"I was mentored and guided by some of the best tutors that I have ever known"
My time at the Manchester School of Art was extremely valuable. I was fortunate to be mentored and guided by some of the best tutors that I have ever known. I was given the freedom to explore my creativity and the opportunities to grow my design ethos. Even to this day, I draw on my experiences at MMU and apply this to my design practice.
While studying, I did a number of work placements. The first of which was at Jens Laugesen, a relatively small designer at the time, I was immersed in all areas of the creative process from pattern cutting to toiling and making up garments for the show. I employed all the valuable skills I had acquired at MMU when I was interning at Laugesen. Pattern cutting and sewing up toils and final garments was not alien to me, however it was all about context; I was applying my skills to the demands of the real world.
Of all the skills I gained at MMU the one I value most is the ability to refine and edit down my ideas. The more creative freedom I was given, the more my mind was stimulated - a blessing and a curse. I often had an overwhelming amount of material in my head but by working with the tutors at MMU, I found a process to make sense of this and come out with a focused concept and ideas. I had to get my head around ‘designing as little as possible' in order to not over-complicate my art; I still use this method of stripping everything back to allow my work to breath.
After graduating from the University in 2008, I was awarded the British Fashion Council MA scholarship award. I was interviewed by a number of influential fashion insiders including Anne Tyrrell and Christopher Bailey of Burberry. The award enabled me to go on to study a master’s degree at the Royal College of Art in the autumn. Christopher Bailey invited me to work as researcher reporting to the Creative Director at Burberry Prorsum and in 2009 River Island C.E.O. Richard Bradbury commissioned me to create a capsule collection, which sold out in just a few days. I was also selected by Umbro, in collaboration with the Royal College of Art, to contribute work for an exhibition in their concept store. David Sassoon appointed me Assistant Designer at Bellville Sassoon. My MA collection entitled 'She Smokes' was snapped up by Harrods as part of the Harrods Launches platform.
Students should understand how important it is never to limit themselves creatively. Even with the constraints of commerciality, I never allow myself to become a product of other people's thinking. I view creativity as a never-ending journey - you should not get too comfortable. You should always push the perimeters of fashion – question everything.
It is really important to gain work experience in the industry whilst studying. The transition one makes from university life to working in the industry can be tough and torturous at times. Gaining work experience makes that transition smoother for a new graduate, and the employer. You have to constantly reach out - be at the right places at the right time. Ask the right questions and network. It’s unlikely the job offer will land on your doorstep!
Collaboration is also very important. Whilst fashion and design in general are highly competitive fields to find jobs, do not ignore the fact that you could be studying alongside someone who could be valuable to you one day!
This is a tough one, mainly because I feel strongly that the fashion team at MMU are eclectic in their skillset each with their own specialisms. However, I have to say that one of my biggest inspirations - to this day – is Alison Welsh. Alison has the incredible ability to transcend so many different design philosophies while, at the same time, is able to see beyond the obvious. She helped me filter and refine my creativity and develop my own unique design handwriting that has helped shape my brand.
Being pushed to go the extra mile; to see from another point of view; to search for something more profound.