Katie Friedlander-Boss's story – Bath Spa University

When she joined Bath Spa in 2017, Katie Friedlander-Boss brought a unique perspective on Fashion Marketing. Now she’s a champion of innovation, sustainability and giving students the skills they need to succeed.

Tasked with designing a new Fashion Marketing and Management degree, Katie used her experience teaching at London College of Fashion and the University of Westminster, as well as years of experience in the industry to produce an innovative, sustainability-focused and hands-on programme.

"The West Country is unique for all these amazing small start-ups, exciting, innovative fashion brands and a lot of designer-makers."

Working at Bath Spa

What's your role at Bath Spa?

I'm the course leader for BA (Hons) Fashion Marketing and Management, and the Undergraduate Course Director for the Bath Business School.

When did you join?

I joined in 2017, as the University was looking for someone to write and launch a new degree programme. With my previous experience at other institutions as well as in the industry, I was in a good position to develop an innovative and fresh take on a Fashion Marketing and Management degree.

What did you do before you joined?

Before I joined Bath Spa, I was actually still working on a freelance basis, helping start-up fashion brands to do everything from design concepts through to marketing, finding producers and manufacturers. This meant that when I was looking at what we do here at Bath Spa and what I wanted the course to cover, I was able to give the course a really specific point of view that distinguishes it from more traditional degree programmes, with a focus on sustainability, start-up fashion brands and the future of the industry.

I also worked at places such as the Condé Nast College in London, taught at London College of Fashion and the University of Westminster and gained a really good insight into what fashion education could look like.

What drew you to Bath Spa?

I didn't want to do something that you could do in London, we had to have something that made us unique at Bath Spa. The West Country is unique for all these amazing small start-ups, exciting, innovative fashion brands and a lot of designer-makers. This was something that I wanted to bring in as part of the concept behind the fashion marketing degree here.

The future is digital and sustainable

When designing the Fashion Marketing and Management course, I drew up two plans I thought would work: the traditional degree and the innovative forward-thinking option. The University had faith and allowed me to follow the route I was most passionate about, to scrap the traditional format and bring in all sorts of interdisciplinary elements that make our degree programme unique.

Students can take creative computing and coding modules, and work with other students from the Bath Business School and Creative Media courses. There’s a digital element to the degree which is really forward thinking: we have students designing digital magazines, building apps and tapping into the future of fashion marketing. Fashion is always changing and evolving, and Bath Spa is full of "enthusiasm for newness".

"We have students designing digital magazines, building apps and tapping into the future of fashion marketing. Fashion is always changing and evolving, and Bath Spa is full of 'enthusiasm for newness.'"

There are so many people that graduate with a degree in fashion "something" and end up in retail, and it's not where their heart is. I want people to graduate and be able to go into the jobs that they really want to do within fashion.

For my own Master’s, I looked very specifically at sustainability in retail build, and my shop design project won a Purple Apple Retail Design Award because it was completely sustainable. I wrote a short book about the need for sustainability in the fashion industry, and wonderfully, it's become much more of a topic for many people so I don't have to shout about it as much as I used to. One of the other reasons I joined Bath Spa is that sustainability is part of the foundation of the University.

“I want people to graduate and be able to go into the jobs that they really want to do within fashion.”

Fashion on film

My more recent research has been into fashion film, and how the moving image plays a role in communicating a brand, especially in the digital world when we haven't got that physical environment to go to. We've now got this amazing diversification because of all these different platforms that we can view moving images on. They each have a different "personality" so you can create different types of content for them.

One of my favourite examples is a film from the 90s by John Malkovich and Bella Freud. They made a film on the Tube with this guy's trousers exploding: it was just this nice idea that actually fashion film can be more than models walking up and down the runway. We've seen that evolve over the last 20 years with Wes Anderson making short films for Prada, Baz Luhrmann doing films for H & M and Chanel.

I’m really interested in the idea of authenticity in vlogs, for example. Specifically I'm looking at how you can distil their intimate nature to create a benchmark for the feelings you want to evoke. I think this plan can then be handed over to smaller brands to create moving images with a big reach and high engagement. If you get it right, even with a low budget, you're going to be taking consumers away from the brands that maybe are not doing things ethically or sustainably, so it can be used really beneficially!

It's about finding joy

For me, this year is about finding joy and healing from the last couple of years. My sustainable T-shirt not-for-profit business raises money for charities close to my heart. I’ve also taken up drama and writing, which is different because I’m dyslexic. This year, my New Year's resolution was to try to be open to opportunities.

Somebody who really inspires me is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. I love him. He has come from nothing and he absolutely built himself. He had a vision and he went: "I'm gonna go there." And he did. I have so much respect for what he has done and what he has achieved; he's still growing and he's also still so positive and nice about it. I've got a cardboard cut-out of him!

“The thing that I'm most proud of, is every time one of my students emails me to say: 'Katie, I've got my dream job.' It makes me genuinely want to cry and explode with joy.”

I grew up in a single parent family, we were below the poverty line, we didn't always have food and we definitely didn't have shoes. I'm dyslexic and I have dyspraxia, I got 2:2 on my degree, and I should not be where I am today, but it was through genuine grit and determination that I’ve got where I am. In that sense I really relate to The Rock. Being neurodiverse has also allowed me to come in as the voice of a minority learner within academia, and to be able to say how important visual communication is, not just from a fashion perspective, but from an everything perspective. We are all visual learners.

The thing that I'm most proud of, is every time one of my students emails me to say: "Katie, I've got my dream job." It makes me genuinely want to cry and explode with joy. I feel so proud of the fact that the education that I have designed has genuinely helped people get the jobs that they want.

“There's a whole world out there and it needs creative thinkers, and it needs people who work hard and it needs people who aren't afraid to try things.”

My biggest bit of advice is to try everything once, in life and in your course. In ours you’ll cover filming, Excel, InDesign, Photoshop, presentations, introductory coding, blog writing, event management and more! There's a whole world out there and it needs creative thinkers, and it needs people who work hard and it needs people who aren't afraid to try things. And be nice, because that’s what The Rock would do!

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