The Battle of Versailles: A Fashion Evolution

Let’s see if you know your history. Does the 1973 battle of Versailles sound familiar? It won’t appear in most history books, but it was the year of an epic confrontation or contest, between the French and the Americans. And it changed the face of fashion, forever.

The battle – or faceoff as it was called – was witnessed by an exclusive list of 700 guests at Versailles Palace outside of Paris. But it was felt across the globe. A fundraiser to help restore the palace, it took the form of a groundbreaking runway show pitting five up-and-coming American designers against five top Parisian couture houses. Imagine a throw-down with Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior, and Givenchy competing against Oscar de la Renta, Halston, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, and Stephen Burrows. High style met new style.

The result was a tectonic shift in the fashion world: as the leading influence of fashion design moved from that which was strictly dictated by top designers and design houses to one that also absorbed and incorporated how women actually lived their lives.

Before then, Paris was fashion. Period.

Battle of versailles - fashionsizzle_dot_comRobin Givhan, Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion critic explains in her book The Battle of Versailles that Americans upended the traditional rules of fashion with a style and esthetic of color, jersey fabric, and movement. And, they broke racial barriers with an unprecedented 11 African American models. Clearly, it was an “aha” moment for the time. Fashion and culture evolved in that one historic event.

What’s the relevance today? Besides the value of knowing history is the awareness of how much fashion is influenced by the world around us. It evolves with us. That’s evident with each year’s New York, Paris, and subsequent fashion shows. And it’s apparent in the changing of the guard leading today’s top fashion houses.

Fashionista.com likes to keep its pulse on the fashion world, including fashion programs around the globe. If you think you may have a teenage trendsetter of your own at home make time to peruse their list of top schools. You’ll find some unexpected programs. Need further help deciphering the differences between schools, or how to organize your college search? Let me know. I’m happy to help.

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Graphic Design Programs To Consider

clif bar logoGraphic design impacts our lives on a daily basis. You might even call it the daily deluge. It’s a part Facebook and the morning trip to Starbucks, the billboards and ads for the local restaurant or hospital that we absorb on the way to school or work, that afternoon Clif Bar or CocaCola, the FedEx or Amazon package that arrives on our doorsteps, and the movie and TV credits that introduce us to our late-night entertainment. It sets a mood and entices us to try something new.

 Prospective graphic design students have a wealth of college and university programs to choose from across the country. Degrees come in a variety of shapes and sizes, at art colleges, liberal arts colleges, and large research universities. Program titles vary as well, and are not always straightforward. Communication Design, Visual Communications, and Design and Technology are just a few of the programs I found.

amazon-logoSo how do you differentiate between programs and institutions? One tool at your disposal is Graphic Design USA’s 50th anniversary survey about the industry. Just out in October, it’s a good resource for identifying top graphic design colleges. Even better, it also delves into the most influential graphic design firms in the country, as well as favorite graphics projects and logos over the past 50 years. Basically it’s a ton of graphics fun!

 The magazine surveyed 10,000 working design professionals to get their results. Some of the choices aren’t very surprising, but I like the range, from art colleges to some of the country’s top comprehensive institutions. Here are the top 10. I hope you’ll seriously consider the full list as well.

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

School of Visual Arts (SVA)

Art Center College of Design

Parsons The New School for Design

Pratt Institute

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)

Yale School of Art

California College of the Arts (CCA)

SCAD Savannah College of Art and Design

Want more information? I blogged about Graphic Design last year as well; I hope you’ll take a look.

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College News Update: 1/13

Want to keep up to date on the latest news from art programs across the country?  Me too!  From time to time I’ll post timely findings that I think are relevant.    Here’s what I’ve found this week – – –

school logoOn Tuesday, February 5th, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) will present its inaugural “Beyond RISD” lecture series.  The lectures are designed to create conversations around the work of RISD alumni, giving current students and the public at large the opportunity to explore a variety of creative career opportunities.  Each event is free-of-charge and open to the public.  The speaker line-up through April includes sculpture, painting and photography alumni.  Detailed information can be found at beyond.risd.edu.

