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In talks with Stephen Smith, CEO and Founder of JCA London Fashion Academy

By Esther Hut


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London’s newest higher education fashion academy, founded by professor Jimmy Choo and Stephen Smith, the JCA London Fashion Academy will officially open its doors in September. With a ‘learning by doing’ approach the academy wants to develop the next wave of global fashion designers. Time to learn everything about the JCA London Fashion Academy. FashionUnited spoke with Stephen Smith about the preparations for the opening, the institute's courses, and scholarships.

The JCA | London Fashion Academy will open its doors in September. How is everything going so far with organizing everything?

Having had this really bizarre year we are all really excited to get going. Preparations are well underway : we have a beautiful building in the heart of Mayfair, an incredible team of passionate academics, mentors and fashion innovators, and are right now building the most amazing founding cohort of designer entrepreneurs (learners).

What made you decide to launch a new fashion academy in London?

Jimmy Choo and I have been family friends for a long time and have often spoken about opening a specialist Academy. We were concerned that too many fashion courses are simply popping up that are not focussed on industry needs or to the student who wants to be serious in this space. We wanted to create an authentic programme in which learners are immersed in the subject, developing them as design-entrepreneurs through an apprentice-styled, ‘learning by doing’, approach in which trading practitioners can actively mentor students.

What kind of courses does JCA offer? What is the focus area?

The Academy has developed four carefully structured courses :
Foundation Diploma in Fashion
BA (Hons) Fashion: Design, Branding and Entrepreneurship
BA (Hons) Fashion: Design & Accessories
MA Fashion Entrepreneurship in Design & Brand Innovation

Our vision is simple: we want to develop the next wave of global fashion designers. We do this by taking a tailored and individualised approach to learning, professionally incubating learners as emerging designers, and housing them in a curated community of practising fashion entrepreneurs. We are focused on providing the resources and networks needed to establish a compelling brand, design and develop collections, and promote and manage the business. We go beyond simply teaching great design, we look at design through an entrepreneurial lens.

Do the first courses also start in September?

Yes, the doors officially open in September to our Founding Year students.

Are the courses online or physical at school?

All of our courses are very practical and take place in our professional design studios and technical workshops. We can of course switch some of the learning to online delivery if Covid persists but ultimately we are teaching a practical discipline and at the moment we have the luxury of space so can support social distancing whilst work out of a repurposed historic building in Mayfair.

Can everybody sign up for the courses or do you need a certain background?

We are looking for candidates who have a clear talent for fashion and a strong ambition to be an entrepreneur. The bar for admission is high but we are not elitist in the ‘privileged’ sense. You need to own your background and make it something that works for you. Without exception, the students that I am most inspired by are authentic (or at least to the world as they see it).

Admission is based on academic, creative and entrepreneurial potential but core to the assessment is the degree of 'potential, determination and focus.

How are the applications going so far?

Since announcing the opening of the JCA in January we have been overwhelmed by the quality of applications. We really have been inspired by the passion, focus and sheer determination of the applicants. As you would expect, we are a selective institution but this year we are acutely aware that we are ‘curating’ a community that will serve as the foundation for future years.

Are you offering Scholarships?

Yes. Given the importance that we have placed on the Founding Year Cohort, we are supporting students who achieve an offer of a place with a scholarship of up to 30 percent of the course fee. We will be heavily investing our time, energy and resources to give our students the very best experience possible. For our Founding cohort that starts with accessibility regardless of background or circumstance.

What else do we need to know about JCA | London Fashion Academy?

The Academy is situated in the heart of London’s Mayfair, in a historic Grade listed property that has been meticulously repurposed to provide students with a boutique learning environment, co-working space and advanced atelier workshops.

Students will have access to Professor Jimmy Choo and other well-known designers who will pass on their expertise, offer mentorship where possible, and support students through access to all important networks.

We are building an incredible list of experts to work with the students including Her Highness Al Sayyida Basma Al Said of Oman, who is both Ambassador and Visiting Practitioner for Wellbeing and fashion designer Patrick McDowell, who is Ambassador and Visiting Practitioner for Sustainability. As Mayfair’s hub for fashion, the Academy will be hosting events and festivals and is focused on supporting both emerging and established fashion creatives with desk space and support facilities in a prime central London location.

What can we expect this year? Any other new things coming up?

We have big plans ahead and a wealth of activities in the pipeline – so watch this space.

Do you have any tips for future students who want to study at JCA?

Know yourself. Have identity and purpose. Be passionate, be daring and don’t be afraid to share your ideas.

Students looking to find out more about the JCA | London Fashion Academy can attend the next virtual Open Day on July 14.

Images: JCA London Fashion Academy

JCA | London Fashion Academy
Jimmy Choo
stephen smith