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No more starving designers?

Stories abound of up-and-coming designers living on tinned beans for years, whilst rummaging through thrift stores and working for pennies, only to break through to be a one-hit wonder or sell their creative soul to a private equity firm.

But last week I packed my suitcase and left New York for a week’s vacation and inadvertly a bit of a culture shock. Heading south I didn’t manage to leave NY’s humidity behind, but despite battling the heat I found a hidden gem called SCAD in Savannah, Georgia.

SCAD isn’t actually that hidden, their thumb print is heavily planted on Savannah’s cityscape, most notably by the college buying run down historical buildings and enlisting students in the restoration process. The initiative has been recognised by the American Institute of Architects as well as the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) was founded in 1978 and has since become one of the hottest places in the USA to study. In June Saks in Atlanta selected the final collections of 26 fashion students from the Atlanta campus (SCAD offers degrees in Savannah, Atlanta and Lacoste in France as well as e-learning) to be shown in their windows for a three week period.

Last year Diane von Furstenberg was the main speaker at the graduation ceremony (she refused to wear the mortar board as it would mess up her hair, a comment that was transmitted to the whole of the audience. Oops, I bet a new sound man was in place for the following graduation!).

All of the above is in itself admirable for, what must still be considered to be, a young college. Then enter ShopScad.

ShopSCAD is a unique gallery store that exclusively features the artwork and designs of students, faculty, staff and alumni of the college. An eclectic and innovative mix of art, artful products, and design by talented but yet-to-be discovered SCAD artists, in a creative space that focuses an unconventional display and an ever changing stock holding (new work is accepted on a daily basis and the process is fairly informal).

Students staff the shop, so you may even be lucky to meet the designer whilst deciding on your purchase.

Living in NY, Vanessa Boulton’s “Cupcake in the Oven” (Venezuelan for being pregnant) t-shirt $30 instantly grabbed my attention but decided on Steph Calvert’s “It’s true, a diamond is a girl’s best friend” $24 - a homage to Neil Diamond.

The Ollie & Maggie baby range by Shawna Jenkins is a 100% cotton collection that oozes vintage styling and well worthy of any yummy mummy’s sweet offspring. If accessories are your bag Gogo Borgerding’s spectacular GoGo cuffs ($250-$350) in sterling and anodized aluminium is a must as are the numerous earring designs in gold and semi-precious stones, all at a snip of the price ($130-$190) of larger retailers.

Leaving ShopScad with heavy bags I couldn’t help wonder why this great concept hasn’t been copied in more of the well known art and design colleges around the world.

We know from the catwalk shows and the gallery openings (sometimes many moons later) that the talent is there. If a college shop can offer our young designers a show case as well as financial independence then maybe the commercial awareness that is being preached by lecturers will finally make sense in a world of creativity.

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