My career path
Work experience gave me a lot of opportunities. It’s important to work hard but make yourself memorable. It’s all about networking and being in touch and staying in touch – its a cycle, if you can help other people, they will help you at some point too. I still have contacts from work experience at 18 and I’m 35 now.
I learnt so much about myself and what area I was most suited to by working in industry. I did a work placement with Roland Mouret and ended up working there for 6 years. Roland was a drapiest, he didn’t sketch and I really clicked with his way of working, He got straight on the mannequin and it was my role to put that into work with the pattern cutters and machinists. I found out that I’m more passionate about the product development – I like to elevate the design into a finished product.
When I look back - I think doing a BTEC was a key moment, they were incredible platforms and North West Kent college was a really good college. Doing contextual studies was fantastic. Learning about Cubism, Renaissance and design influences as well as learning about research skills and having your mind opened up to places like the V&A at a young age. At sixteen and seventeen I started going to exhibitions and getting to know London – going to vintage stores and this carried on throughout my BA.
I lost my freelance work at a small luxury brand called Siran, as a result of the pandemic. Although I was in a vulnerable position, being freelance enabled me to learn about other things like interior design and property development. I had previously done some freelance with Burberry – so after the pandemic I reached out to Burberry and got a job in no time at all. Nurturing your contacts in the fashion industry is so important.
I found my studies were too focused on design and portfolio when I would have benefitted from learning more industry specific technical skills and more on production and manufacturing. I’m more passionate about taking the design from a designer and working on the development cycle through to production rather than the design itself.
In industry there are a lot of technical skills you need and you are working with people in different countries - delivering technical information in specific formats. None of this is taught at college and university - but when I got to work in industry, I just slotted into the roles I wanted. I was lucky to find Roland Mouret, by the time I left I was Atelier Manager.
Burnout is very common in fashion. Overtime and weekend working is often required. Big companies do 6-8 collections a year, mid level 2-4 collections a year. The cycles are very intense. There are more conversations now about mental health and wellbeing and the industry is looking at how much they are churning out. Burberry are one of the global leaders in the sustainability conversation for fashion.
My advice to you
Do your research and try and speak to different people in industry as much as you can to find out about jobs in your area of interest. There are a lot of jobs in technical and production roles, as well as design. It’s a hidden area within education. At college you are pushed towards pattern cutting, but there are so many important skills to learn, like producing tech packs, lay plans, placement and engineering. Understanding all the roles in industry is so important.
If I was starting again now, I wouldn’t necessarily do an MA. I loved my time at London College of Fashion. I wanted to study there from when I was a little girl, so when they invited me to do an MA after seeing my degree show, I jumped at the chance but it was an indulgence and there was more design content than I really needed. I could have progressed in my career without it. I prefer to design by draping on the stand and I only learnt that on the job!
Use platforms like LinkedIn as much as you can to network and to understand developments within the industry.