The fashion industry is fast-paced, and innovating has always been a must. In this digital age, with buzzwords like immersive and augmented reality becoming concrete opportunities to work with, the fashion education system must teach and inspire creative talents to anticipate what will be relevant in the future. Being creative also involves dealing with the digital media opportunities that have emerged in recent years and are here to stay.
Istituto Marangoni Shanghai has addressed this hot topic as they recently hosted “The Talent Pool”, a public lecture at the Shanghai West Bund Art Centre in collaboration with Ontimeshow, China’s largest trade show for fashion designer brands. A great occasion for sharing insights about innovation in the fashion education system, the event brought together a cutting-edge combination of creatives, executives, and academics.
From left to right, Francesco Fioretto, Stefano Martinetto, Yingting Cheng, Stavros Karelis, Louis Shengtao Chen and Giovanni Pungetti as guests of Istituto Marangoni Shanghai's “The Talent Pool”, a public lecture at the Shanghai West Bund Art Centre in collaboration with Ontimeshow
Participants included Yingting Cheng, COO of Istituto Marangoni China Mainland and Stefano Martinetto from Tomorrow, a leading growth and development platform for fashion brands. Former CEO of Maison Margiela and now Tomorrow’s Business Consultant and Managing Director Giovanni Pungetti also joined the conversation with Stavros Karelis, Founder and Buying Director of independent concept store Machine-A. Last but not least, Louis Shengtao Chen, a designer of experimental luxury fashion, brought his experience to the table. Istituto Marangoni’s Francesco Fioretto moderated the panel.
Talent scouting in the digital era
“We have a very strong talent scouting network worldwide. It extends beyond fashion weeks, as we are constantly researching and ready to design a specific business model for each brand. This is what makes our approach truly unique,” emphasised Stefano Martinetto. With a long career in fashion, including being the CEO of Raf Simons, Martinetto understands the power of social platforms in exposing designers and educational institutions to a wider audience.
From left to right, Stefano Martinetto, Yingting Cheng, Stavros Karelis and Louis Shengtao Chen
Stavros Karelis knows the value of personal style and personal branding in the digital environment as he opened Machine-A back in 2009 in London with “the aim to showcase quality emerging designers alongside established fashion brands on the shop floor”, as BoF explained, and recently launched a new store in Yuyao Road, a hub for the young underground street life in Shanghai. “I always encourage designers and their friends to wear their own garments,” he said. “They are the best brand ambassadors for themselves. Opportunities can arise at any time, day or night.”
How to manage creativity – and creatives
Managing creativity has emerged as a critical topic, exploring how to teach and navigate it professionally. It can also be challenging, often leading to serious disagreements.
As the Chief Operating Officer of China & APAC at Istituto Marangoni, Yingting Cheng stated: “We combine academic and theoretical content with real-life professional experiences. Our students are surrounded by fashion in all its aspects, and from the very first year of their studies, they are challenged with brand briefs and industry experiences. Especially in Shanghai, this approach has surpassed traditional internships in terms of talent exposure and work placements.”
A project by Istituto Marangoni Shanghai Fashion Styling & Creative Direction student Gu Shutong
However, Giovanni Pungetti, with decades of experience in fashion, explained: “You learn when and which battles to fight for and when to let go. I will always prefer a challenging Creative Director with a stubborn attitude and a fiery temper over a nice, agreeable listener with less talent.” He has worked with influential figures such as Martin Margiela, John Galliano, Demna Gvasalia, Matthieu Blazy and Viktor&Rolf.
Tips to make it as a fashion designer-turned-entrepreneur
Louis Shengtao Chen, a top Asian designer to keep an eye on, visionary talent, founder and creator of his eponymous brand, inspired the audience to transition from being a pure creative to having a business position as a brand’s CEO.
Looks from the Louis Shengtao Chen fall-winter 2023/24 collection
“These three years have been an incredible part of my life. I started as a creative designer and have grown into a businessman. It’s truly amazing,” declared Louis Shengtao Chen, proud of his journey that began with the support of many buyers in China. Eventually, his brand was scouted and accelerated by the international partnership of Tomorrow Group and the independent luxury concept store with a focus on emerging and international designers, Machine-A.
Looks from the Louis Shengtao Chen fall-winter 2023/24 collection
Speaking about his brand and FW23 collection Raised by Wolves, Louis Shengtao Chen said: “At the moment, I am a young ‘old school’ designer, but who knows what the future holds?”
Images from the Louis Shengtao Chen fall-winter 2023/24 collection
The human VS the machine
The creative potential of technology has been discussed as one of the hottest and most controversial topics in the fashion industry. The guests expressed both fascination and apprehension about the virtual world.
Stavros Karelis, referring to the remarkable creative exploration of fashion photographer Nick Knight, eagerly discussed the aesthetic changes technology brings to the clothing industry. He sees it as a new cyber nomad, a topic that Fashion Styling students at Istituto Marangoni Shanghai will explore through fashion editorials in collaboration with Machine-A.
“There are countless new frontiers to explore, not just whether a garment will be virtual or real. Artistic direction influences the shape and proportion of human bodies and faces,” Karelis concluded.
While Giovanni Pungetti stated: “I don’t have an anti-metaverse approach. I genuinely believe that technology is creativity’s greatest ally. However, we need to better explain and understand the real opportunities and how these new spaces can extend a brand’s personality.”
Louis Shengtao Chen shared the story of a friend’s daughter who asked for a virtual accessory instead of a physical gift, while Martinetto revealed that he used ChatGPT to dictate his latest interview on BoF. He emphasised that technology is also a powerful marketing tool, as seen in the recent viral diffusion of Tomorrow’s partner Coperni’s spray dress on Bella Hadid.
With the 3D CGI film “ZETA 3022” presented before the “ZETA” 2022 Best Graduate Show, Istituto Marangoni Shanghai's catwalk warm-up turned into a multimedia performance that placed ZETA as one of the most innovative runway shows on the Bund skyline river, inside the futuristic setting of the Temple of Light
All the guests agreed that technology should enhance the creative industry and be a powerful tool for marketing and communication, supporting sustainable experimentation and empowering the most advanced machine ever created: the human brain.
Istituto Marangoni Shanghai's 3D CGI film “ZETA 3022” presented The New Humans by student Zhou Jie