From Queen to Comp: Richard Quinn Uses His Fashion Show as an Advocacy for Arts Education - By Tamara Cincik
London Fashion Week definitely had a campaigning, disruptor's tone to its shows: from Gareth Pugh showing models with the Business of Fashion in their mouths, to Katharine Hamnett using Instagram as her platform to showcase fashion insiders in her Cancel Brexit tees and the one using the Fashion Roundtable Brexit survey, which highlights that a whopping 96% of the fashion industry do not want Brexit.
Nicholas Kirkwood created a fantastic dystopian future using tech and multimedia to evoke a 1984 world, where shoes are restricted to beige and the counter-revolution is led by Rose McGowan, a key figure in the #metoo movement.
In this milieu, how do you take things up a notch when last season Her Majesty the Queen excited even the most jaded amongst us by attending her first ever fashion show, for Richard Quinn at London Fashion Week. I did wonder how she would take the floral gimp masks, but her enthusiasm and smiles were endless. We all left feeling truly like the Queen had shone her support on UK fashion, at a time when during Brexit and after austerity, it has been a difficult time for our industry. Richard Quinn who won the inaugural Queen Elizabeth II Award for Britsh Design, has been an early member of influential fashion critic and supporter of new talent Sarah Mower MBE's creative response to Brexit with #sarahslist where on Instagram, she uses her platform as to share and support creative talent and excellence across the global fashion community.
When I worked in The Houses of Parliament, it was for Sharon Hodgson MPon the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Art, Craft and Design in Education. The first event I organised was an afternoon at the Houses of Parliament with artists, cultural leaders, advocates and storytellers sharing their passion for the creative arts and industries. The stats on the loss of arts education as the push for STEM education across state schools makes for devastating reading and very worrying in a career landscape where a) the jobs of the future, we are told haven't been invented yet, but will definitely need the skills set of creative, critical thinking which those with an arts background are trained in and b) if as we are informed, freedom of movement in the EU will end, meaning that immigration will drop with Brexit means we need to enhance UK nationals' potential in the jobs market.
I invited Sarah to a number of meetings, as the daughter of art teachers, this is her passion: driving potential and is the foundation of her work on New Gen for the BFC as well as her eponymous list. So back to the show: how do you take a show up a notch when last season you had the Queen? I mean the Queen is quite a coup! As one of Sarah's protégées, someone who is born, raised and still works in South London, it is pretty clear that her concerns about the massive decline in art and design GCSE and A'Level uptake, as a result of the STEM education policy, has been a conversation and concern.
This season Richard, brought GCSE and A’Level art students to his front row from Thomas More School, South London. These pupils saw first hand, front row, what doing art and design can lead to: one day perhaps we will be seated at their shows, or attend their art openings. The STEM education agenda in our secondary schools has seen art and design GCSE and A’Level uptake fall off a cliff-edge in the past 8 years. A 10% decline in arts subject GCSE entries 2017 to 2018 alone, a 35% decline in arts subject GCSE entries 2010 to 2018, a continuing decline in arts A Levels: entries down -24%. It starts at school and it starts as well with us all knowing what’s happening and communicating why that isn’t a good idea. Richard told Anders Christian Madsen at British Vogue: "Arts education has been fundamentally cut. It’s not seen as an academic subject anymore. So now we’re trying to bring it to the forefront and show the next generation how they can actually get into the industry,” he said before the show, facing some of the one-hundred uniformed school kids he’d invited in place of Elizabeth II.” As yet another talented designer takes up the mantle of using their platform and voice for positive advocacy I really do hope that more of us appreciate the impact of this educational policy, so out of line with what children want to learn, our creative passions and our career opportunities.
NSEAD said: "It all starts at school but for some young people, with the policies as they are, it won’t even start there. All arts subjects and their teachers are hanging on tooth and nail. We need artists, designers and makers, those who thrived through their engagement with arts in schools, to write, speak, shout out and use their platform and their voice, just as @richardquinn has, to steer government’s policies #artsforeveryone."
Sophie Leach their Assistant General Secretary said: "Raising awareness of the value and potential of art, craft and design has never been more important. Since 2010 opportunities to study a broad and balanced arts rich curriculum continue to be eroded. We salute Richard Quinn for giving a front row seat to young people, and to his challenging of policies that have so evidently impacted on the choice and provision of arts and design in schools."
To learn more about the worrying demise of arts in our secondary schools please click here.