How to get into fashion
So, I've been in the industry for a while now and although I am still learning I have some experience so I thought I would share it.
I don't know if it's still the case that everyone wants to be a designer. What the industry needs is more pattern cutters, makers and technologists. People who do these jobs are like gold dust and are so valuable. A designer is nothing without these skilled people behind them. Fashion design is not the only job in the fashion industry so please do your research before you set your path. Maybe getting experience as a pattern cutter would be more worthwhile for you before you venture out on your own. Also don't discount a degree/course in costume design. The designer Molly Goddard has costume designers on her team. As they have to make amazing costumes from different time periods and so forth they are taught things from a fabric technology stand point that conventional fashion designers are not. E.g garment finishing and structure.
Obviously you will need creative A-levels/diplomas to get on to a degree. If you don't have any of these then you'll need to get yourself on a life drawing class or design short course, build up a sketch book of your ideas and skills as this is what you're judged on. Computer aided design skills are also important. Unlike academic degrees which rely on grades art schools require an interview with you to look at your work and discuss your ideas. Having an academic A level such as English to fall back on is a good idea though.
I'd say it was worth it just for the life experience ( I had a bloody good time!) but I also know that a fashion courses along with the majority of art and design courses are astronomically expensive and to be brutally honest as an ex-alumni of a British fashion school which I won't name I'm not actually sure what I learnt. One thing it did give me however is a tough skin which you need in the industry as it's pretty brutal. Central Saint Martins is the best school currently, it won't guarantee you success but it will help you get through the door in a lot of places. Saying that, don't discount places like Kingston and Westminster both in the top ten best fashion schools globally* Manchester School of Art and Brighton rated 25th and 26th respectively are also good schools. Basically in Britain you are taught creativity and if you make it into an atelier/company well done you. I was never taught anything that would help me in the industry as far as business and running a fashion brand goes. Why? I don't know as these skills would have been a lot more transferable after university then being able to turn fabric into something pretty. As far as I'm aware this is still the case.
The best education I got was from my semester abroad at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. 60% of the actual business of fashion is in America. They are more conservative design wise but this is what sells. All fashion students were undertaking work experience at a fashion brand whilst they were attaining their qualification, which many of them went on to work for. I found their teaching methods to be a lot like secondary school in the UK. My technical skills improved greatly over the time I was there. The whole class gets around a table, we're shown something e.g pinning a seam and then we are asked to go to our tables and do the same thing after which we were shown the next step. At my school I was given a 6 week course on how to tailor a shirt. THAT WAS IT. That was all the technical skills we were shown over 3 years. I remember one of my first days in a draping class at FIT I was moved down because I wasn't pinning the proper way. I had been at uni for two years up to that point and I had no idea there was a proper way to pin. The depth of learning was also better. One of the classes I took was lingerie line development where we created a brand and designs and we had to present them as if pitching to a buyer. At the school I attended we were given a topic and we had to create collections around it. It didn't prepare me for anything. So my advice to you if you decide that you want to go to fashion school is don't discount schools in different countries. The Parsons school of Design, New York is currently rated number 2 in fashion school rankings. Schools in Antwerp and Finland are also in the top ten.
Possibly more valuable than the degree. Get as much work experience as you can. I know this is the top advice and is said so many times but it's true. I did a 3 month stint at a Notting Hill boutique in London which luckily for me was on the brink of releasing their first clothing collection and I was privy to everything so that again taught me probably more than in the first 2 years at uni. I didn't get a wage as such I was only given travel expenses. This is the problem with fashion internships, it is basically slave labour. There are some that pay though if you look hard enough but it will be around or below minimum wage. So if you're like me and don't live in London or New York etc you have to weigh up the cost and benefit. I was lucky enough to have family in the city so my main expense was food and entertainment which is still very costly. This was the reason I only did one lot of experience. I would have liked to have done more but I was sick of living out of my overdraft. Also, the competition is fierce. There are thousands of students every year fighting for a placement. It helps if you know someone in the industry or if you have gained some experience already. This is where going to Central Saint Martins comes in handy. I remember applying for an internship at Vogue and being told that there was a two year waiting list.
After all this obviously is when you start applying for jobs. Again it's a competitive market but hopefully you have decent design archive and experience to get you where you want to go. Please don't be discouraged as you will get a lot of knock backs but hopefully you'll get lucky. After uni I left fashion and tried different industries only to returned on my own and there's nothing wrong with that, it could be a path you take too.
I will update this post if anything else comes to mind for these two topics. The next blog will be about starting my brand(s). If you have any questions please don't hesitate to get in contact
*Rankings are from 2017 and are taken from the Business of fashion. Link to page here