A leading online news and information provider for the fashion industry is to spend Pounds 10 million providing design students with free access to its site.
The company, Worth Global Style Network (WGSN), is expecting 50,000 fashion and design students in the United Kingdom alone to take up the offer. WGSN, whose subscribers include Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, plans to expand the service worldwide over the next few months.
The service will give all students access to more than 300,000 pages of material. The site includes the latest fashion news and trends as well as images from the designer shows as they happen. It also provides graphics resources, information on trends in interior design
and market intelligence services.
WGSN director and co-founder Marc Worth said the initiative was a response to strong interest from academics and students in WGSN's trade subscription site, which costs Pounds 1,800 a year. Subscribers include the universities of Leeds and De Montfort and University College Northampton.
Mr Worth said these and many other colleges wanted to make the site much more widely available in their institutions but lacked the budget to do so.As a result, WGSN decided to develop a student-friendly version of the site, with free access to all those on fashion, textiles and design-related courses worldwide.
Institutions that have sought to sign up to the site include the the UK's Royal College of Art and Central Saint Martin's, Belgium's Antwerp Fashion Academy and New York's Fashion Institute of Technology.
Ian Griffiths, head of fashion at Kingston University, said access to the website will be "critically important" for students. He added: "Students do not have the access to resources and information that working designers do. WGSN has put all we need on one site."
Mr Griffiths said the site would also be valuable in offering students virtual access to events and exhibitions that might be too costly for them to attend.
Helen Goworek, head of fashion at De Montfort, said: "With more than 400 students in our department, access to fashion publications is stretched to the limit. Simultaneous access to the WGSN site will be invaluable."
WGSN hopes that up to 4,000 institutions worldwide will eventually take up its offer.