When Robert moved to Sri Lanka leaving a senior academic role at SCAD—one of the world’s most revered design universities, he was taking on the challenge to push forward a promising fashion economy in South Asia. His vision is to offer the kind of education that integrates the most essential knowledge in the fashion product and its commerciality so that young leaders will have what it takes to tap into a diverse spectrum of career opportunities in the business of fashion. He points out that during his tenure at SCAD and also Boras University, as well as multiple collaborations with luxury brands like Gucci, Burberry, Bottega Veneta, and Mulberry, there was a marked gap in knowledge between fashion and business.
“I encountered a lot of fashion interns who wanted to understand more of the marketing or business side of things, and many business interns who were interested in the fashion industry. So, it was obvious that fashion marketing and management are definitely courses that are needed…,” Taking this realization forward, Robert went on to co-write BorasUniversitiy’s first fashion management MA programme in Sweden during his PhD studies. Years later, when he took on the academic leadership role in Sri Lanka with AOD, the fashion marketing, and design degree offered there was one of the study experiences that interested Robert the most, as it bridged the missing link between university education and the real industry operations of fashion; It is exactly what Robert saw as the essential study experience to create young leaders for the business of fashion.
Explaining what makes this powerful degree so relevant to the business of fashion today, Robert said that it is a course that allows the students to experience much more than the fashion product itself, and educates them to understand the marketing and business side of it as well. “So, it’s really about understanding the fashion product, less in terms of execution, or product development per se, and more in terms of getting them to understand where the product fits into the market, the commerciality of it, overall demand and supply, etc.” The fashion marketing and design degree at AOD does exactly this, by going beyond the technical expertise of creating fashion. It probes deep, harnessing a true understanding of the prospects, market environments, manufacturing challenges, market impact, business strategy, and consumer psychology.
It is a step towards providing a first-class product or service, having a competitive edge and ultimately winning new business for fashion brands. Looking back at his own education, Robert says that fashion marketing is the course he wishes he was able to study. “At the time this kind of integrated study wasn’t available, and I had to separately study business, womenswear, strategic brand marketing, and connect those studies with work experience in luxury brands to create my specialty. But now, students who join forward-thinking academia like AOD can get this study experience with one powerful degree. It’s really remarkable. The beauty of our programme is that it is a bachelors’ programme that you can fully complete here.
And from day one, you’re exposed to the fashion side of things as well the commerciality of products.” Robert went on to explain how in reality, the fashion product does not exist in isolation and always has a business side to it, and matching this reality is what the AOD fashion marketing degree delivers. This becomes particularly relevant when students explore career opportunities after they graduate, because being exposed to both business and fashion worlds, means having access to some of the most interesting and lucrative prospects out there, whether they want to work for a fashion business, apparel industry or set out on an entrepreneurial journey.
“For myself personally, having a fashion and marketing combined background paved the way to a very diverse career, taking me to really fantastic work experiences in fashion, design, image-making, styling, working with luxury brands and even launching two international fashion magazines. My clients trusted me with setting up major projects like Dubai Design Week, D3 Dubai Design District because I was able to understand the content of fashion, its application in the business through a commerciality sense. I can tell any parent or student, from personal experience, that fashion business and marketing is a very powerful skill to have in this day and age,” said Robert.
Robert will be hosting a workshop feature – Aod Spotlight at AOD’s Design Discovery series on the 6th of November, at the Colombo Innovation Tower, sharing his international knowledge with school students and After ALs and OLs school leavers interested in the business of fashion. He says that the workshop will connect students to the best of both worlds in business and fashion, and show where they can actually take you careerwise. “It’ll be an exciting one touching on branding, communication and marketing for fashion. I hope to meet some bright young minds at this workshop, and look forward to inspiring them to be Sri Lanka’s next gen of fashion business leaders!” concludes Robert.