For the second year running, IFA Paris students have had the chance to attend classes of “Fashion Cross Culture” delivered directly on site at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs through IFA Paris’ exclusive partnership with what is considered the leading institution in France when it comes to design and fashion.

The partnership established in 2012 has received tremendous response from the students. In the words of Thelma Björnsdóttir, Postgraduate Fashion Design student: ”I really liked the link between history of fashion and history of decorative arts and seeing how the styles reflect each other. The teacher, Madame Jennifer Dupuis, was very enthusiastic and took us on a great journey through the museum which was very memorable. Overall I think this module was very helpful in regards to looking deeper into history of decorative art and design and having a closer look at a museum that is very inspirational to all creative people.”

Another student, Davinia Vitrac, adds: “I really enjoyed this module, to study in the Musée des Arts Decoratifs really brought the history of France to life, the teacher was excellent, she was so animated that she had a way of transporting the whole class back in time. It was interactive, educational but most importantly to me, she actually made history interesting and there was always a relevance in the information we were given. We saw hundreds of examples of how the past has inspired present trends and contemporary fashion.“

What is at stake here is for IFA Paris international students to be given the unique opportunity to understand the many links between fashion and design through styles and times. The courses takes place on site at the Musée with students given guided tours of each exhibitions and the chance to examine the collections close up. Moreover, IFA Paris students have access to the archives, a very rare privilege in itself.

Veronika Lefrancois, IFA Paris Lecturer, met with Ms. Béatrice Quette, the manager of cultural activities of the museum’s Department of Education and Culture and driving force behind the project.

What are your responsibilities at the Department of Education and Culture?

My mission is to provide programs of activities to the widest possible audience of various profiles and age groups, from 18 onwards. A colleague of mine works with the categories between 4 to 18 years of age.

One of my responsibilities is to organize regular evenings to which we invite young people aged between 18 and 25 to visit temporary exhibitions that have just been opened or are about to close, proposing them free guided tours. This project is called « Soirées Vivez Lézard! » We also provide weekly visits to adults, usually on Saturday. We show the visitors around the temporary exhibition but we also take them to the permanent ones which people sometimes forget about. Apart from that, my job consists in preparing programs for different associations or companies who ask for lectures or seminars. For instance next week we are receiving directors of interior decoration shops of a big international group who need to get more familiar with the notions of Art Nouveau or Art Déco and the differences between the styles. I have to consider the time and the budget allocated to the seminar and come up with a program adapted to their specific needs. That includes finding the right lecturer or guide who best corresponds to this specific task.

Communication is another part of my responsibilities as we constantly try to attract new audiences.

And then of course, there are the kinds of programs like the one you have developed with IFA Paris.

Yes, we were already providing guided tours to IFA Paris students before establishing the partnership. It was later that I met with Jean-Marc Chauve, the director of IFA Paris, to discuss the possibilities to develop a deeper collaboration.

Providing the courses directly at the museum has multiple advantages: First of all it enables the students to follow a traditional lecture in the first part of the teaching unit, then, in the second part to go and discover the real objects on display which represent the style or period discussed in class. This gives them the possibility to have a direct contact with the pieces of art which to me is very important. I believe the partnership is also rewarding for the museum. Your students get familiar with the institution. They will later find it normal to come to the museum, use it as a library, as a tool, as a place of inspiration, dream and work. And that is essentially the goal of this institution. We are educating our future audience.

What are the specificities of this particular program?

We have already worked in a similar way with other schools. But with IFA Paris we realized that we are dealing with groups of students coming from all corners of the planet. They do not necessarily have the same culture as European students who can generally distinguish Gothic from Renaissance or Baroque styles. Students coming from Brazil, Australia or China do not have the same cultural references. So we decided not to present to them the history of fashion in a chronological order, but rather to go backwards. For instance, we begin by introducing the students to Gothic Revival and only then refer back to the authentic Gothic. This helps them to better apprehend the evolution of different styles.

You are yourself a specialist of Chinese arts ; most recently you curated the exhibition De la Chine aux Arts Décoratifs which is currently on show at the museum. On the other hand, IFA Paris welcomes every year a number of Chinese students. Has this played a role for you in forming the partnership?

Well, I didn’t really think about that, although unconsciously perhaps it did play a role. I think knowing well the Chinese culture, I can anticipate some of the difficulties the Chinese students may encounter when they take classes here in Paris and particularly in our museum. Whenever there is a problem, I try to act as a link between Chinese students, the school’s management and our lecturer Jenny. All together we join efforts to solve problems, so that the outcome is positive for the students. They only have one year in Paris and I would like this experience with our museum to play a part in their future relation with France. But of course, I’m happy to do the same for Brazilians, Australians or any other overseas students.

The partnership with IFA Paris is now in its second year. The first year, the museum welcomed one class of MBA students, this year the program has been extended to two classes. What are the plans for the coming years?

I know that IFA Paris is planning to open a new MBA program in Perfume and Cosmetics Management. It is possible that we will collaborate with this class as well. After all, perfumes are also luxury products, just like garments, shoes or luggage. So there’s logic to it. We like to get involved in the most diverse programs possible, because each time it’s a new challenge for us. We need to find new approaches and adapt ourselves to specific needs and demands. That is much more enriching than repeating the same things again and again… When we have specific programs like this one and a long-term relationship with a partner, it’s always very interesting for us and I hope it’s the case the other way round too. Anyway, I believe if it’s been working for two or three years, generally it means that both the sides are satisfied. I feel really privileged to work in such an extraordinary place as this museum and one of the biggest pleasures of my job is to share this experience with others, especially with the younger generations.

More about Le Musée des Arts Décoratifs:

Le Musée des Arts Décoratifs (The Parisian Museum of Decorative Arts) is situated in the western wing of Palais du Louvre in the very heart of the French capital.

Since its foundation in 1905 the museum has become a legendary institution with rich collections of furniture, porcelain, jewelry and fashion objects that attract Parisians as well as visitors from around the world.

Every season the museum comes up with new temporary exhibitions which regularly create a buzz on the Parisian cultural scene and invite thousands of art lovers to discover and rediscover extraordinary pieces that have marked the history of decorative arts.