There is an “unsafe atmosphere” at the Amsterdam fashion school AMFI. Students often feel belittled. They sometimes have to work all night long under the influence of speed or other drugs. In addition, teachers regularly make racist or sexist comments.
This is reflected in conversations that the broadcasters AT5 and NH News conducted with about fifty (former) students and nine (former) teachers from the largest fashion program in the Netherlands.
Students talk about a culture of fear and silence. Some don’t even dare to visit family members’ funerals because they miss a class. “When my grandmother died, I indicated this to my mentor. I was told: you are now faced with a choice. Either you go for your career, or you go for other – unimportant – choices,” said a student.
Fashion school came last month in the news because former student Martijn N. was accused of rape, violence, assault and drying. In NRC and Het Parool At least twenty men said they were victims of Martijn N. Until last year, the alumnus was associated with the school and often gave guest lectures there.
Black Lives Matter
Anne Sarah Dijkhorst studied at the AMFI until 2015 and was in Martijn N.’s class. On Instagram she shared a video with her personal experience, which immediately led to many reactions. “I knew there had to be more people. But I didn’t know the problem was so big,” she says now. “The stories I hear are intense. That you come to school for a feedback moment, and then you are told by a teacher that you should watch rough porn because your design is too boring.”
Anne Sarah has the website together with the Amsterdam student union ASVA Time To Tell AMFI set up. There, (former) students can share their experiences. But the criticism is not new. There was also a stir last year when the program declared its solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement via social media. Many students thought that was hypocritical. Diamo Luciano, a student at the AMFI between 2017 and 2019, says: “There were teachers who used the n-word. They also told me that my work was too ethnic, or asked me why my model was so dark. heard that my Arab model looked like a serial killer. “
Burnouts and panic attacks
Many (former) students speak of burnouts, panic attacks or depression, even years after the training. When student Laura indicated to a teacher that it was too much for her, she got the response: “Everyone gets a burnout from time to time, that’s part of the deal”.
Sometimes students turn to drugs to handle the workload. “I took microdoses of pep just to keep working. A teacher who was aware of this said:” if this is your way of working, then you should do it “, says a student who is still at AMFI. He’s not alone, sniffing Ritalin, cocaine or speed – these are all cited as ways to keep working.
Crying or hyperventilating students are no exception in the school corridors, the students tell the broadcasters. It also happens regularly that someone faints. A student says that a teacher continues with his explanation while a fellow student is lying on the floor. “Well, take it outside. That fainting always happens in the first weeks”, the teacher is said to have said.
First break down, then build up
Fashion journalist and activist Janice Deul recognizes the stories. “I think it’s typical of the entire fashion climate,” she says. Although the AMFI is always mentioned, the atmosphere at other study programs is also said to be bad. “They are toxic environments with old educational principles. The system is based on first breaking down and then building up students.”
In a response, AMFI director Dirk Reynders said he was “very shocked” by the stories. But they are not new to him either, because at the end of March Jan Willem van Roodenberg of the Inspectorate of Education also delivered a damning judgment. “As extensive as I have seen here, I have not experienced much”, said Van Roodenberg at RTL News.
Director Reynders has asked an external research agency to talk to (former) students and (former) lecturers. Reynders also acknowledges that study pressure is high. “We are aware that by making students aware of the competitive nature of the fashion world, we are also helping to maintain it.” Changes have been made to the curriculum in recent years to reduce study pressure.
The program also says it has repeatedly called for experiences to be shared with a counselor or the research agency. Two working groups have also been set up to improve the culture and diversity in the study program.