Can algorithms become textiles? Can local making spur global sustainability? Do smart fabrics make for intelligently designed businesses? Questions like these inspired Lidewij Edelkoort, international trend forecaster and The New School’s dean of Hybrid Studies, to establish the MFA in Textiles, a groundbreaking master’s program at Parsons School of Design — part of The New School in New York City.
Launching in fall 2018, the MFA program is designed to prepare creative leaders for the broadening range of textile applications, including fashion and wearable tech, auto and aerospace industries, heath care, and interiors and architecture. “The good news for textile education is that there is an enormous number of jobs,” says Edelkoort. “You can work for a fashion house designing new fabrics. There is the idea of constructing environments, by knitting buildings and creating tent-like structures, using fiber to regulate temperature. All these things come together, from the smallest bit of embroidery to an enormous built environment.”
The recent proliferation of new materials is bringing together makers, designers, and scholars to reimagine textiles — from locally created materials to 3D-knitted and biofabricated matter. In Parsons’ two-year, 60-credit full-time program, students join working professionals in developing a critical understanding of textiles’ sociocultural, environmental, and emotional dimensions and considering their unlimited potential to unite traditional techniques with cutting-edge technologies.
Entrepreneurship-focused coursework and projects are also interwoven throughout the MFA Textiles curriculum. The program is geared to help students re-shore textile industries, lend studio skills to a wide array of firms, launch an independent enterprise, or pursue advanced studies. “We would like to make a hybrid of the Hudson Valley and Silicon Valley,” says Edelkoort. “We integrate computing into our textiles in an intimate way to bring production close to home, to give the machine to the hand, and hand to the machine.”