at Hanesbrands, and Ivan Poupyrev, Director of Engineering at the Jacquard Project by Google.

ReMode organizers said the speakers presenting at the event “represent a wide array of sectors within the fashion industry including senior executives from innovative retailers, sustainability advocates, established and startup-level fashion brands from all categories (e.g., apparel, footwear, accessories), Venture Capital firms and global technology companies.”

Other confirmed speakers include Nicolas Santi-Weil, CEO of AMI Paris; Amber Valletta, actress and cofounder of Master & Muse; Pierre-Arnaud Grenade, Global CEO of Ba&sh; Kristin Savilia CEO of Joor; Amanda Hearst and Hassan Pierre, Co-founders of Maison de Mode; Stefan Siegel, CEO and founder of Not Just a Label; Kathleen Talbot, vice president of operations and sustainability at Reformation; Nate Checketts, Co-founder and CEO of Rhone, and Heidi Zak, CEO and cofounder of ThirdLove.

Hurstel described ReMode as the “right conference at the right time, and is going to inspire the critical dialogue necessary for attendees to collaborate, innovate, and equip themselves with the tools to affect long-term, positive change in their organizations.”

Zwillinger of Allbirds said the brand is passionate about innovation that can “spark industry-wide change,” which is one reason he’s speaking at ReMode. The CEO said the company is “dedicated to rethinking the way the footwear industry operates and bringing a new level of sustainability to all our products.”

Zwillinger said the conference is “an amazing opportunity to come together with other leaders in fashion and retail to discuss the current hurdles to sustainability and collaborate on innovative solutions that can make a real impact.”

For more information about the event, a list of speakers and to register, see https://remode.com. “

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