IFA Paris: Lise, you have been teaching fashion design at IFA Paris for several years and you are in charge of the final collections in the Bachelor Fashion Design & Technology 3rd year. Have you noticed an evolution in creativity over time and how have you adapted your teaching methods?
Lise Parmentier: We have about 50 nationalities present within our student population, so “creativity” has always rhymed with “diversity” at IFA Paris! So I am used to observing so many personal concepts and creative perspectives, that novelty has become part of my daily life. In terms of teaching methods, I notice that students are increasingly using digital tools. Although we have been able to adapt to this trend (our library is almost entirely online!), it is important for me to sensitize students to rediscover the beauty of “print”, to be moved by the beauty of an exhibition or to try out traditional techniques such as creasing or embroidery.
IFA Paris: Societal changes have a major influence on fashion codes. How do your students learn from it? How do you guide them on how to express these different creative trends?
Lise Parmentier: Fashion is a language that portrays a constantly evolving society. Themes such as gender fluidity, multiculturalism and sustainable development are all important topics to which our students must be sensitive. I regularly cover these subjects briefly during my fashion design classes, whether through workshops or outings. My main objective is to broaden my students’ horizons while constantly listening to their own sensitivities. I like to discover the personality of each of them through individual discussions and tutoring through their collections.
IFA Paris: With your experience at IFA Paris, you have worked as a fashion design teacher with several promotions of design students; what was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Lise Parmentier: At IFA Paris we have always had an inclusive policy for all types of academic profiles. Students can join the Bachelor Fashion Design & Technology program without ever having sewn or drawn in their lives. We teach them the basics in year one and help them move on to more complex projects. The program as a whole is therefore intensive and because of the different profiles, it is sometimes complicated to make everyone evolve at the same pace. This requires a flexible pedagogy that allows us to both motivate the weaker students and encourage the most talented students to surpass themselves. It’s not always easy, but we’re getting there!
IFA Paris: What are the main trends that have emerged over time from the fashion shows you have supervised? What do you think was most meaningful?
Lise Parmentier: I believe that today the most significant emerging trend is the upcycling trend. When I started, not a single student thought of using old to make new, whereas today it has become very natural. Yet, we offered an upcycling workshop in my second year of teaching in 2011, but the students were not really interested in it. In the end, this answers your previous question about societal developments. 8 years after having proposed a first upcycling workshop, I realize that the millennials are not as “egocentric” as sociologists want us to think. On the contrary, they are aware of and concerned about their environment, which is seen in their creative process.
IFA Paris: Multiculturalism is one of the pillars of IFA Paris. How are you able to combine, on a daily basis, the learning of French fashion and culture with very diverse international backgrounds?
Lise Parmentier: As I mentioned earlier, multiculturalism is so much a part of IFA Paris’ DNA that combining diversity and French culture has become an absolute must for me! Each student arrives with his or her own background, origin and experience, it is very important to make them understand that this is what makes them unique. Of course all these students come to Paris to learn fashion because Paris remains its’ capital. Paris is a formidable melting pot. We must therefore open their eyes to the cultural richness of the City of Light by making them understand that creativity is developed through new experiences, knowledge and encounters. It is never static and has no nationality either! I try to teach my students that they must tap into their own universe, but that it must be enriched every day, that living in France allows them to embrace the “French” culture by transcending it through their own perspective.
IFA Paris: What has always been IFA Paris’ hallmark is its commitment to respecting the personality of each student; do you adapt to each student’s unique background in your various learning experiences or, on the contrary, do you use fashion universalism to bring together these very different individualities?
Lise Parmentier: Universalism is a very French concept! We often talk about the universality of human rights, which is a beautiful concept in its own right. Only it is really important to confront universalism with each individual. So I would like to say that I use both types of perspectives! I use reference points, such as top creators, to bring students together on a concept. In addition, I encourage them to discover their individuality by sensitizing them to constantly scan the zeitgeist. From my point of view, clothes can be very beautiful and yet not match the cravings of the time; it then becomes a costume and not fashion.
IFA Paris: In the future, do you think your students will still be able to surprise you?
Lise Parmentier: I hope so, otherwise my job would become very sad! But young people are very inventive and have a fresh look at the world so I am very confident.
Fore more information on this program, please visit: Bachelor in Fashion Design & Technology