5 Years on..Things I wish I knew as a fashion student
Updated: Jan 6
The term is almost over and you're setting yourself up for your final year in Uni. We put so much emphasis on that final year, but sometimes you need to step back and realise this is not the end of your journey, it's only the beginning.
This is not your 'final' collection
This body of work will not define you as a designer, you have the power to mould your own narrative outside of this degree.
Design with an open mind
If you are going into your final year with a clear cut image of what you want to make... scrap it! Write it down, CAD it up, do what you need to do to get it out of your head and move on. You will never get as much time as this again to design, use it well.
Find your own way of working
Your tutors might give you a framework of designs to create but you're free to work however you choose. I realised that I can't design by simply sitting and drawing all day. I did collage, draping on the mannequin, cutting up old clothes, all sorts.
Take you time and trust your gut
I remember doubting myself at every turn and trying to throw everything into the collection. Changing it ad-hoc and last minute to feel like it was enough, as soon as I let go of those fears and trusted my own style, it all got better. These days I design with more confidence, I don't stress over the little things as much.
Ask, ask and ask again, who cares what people think. I used to feel alone making my collection and annoyed that I wasn't getting the support I needed. Send out an email and schedule a time to work with a technician. They won't know you need support unless you tell them.
Fashion doesn't live and die in London
You don't have to make it work in the big city to be successful. If you choose to do so, go for it, but know that there are other options outside.
Don't expect to know everything right out of the gate.
3 to 4 years is not a lot of time, and let's be real, each term only lasts 6 months. How can we realistically expect to know everything we need to know in that time. Don't freak out about your experience, be open to learn new things and honest to yourself and prospective employers. Think about your strengths and apply for jobs which fit those skills. Designing clothing is completely different in the real world, you may focus a whole lot less on 'big' designs and focus more on trims, details, classic design details and how you can make it commercial as well as fashion forward.
These days I design a lot less like this, though I love it, it would take too long and cost too much to reproduce.
Don't be so picky about your first job.
All you need, is for one person to give you a shot, fashion is a tough industry and the job's will have thousands of applicants. Yes of course, you should apply for jobs that scare you but don't dismiss the smaller brands or even high street companies. My first job was in a knitwear manufacturer doing mainly admin, I felt discouraged and undervalued as a graduate with a first class degree from London, but the skills I learned there helped me to design commercially, I took those skills with me to my own brand and my current position as product developer in a sustainable clothing company.
Not everyone can be the next Alexander McQueen
Most of us get into fashion to work in Luxury Fashion or even to be a big name. When you break it down, it's important to realise what you need to go through to get to that position. Luxury brands don't always pay that well as the markups can be quite low. If you've ever interned during the lead up to fashion week, you understand the manic state of the industry, are you willing to do that for the rest of your life? Think about how long you're willing to put up with that fast life, is it for you? maybe it is, maybe it isn't.
Fashion is bitchy
People warned me before uni, and I dismissed them. I used to say, it's not bitchy it's cut-throat, it's business, would you say the same to a banker? But then I realised, it's petty bitchiness, school girl level. Fashion may be bitchy but you don't have to be a bitch to do fashion and you can find companies and colleagues that don't cling to the stereotype.
I hope this has helped even one student/fashion graduate this year