“Why would we try to do what Central St Martin’s and London College of Fashion already do so well?” asks the dynamic and forthright Susie Forbes, a former fashion magazine editor and now the principal of the school.
As a company that runs the best-known fashion titles in the world, Condé Nast was aware of how many young people wanted to get into the fashion industry, says Forbes. “But we also knew how opaque and bewildering it can be. The idea is to help students understand the industry better and clarify what bit of it they want to work in.”
What the Condé Nast College offers, then, is a fast-paced intensive survey of the world of fashion, practical information on how to get a job in the industry and, of course, some of the best contacts and insider knowledge in fashion. With its elegant all-white interiors, sleek black steel entrance and dramatic double-height foyer designed by the UK architects Feilden Clegg Bradley, the building looks the part, too.
“In some ways we wanted it to be the antithesis of fashion,” says lead architect Julian Gitsham. “We felt the Condé Nast brand had a timeless quality and we wanted the building to reflect that.”
The college currently runs two courses. The intensive 10-week Vogue Fashion Certificate covers key fashion designers, the international fashion calendar, print and digital fashion journalism, PR and marketing, styling and art direction, and brand marketing and retail. The year-long Vogue Fashion Foundation Diploma, which started last month, covers the same subjects but allows students to specialise in the second and third terms.
Both courses attract students from places as diverse and far-flung as Brazil, Russia, France, Thailand, Belgium, Australia, Cyprus, Japan, Argentina, Lithuania, Belgium and India. “I can barely not name a country where we haven’t had enquiries from,” says Forbes.
The majority of students are women in their 20s, though there are some mature students and also a few men on each course.
Farah Sheik Al Sagha is 21 and has Syrian parents but was born and brought up in Dubai. She had completed a three-year fashion management course at the London College of Fashion but chose to stay on in London to do the Vogue certificate in October. “Because it’s more real life,” she says. “You get to interact with people who are actually in the industry.”
Every week, a different guest speaker comes in to talk to the students and this term they have included the entrepreneur Tamara Mellon, the former supermodel Yasmin Le Bon, the up-and-coming fashion designer Simeon Farrar and various editors from Condé Nast titles such as Vogue and Glamour.
One of the most rewarding speaker sessions was with Melinda Stevens, the editor of Condé Nast Traveller UK, says Al Sagha. If you’re wondering what a travel magazine could possibly have to do with fashion, so did the 21-year-old. “They run lots of fashion and style pieces. I had no idea and I found that really interesting,” she says.
At a cost of £6,600 (Dh35,600)for the 10-week certificate, the course is certainly not cheap. But Al Sagha believes it has been worth every penny. “You get the sort of in-depth knowledge of the creative and editorial side of the industry that you wouldn’t learn at any other university,” she says.
Even having to learn how to do all her three projects on the publishing software stalwart InDesign has been immensely useful, she adds.
And the chances of finding a job or internship after graduating are high. Forbes is at pains to point out that attending the college does not mean a guaranteed internship or a junior role at a Condé Nast publication, however. Any student going for an internship or junior role at a Condé Nast publication is interviewed alongside other candidates. “That equal playing field is very important,” says Forbes.
Many other companies are posting their internships and jobs on the college’s student portal daily, however. The students apply through the college, which saves the company and the student valuable time. “We never put forward a student who we don’t think is right for the job,” says Forbes.
Graduates of the previous two 10-week certificate courses have gone into magazine jobs at Vogue Mexico, Vogue India, Marie Claire, i-D magazine and Esquire, as well as PR or communications roles at Gucci, Net-a-Porter and Kate Spade.
Not bad for a course that’s only nine months old.