How a shift to knitwear paved the way
To highlight the wealth of opportunities for building a career in craft, the Crafts Council continually speaks to a broad spectrum of people who have taken different routes into the sector, asking them how they got started and what advice they would give. To mark National Careers Week, we are highlighting some of these Craft Journeys, starting with the trajectory of British fashion designer Phoebe English.
Tell us about what you do.
My fashion label designs and makes both women’s and men’s clothing, and I make handmade textiles for our womenswear, which celebrates craft and handmade skills.
How did you get where you are?
Making things has always been key to my personality and I was lucky to come from a creative family who supported my interests. As well as doing creative GCSEs and A-Levels, I did a City and Guilds evening course in corset-making to learn how to pattern-cut. I did an art foundation course at Warwickshire College after my A-levels, where I was introduced to silk screen printing, etching, sculpture and many different textile techniques. I also did internships in the fashion industry.
What key decisions have you made along the way?
When I started at Central Saint Martins, I was on a course called Fashion Design with Marketing. I didn’t like it and wanted to move, but the only course with enough space on it was Fashion Design with Knitwear. My grandma had taught me to knit when I was a child, so they put me straight into the second year. I had to learn really fast as I had missed so much, but it was the best decision I ever made.
What challenges have you faced?
It is a competitive industry and I have had to learn to be confident in my work and to be able to talk to people about it without being shy. You are often freelance in this industry so you have to learn how to represent yourself, make contacts and connect with others.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in craft?
If it's part of your personality and spirit, you must do it or you will regret not going down that path. Take the chance – it is a wide and exciting industry and a transferable skill. I was worried when I studied knitwear, because my parents thought it was too niche, but I have gone on to work in many areas, such as set design, art direction and website design – the knitting was only the start of my adventure!