We took a moment to sit down with Souraya Bouwmans- Sarraf, former dean of AMFI, and Irene Sparreboom who has recently assumed the position. Souraya finished her AMFI career with the IFFTI conference which took place in March. We asked both women to reflect on how they see AMFI and the fashion industry in general.
Interview by Blanca Heise and Sarah Friedman, 2nd year International Fashion & Branding. Illustration: Olga Andegaweńska.
Could you explain how you experienced your first day at AMFI?
Souraya: “For me it was quite new since I did not have any experience in the educational field. From the concierge handing me the master key to the lovely bouquet on my new desk, I experienced a truly warm welcome when entering the school.”
Irene: “Having worked at the HvA, my experience was different but familiar. It was almost an average Monday morning except for the fact that I spend a full day meeting my new colleagues.”
Souraya, previously you worked at Randstad. What makes managing a fashion school different than managing an employment agency?
“The educational dynamics. Randstad evaluates four times a year whilst for AMFI every graduate is actually an evaluation. Their four-year journey measures our skills to prepare our students for the fashion industry. Moreover, I learned to apply a different approach when managing my staff since teachers are more critical and stubborn. An action in the educational field starts with a discussion on how to tackle a situation.”
Irene, you have covered multiple positions within HvA as a teacher, educational expert and head of MIC/CO. How does AMFI fit into this career path?
“I had some time to look around for new possibilities since I felt the need to broaden my horizon. I enjoy working with creative and innovative people, I decided to accept the challenge when Souraya called me. Besides that, the fashion industry itself is new to me. It excites me to combine my knowledge with new initiatives.”
“We constantly have to be ahead
to stay relevant”
Souraya, do you have any tips regarding fashion education?
“Innovation is key. We constantly have to be ahead of the current fashion and educational developments to stay relevant in such a fast pace industry. All staff is expected to take initiatives and to be up-to-date in these fields. This is something in which we already have been succeeding. AMFI embraces innovation and the future.”
Souraya, during the first interview you spoke about your goal to make AMFI one of the best fashion schools in the world. How do view that ambition now?
“We definitely succeeded in this. By deciding on what we were not going to do and by making crucial choices, we designed a more focused curriculum based on our reality school concept, technology and sustainability. This has helped us to show who we are and what we do and this made us noticeable in the industry.”
Irene: “I agree and therefore I want to continue these ambitions. Keeping focus is of great importance. Times are changing. Having less people and less money available makes it a challenge to uphold our reputation and to improve it but it is possible.”
“The unique curriculum of AMFI
should be appreciated”
Irene, AMFI is part of HvA, how does this influence your ambitions?
“AMFI is unique in comparison to the other HvA institutions. Fashion itself is differentiating. AMFI is great in her branding and implementing the reality school concept. Likewise, our specializations and minors are one of a kind, such as Individuals. These aspects make our school stand out in the industry. HvA should remain appreciative to this unique curriculum.”
AMFI just hosted IFFTI, the annual conference of leading fashion schools worldwide. How do you see the future of fashion and its education?
Irene: “The future is about working together. AMFI houses the entire fashion industry in their three departments and therefore we especially should embrace working together and sharing our knowledge.”
Souraya: “Sustainability will be core. The past couple of years’ passionate teachers have dedicated themselves to this. The educational system should be woken up. Students should be made aware that they can influence the future of tomorrow. Also creativity is of importance. We need to understand how we can feed and maximize our students’ creativity. Additionally, the teachers will have an even more coaching role and are favored on their expertise rather than being just a teacher. Our experts offer different perspectives on the industry. Working together with technology, sustainability and creativity will help us move forward.”
What influence will this future vision have on AMFI itself and its students?
Souraya: “To emphasize the importance of working together, I believe it could be interesting to have a general first year. Giving students the opportunity to choose their department at the end of the year. Also, being communicative is definitely a must for the professional of the future. AMFI has integrated this important skill in all three departments.”
Irene: “During their AMFI career student learn to self-reflect. AMFI helps them in the process to understand what they want, what their skills are and how they can achieve their personal goals.”
Now something different, but not less important for a fashion school. Has being the dean of AMFI influenced your way of dressing?
Souraya: “Well, I entered the school in suit since this was common at Randstad. Soon I realised that I need some new work attire without stepping away from my personal style. Clearly, there is an AMFI all-black uniform going on. Even my daughter noticed that the amount of black clothing I owned was growing.”
Irene: “It made me wonder if the dresses I had always worn before were AMFI-proof. Now I am more aware of what I wear since I have an exemplary role in this school, but I never loose sight of who I am.”
“The people make AMFI special.
This community is exceptional”
What makes AMFI special?
Souraya: “No doubt, the people! Living in this digital age everything can be copied except the people. The ambitious AMFI community, which is proud and always goes the extra mile is exceptional.”
Irene: “Definitely the people! It is an honor to work with the AMFI crowd.”
Souraya, what are you going to miss most about the school?
“There is one thing that I will miss most; the daily struggle of our students dragging their suitcases up and down the stairs. Besides that, it is fulfilling to see our students develop and graduate after four years. They leave with confidence and ready to captivate the fashion industry.”