An innovative model in industry partnered learning for fashion focused programs

An innovative model in industry partnered learning for fashion focused programs

This story is part of the 2022 RMIT Teaching Awards campaign recognising recipients who have contributed to improving the student experience at RMIT.

In RMIT’s School of Fashion and Textiles, a group of academics created Product Development courses to build transformative learning experiences.

The Bachelor of Fashion (Enterprise) program commenced at RMIT in 2020 after two years of development with intensive engagement with the fashion industry. The goal of the new program was to become a leader in fashion business education in Australia by introducing an ecosystem of industry partnered learning (IPL) into fashion industry-specific and broader creative programs at RMIT.  

The program, using research-led strategies, champions IPL through a strategic fusion of staggered work integrated learning (WIL) activities and career development learning (CDL) components within the Product Development (PD) stream courses. Students undertake one PD course a year, with each course building on the previous to gradually develop career readiness in students.

While some programs have utilised WIL experience, a systematic and scaffolded pedagogical approach of IPL collaborations with a multitude of high-profile industry partners such as HUGO BOSS, Caprice Australia, SA1NT and Le Specs is unheard of in a fashion business program in Australia.

This alone shaped the program to be a leader in fashion enterprise education.

But they didn’t stop there. The team have taken the partnerships one step further by heavily involving industry partners in the development of lectures and learning materials for the PD courses. This helped to shape the courses’ teachings to industry standard, creating alignment with current industry practice and fostering authentic industry engagement for students. 

From second year of the program, students have the opportunity to gain internships with industry partners who offer internships every semester to RMIT students. The prospect of interning with a big-name brand in the fashion industry could be incredibly daunting, but thankfully the students in this program are well prepared for the task from first year. 


Product Development (PD) stream structure

A key focus in developing the program was to ensure graduates are career ready to enter industry, with the agility to tackle the fashion industry and its fraught and competitive nature.

The fashion industry faces increasing criticism for being the second largest contributor to global warming and future graduates are expected to be adaptable to the challenges and opportunities this presents. 

In first year of the PD stream, students start developing specialised skills to work with materials and product manufacturing, alongside contemporary social and professional skills including problem solving, communication, leadership and lifelong learning. Developing these skills within students not only prepares them for the challenges and opportunities of this dynamic and disruptive industry, it also presents graduates with an edge over other entrants into a highly competitive and saturated field.

Students have the unique privilege of learning this and more from industry speakers from brands such as Sussan and Stafford and visiting the RMIT textile laboratory for a hands-on approach to learning the basics of fibres and fabrics, the fashion industry supply chain and the impacts everyday situations have on product offerings. 

two students weaving textiles with weaving machine

These learnings lay a strong foundation of skills for students to embark on the second-year project of responding to a real commercial brief from Caprice Australia to develop a childrenswear collection for retailers such as Target and Big W. The project see students work in teams, giving them the opportunity to develop teamwork skills. 

Working in teams comes with its challenges. To avert this, students complete high-value micro credentials on ‘Constructive conversations’ and ‘Agile ways of working’ to support skill-building in effective and constructive methods to group work. 

…the skills I have gained include learning how to receive and apply feedback provided from retail partners and meeting their needs and requirements, …[and] the ability to work and communicate within a team – Anonymous student 2021

To consolidate their first- and second-year learning and hone their skills, students complete a reflective piece using the DIEP (Describe, Interpret, Evaluate, and Plan and transfer new learnings) model to guide a detailed interpretation and evaluation of their insights and plan for transferring their new learning towards the future. 

‘This is designed to enhance their ability to recognise and articulate their learning and understand it’s context for planning and developing their career,’ explains Dr Carolina Quintero Rodriguez, Lecturer and Course Coordinator for Product Development stream courses. 

In the final year of the stream, students undertake a project that challenges them to create a collection with technological value in materials, sustainability and product development, addressing a gap in the market for a real commercial brief provided by one of the program’s industry partners. This coupled with a suite of activities – weekly mentoring and feedback sessions with their educator and industry partner, web development and a “shark tank” style presentation – further develops their technical, cognitive and human skills to prepare them for their journey to industry.  

CDL components have also been woven into the final year course to provide students with experiences and high-quality materials to support and build job readiness. A series of resume activities where students write a summary statement, add an entry in the ‘experience’ section and two entries in the skills section helps construction an industry-ready resume. Students practice interviewing by responding to three competency-based interview questions using the STAR technique. 

The best aspect of this course is to have industry opportunities and being able to make work that I can use in a job interview – Anonymous student 2022

It is evident Kolb’s (1984) model experiential learning model and Dewey’s (1916) reflective activity is at the core of the program’s pedagogy. The team explains ‘our philosophy aligns with RMIT’s ‘Principles of Scholarly Teaching’ referencing Ernest Boyer’s conception of scholarship ‘as a dynamic intersection between knowledge and practice’.


Impact on student learning, engagement and experiences

The course has exceeded every students' expectations in all areas, achieving outstanding outcomes in learning, engagement and course experience survey (CES).

Student feedback reflects their development in gaining professional skills and the value of their WIL experience. One student said, ‘I am confident that I have demonstrated strong initiative and adopted a leadership role in team settings. I have often initiated group meetings and discussions in order to work successfully as a team, which has benefited me in achieving a high standard of work'. 

three students talking in class

Another student commended the internship with Sussan as a ‘fantastic opportunity and experience to fully immense oneself in environment, culture and way of learning. I had opportunity to work in different area’s’.

The team have successfully developed career readiness in students with rapidly growing instances of employment secured before graduation with both domestic and international students – a truly remarkable achievement for a highly saturated and competitive industry employing 500,000 Australians. 

Caprice Australia commends the team for ‘developing and delivering an innovative and beneficial learning experiences to their students’. The fashion brand is particularly impressed by how the program is producing well rounded students who are developing work at an industry level. 

While the program has seen tremendous success, the team will continue to grow the courses in the stream. The next phase will facilitate students’ development of their own creative portfolios for entering the industry and, as requested by one of the industry partners, incorporating a future project in which one of the collections developed by students is fully produced for retail.


The team: Dr Carolina Quintero Rodriguez, Lecturer, Fashion Enterprise and Course Coordinator, Product Development stream, Dr Anna Branford, Careers Educator, Dr Tarun Panwar, Program manager, Fashion Enterprise, Dr Stephen Wigley, Associate Dean, Fashion Enterprise


Story by: Khanya Sibeko, Communications Coordinator



Boyer, E.L. (1990) Scholarship reconsidered: priorities of the professoriate. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, John Wiley and Sons, New York.

Kolb D (1984) Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development, Prentice Hall, New Jersey

Maraa Collective and EY Global (2021) From high fashion to high vis: the economic contribution of Australia’s fashion and textile industry 31 May 2021, Australian Fashion Council,

Miettinen, R (2000) ‘The concept of experiential learning and John Dewey's theory of reflective thought and action’, International Journal of Lifelong Education, 19(1):54-72, doi:10.1080/026013700293458


08 December 2022


08 December 2022


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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.