In June 2013, the College of Visual Arts (CVA) in St. Paul, Minnesota will close its doors.   According to an article posted on Minnesota Public Radio, the school is closing primarily because of its “inability to meet financial and academic needs of its students.”  According to the article, the four-year art and design institution suffered from a deep drop in enrollment this past year.  Classes will continue through spring semester, with promises of financial aid met through the end of the academic year.   MPR reported that CVA has reached an agreement with the Minneapolis College of Art and Design to take in students who will be seniors next year.

Parsons logoParsons is returning to Paris!  In 1921 the (then) New York School of Fine and Applied Art initiated a Paris program.  Over the years the relationship waned and eventually ended, presenting Parsons with the opportunity to open a new Parisian campus.  This fall, the new campus will open its doors, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as study-abroad opportunities.  To learn more about it visit the Parsons Paris webpage.

logoThe San Francisco Art Institute’s (SFAI) Open Drawing Studio begins again this Friday, January 25th and runs through Friday, April 26th.  A well-known art resource in the Bay Area since the 1950’s, the free Open Drawing days let art students of all levels draw from a live model in a relaxed environment.  Open Drawing days are open to the public on the SFAI campus.  Details can be found on their website.

Savannah College of Art and Design is offering its SCAD Summer Seminars for rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors.  Designed to offer prospective college students a sneak peek into what it’s like to pursue an art degree, this program consist of week-long workshops in a variety of artistic media and disciplines.  The admission requirements – including scholarship opportunities – are listed on their website.

Where To Find The Next Generation Of Designers

Wallpaper Graduate Directory

If you haven’t caught it yet – it’s not too late.  Available December 13, 2012, Wallpaper* Magazine posted their most recent Graduate Directory online, highlighting top new design talent across the globe.  Besides ogling over the incredible creativity out there I was interested to see the schools these talented folks attended.  The results are impressive and a bit surprising.  The well-known standard-bearers are there along with those I didn’t expect to see with this crowd.  Clearly I need to broaden my horizon; I’m guessing others will too.

Initially launched in 1996, with the website added in 2004, Wallpaper* is based in the United Kingdom.  For many it’s a leading source of contemporary design, interiors, fashion, art and lifestyle activities around the world.  For those interested in a career in the world of design, it’s a knowledgeable and inspirational resource.

The Graduate Directory highlights “the next generation” of designers.  I suggest taking a close look.  The issue covers prospective up-and-comers in architecture, design, fashion, jewelry, packaging, photography, transport, travel and visual communication.  It showcases top talent about to enter the workforce in each field, and gives you a sneak peek into their talents.  The international list of schools provides a global view of program opportunities and includes a diverse group in the U.S.

A sampling of schools with noted students are listed below, with the area of design called out as well.

International schools

Royal College of Art, United Kingdom (design, transport)
ECAL, Switzerland (design, visual communication)
Guangzhou Academy Of Fine Arts, China (transport)
Moholy-Nagy University Of Art And Design, Hungary (packaging)
Beckmans College of Design, Sweden (design)
Royal Academy of Art, The Netherlands (photography)
Strelka Institute Of Media, Architecture And Design, Russia (architecture)
Institute for Fashion Design, Switzerland (fashion)
Shenkar College Of Engineering And Design, Israel (packaging)
Tama Art University, Japan (design)
ESAD Reims, France (design)
NBU, Bulgaria (packaging)

American schools

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (architecture)
Cooper Union, NYC (architecture)
RISD, Providence, RI (design)
School of Visual Arts, NYC (packaging, visual communication)
Yale, New Haven, CT (photography)
Art Center College Of Design, Pasadena, CA (visual communication)
Parsons School of Design, NYC (design, photography)
Brigham Young University, Provo, UT (packaging)
Washington University, St. Louis, MO (architecture)

So, what does this say about US design students?  Well for one thing, we’re playing in the same league as the best in the world.  Our educational institutions are providing students with the skills and tools to successfully compete with leading contemporary designers across the globe.  Also of importance are the variety of outstanding design programs in the U.S. from which students can achieve their goals.