Linda Loppa

Linda Loppa

Ahead of NJAL’s exclusive live-stream of Polimoda’s BA Graduate Show on Tuesday 16th June, it’s a timely moment to profile the enigma that is Linda Loppa. After more than a decade teaching designers like the ‘Antwerp Six’ at the city’s Royal Academy, Loppa is credited with reviving the curriculum at Polimoda. Teacher, researcher and innovator are just a few of the key cursors for Loppa’s role as fashion director and in an exclusive conversation with NJAL–the legend muses on the current state of contemporary design, and offers up some wise words of advice for emerging design talent.

Polimoda was very much still a creative institution in its infancy when Linda Loppa arrived to take the helms. It’s only been around for thirty years, but it’s explosive growth since Loppa’s arrival is undeniable.  It remains a school ready to grow, strict with a rigour more focused on the future. There’s a philosophy here, and it’s palpable and it’s remains Loppa’s mission to make it traceable in teaching. Today, the institution has carved out a strong visual identity–from its communication, the place, graphics–it all possess value and specificity and it’s this cohesion that’s facilitated the growth and development of design talent. Ahead of NJAL’s exclusive live-stream of Polimoda’s BA Graduate Show on Tuesday 16th June at 5PM BST (London | 6PM CST (Florence), Loppa talks through the future of fashion education, changing and challenging boundaries and offers up some valuable advice for all young designers.

How did your career in teaching start?

I studied fashion design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp. I was a retailer at that time, working for my father’s menswear store and also for my own designer store (womenswear) and often went to the fashion show of the academy. When my teacher retired the team was searching for a replacement and they approached me. First it was a one day weekly commitment, but very soon I realised that this was a passion for me.

What’s your biggest goal as a fashion educator?

When I was teaching I needed to have good communication and conversation with students. I remember that this was the key for achieving good results. As a director my strongest goal is bringing the faculty to the level of critique that education needs.

How has fashion education radically changed since you were in education?

Fashion education hasn’t changed; the world outside has changed. Now the challenge is whether we look at the commercial side of the business of education, and/or keep up with an educational tradition that has proved to be right in achieving quality. A good school reviews its curriculum every year.

As a student, how much time did you give away to research?

I studied Fashion Design for four years in Antwerp in the sixties. I was on the barricades in ‘68! Art has always been my inspiration and plays an important part in my field for research. It was a familiarity and normalcy for my thinking and working.

What’s your advice for the Class of 2015?

One: Don’ be afraid to express feelings, anger, joy or delusion.
Two: Become interested in the fashion field and the way companies are organised.
Three: Use the Internet, but use it well.

Is it necessary for new graduates to present their ideas in an ordered way?

Absolutely not. There is no formula. Every individual can do it in a very personal way. It is important people remember a moment, a picture, a word, a sound, a seam…

Who or what inspired you to follow your chosen career?

I’ve had many careers…starting from a designer to retailer, from teacher to museum director, as director of a fashion institute and finally, to being a person that I am today, a person who has a vision… my driving force comes from asking questions on how to improve creativity….for me personally the job profile is no longer important.

The secret to commercial success in contemporary fashion is incredibly sought after. What do you tell your students about this?

I believe students need examples. Commercial success is unpredictable: sometimes when the goal is commercial, it has the opposite effect.  Sometimes a great idea or a great moment can be the start of a successful commercial venture…who knows?

Do you think it’s possible to teach your students how to experiment and change boundaries in the contemporary age of fashion?

Changing boundaries in education is my next project. I hope I will be able to design a new framework, bringing together different minds, techniques, strategies and opinions to the classroom. Education is not always the key for success but it is the key for developing a vision, self-esteem, self-confidence. If we can bring different disciplines together, creating new dialogue, we are shaping a new future.

How do you think young designers should strike a balance between what the industry wants and channelling their own artistic vision?

I know many designers who have an intuition for composition, bringing together a great experimental garment, together with a great wearable idea. It is a gift. I also know many designers who are unable to capture the amalgamation of these two principles. Here the advice of experienced persons can help.

In our networked digital age, what do you tell your students about self-representation without losing integrity?

Integrity is key! First one has to work on integrity, understanding this means saying no to 99% of the requests you receive – in other words, saying no to losing your integrity and honesty. Then it becomes an automatic reaction in your body and mind. You will know what to do and when it is right…simple.