On the 30th of June 2021 the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) together with the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) presented the results of an external investigation after numerous reports of social unsafety were cited. The final report paints a dark picture of its fashion education; one in which burnouts, panic attacks and harassment seem to be deeply intertwined with the education programme. AMFI and the AUAS has indicated that they wish to adopt all the recommendations in the report but ASVA Student Union is not yet fully satisfied. The report, conducted by Bezemer & Schubad, asks whether AMFI is perceived as socially safe but ASVA Student Union already knew the answer:
The report confirms what the Student Union and the action group 'Time to tell AMFI' have been saying for months; the AUAS fashion programme has a harsh unsafe culture in which students are continuously and purposefully broken down.
For this reason, ASVA Student Union demanded the resignation of the director of AMFI and a senior lecturer in Fashion & Design. “It is a good sign that AMFI now recognises the suffering inflicted on so many students and is open to improvement,” says ASVA chairman Maarten van Dorp. “But the problem that is now emerging that it did not happen by accident, it was policy; with the aim of producing star designers in the fashion industry. Students, especially in the fashion and design department, were systematically exhausted.”
The AMFI director has not yet resigned but after the report’s publication (30th of June 2021) the Head of Fashion & Design was declared absent and then departed. We welcome this decision, and it is the opinion of ASVA Student Union that this former design lecturer should be banned from teaching.
On a similar note, the Student Union believes that the report is not yet in-depth enough to fully expose the dire situation. With the assistance of the Inspectorate of Education, we believe a more thorough investigation can be conducted.
Students from abroad have often indicated that their problems became even more complex due to the lack of a 'social safety net' such as a family. We fear that the international students have been overlooked in this report even though they are a particularly vulnerable group. We also fear that current AMFI students still do not feel safe enough to tell their story and that this has led to the low number of students who have publicly come forward (culture of fear).
Nine of the interviewed students sought professional help for anxiety and depression after their fashion training. Another five stated that they have PTSD as a result. The Fashion & Design department has been highlighted as the department that was and is experienced as being the most unsafe.
Our advice for current and former students that have suffered any of the wrongs outlined in the Bezemer & Schubad report, is that you may wish to present your case to a lawyer that is specialised in personal injury. By following the website of the Dutch bar association Find a lawyer and typing ‘letselschade’ into the search bar.
Lastly, the report states that AMFI has a graduation rate of 70%. This statistic is not representative because the graduation rate is vastly different per department. For example, the Fashion & Design department does not have such a high success rate due to widespread grading bias.