We caught up with Caryn Franklin MBE who is both a student and a lecturer on the Msc Applied Psychology in Fashion course at LCF, ahead of her Fashion and Emotional Sustainability lecture earlier this month. Caryn spoke to us about why she decided to join the course, gave us an insight into her experience working in the industry, as well as her thoughts on diversity in the fashion world. Course leader Dr Carolyn Mair told us:
“Caryn has just become a Professor of Diversity at the University of Kingston, which is fantastic. We need a pioneer and a spokesperson for diversity. We do talk about it a lot on the course, and encourage students to really look into the issues around diversity – body image, racism, ageism, ableism so it’s important to have an ambassador at a professorial level. I think it’s really important that Caryn is out there doing an amazing job.”
What is this lecture about?
The lecture is about charting some of the changes I’ve seen over the past 35 years working in fashion. It is a history of fashion but my own one, and it’s about helping young creatives to understand what has come before because that can sometimes help to contextualise what you’re dealing with now. I’m looking at two key areas – emotional sustainability and resourcing physical manufacturing sustainability. I’m looking at it from a position of ‘BI’ and ‘AI’ – before internet and after internet – which is a really key moment for fashion.
Why did you decide to do the MSc Applied Psychology in Fashion course?
I’m particularly proud that I’m on the MSc course – for a long time I had been looking for tools to explain what I was seeing and observing in fashion, and to explain to myself the behaviour I was engaging with. Working commercially I was always having to refer back to myself – ‘I believe this is right, I feel that this is happening’ – but I knew that wasn’t enough and I knew that when you’re trying to shift perceptions, or even change things quite significantly, you need something more than that.
A long time before Dr Carolyn Mair had set up the course, I heard she was designing it and I thought to myself, ‘I have to get on that course!’ I knew it would give me academic rigour and access into a world of science, which is a language that has much more leverage in the cut and thrust of finance and business. The year that I spent doing my learning was an amazing time for thinking. For example – everyone in the fashion industry is a collaborator, but none of my years in the industry had given me any idea of what makes a good collaboration and how to look back and be critically reflective. I’ve never done that as a professional in 35 years, so that one module alone was such an eye opener.
Would you say it is a creative degree?
This is one of the most creative courses I’ve been on because my brain is doing all sorts – it’s like there’s fireworks going on in there. The creativity is about working out where the opportunity is to introduce different thinking, and that’s really exciting for anybody who is using their mind – it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
How does the course address issues such as diversity in the fashion industry?
It’s exactly this subject that I came in to look at, so as a journalist, campaigner and a fashion activist I was out there interacting and trying to create change, but I could never access information to say ‘studies show’. As a non-academic I simply didn’t know how to do that.
The last year has not only helped me to understand behaviour and have the tools to contextualise it, but it has also given me a bridge to leading academics who have spent a lifetime studying the subject of diversity or the subject of racism, or the subject of body image and to draw all those things together, to be able to make a more coherent statement to young fashion creatives in other colleges. I’ve also been able to launch a new section in i-D Magazine which features LCF graduates and their studies, work and thinking. That for me is a massive result – an obvious illustration of how this sort of information can then impact in real world fashion process.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve always been interested in body image and body confidence. I think as a fashion industry we have increasing power and broadcastability to promote this so called ‘fashion normative body’ that isn’t normal. It’s like a big elephant in the room that nobody speaks about.
I’m particularly aware that young minds, that aren’t even developed are coming up and looking to the fashion industry to be a tastemaker in their lives – to operate a position of taste leadership not just on design, colour and silhouette, but also on physical appearance and beauty as well.
If we can help our young creatives to understand the enormous privilege they have and also of their responsibility, then this course can rightfully assume a very pivotal and important position.