Friday, 6 February 2015

PDP Report

As a year group, we have managed to raise a decent amount of money towards our final year expenses. This means that we can spend a bit of money to make our stand at Graduate Fashion Week and New Designers look top notch.  This year the focus at Graduate Fashion Week has shifted from garments on display to outstanding graduate portfolios, and how best to make the stand ‘industry friendly’ for employers to scout talent.  With this in mind, presentation of portfolios is even more important than before. To compliment the stand, I have managed to source some beautiful portfolios, handmade in England, which can be blind embossed with our name on the front. It is important to strike the right balance with the portfolios that will contain our work – not everyone wants the same thing, and so sourcing a portfolio that everyone is happy with is tricky. The portfolios from Hartnack & Co can be made in a range of colours, inside and out. In the end we settled with everyone having either a white, grey or black outer, and then everyone can decide on their own choice of colour inside - that best shows of their personality or goes well with their work. I think that gives the right balance of continuity and professionalism for the stand, with a touch of individuality.

Both Graduate Fashion Week and New Designers are an amazing opportunity to get noticed by industry employers. Typically, Graduate Fashion Week is generally more about garments and New Designers more about print and textile design (as well as many other design disciplines). Since I am specialising in print design and womenswear, both events apply equally to me. Having looked at the details of awards, there is nothing that feel that I could or should enter, generally, because my work doesn’t really match the criteria. However, to keep up to date with Graduate Fashion Week and New Designers I have subscribed to their email updates, and I am following their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds. During a lecture with Stuart Allen, a successful local businessman turned business coach; he suggested that we should also be thinking about how we can promote our end of year shows, and our work in progress. So that evening I set up a Facebook page called ‘Colchester fashion & Textiles – Class of 2015’ (separate to our class chit-chat page) where we could upload images of our work in progress and use hashtags to create a buzz. With all of us sharing it with our Facebook friends, it hit 200 likes in less than a week (Stuart Allen only has 16 likes on his Facebook page!). Melissa is going to set up an account for us on twitter too. Using the hashtags #GFW2015 and #ND2015, along with other relevant hashtags, on social media when sharing images might get us noticed too. I have updated my portfolio on my Artsthread profile, and have noticed that you can register your profile in a special Graduate Fashion Week and a New Designers section on Artsthread too, which might be a way to get some extra publicity if they like your work.

My tutors have managed to secure us a great venue for our catwalk show. Instead of a hall at the college, our models will be modeling our collections in Firstsite in Colchester. The building will be a stunning venue, and so we hope to get a video made of the show, which we can play on our stand at Graduate Fashion Week. Not only is it a great location, but Firstsite are going to be sorting out the ticketing, seating and a bar too, so that is definitely one less thing to sort out.

Initially, when I applied to do this degree, my plan was to go on to do a PGCE and train to become a secondary school teacher. But over the last couple of years, I have discovered that I do have a talent for design, and I want to try and get a job in the fashion and textiles industry first. After speaking to Sue Bailey from careers advice, she suggested that if working in the fashion and textiles industry it was something that I wanted to try, I should aim for that first, as teaching would be something that I could go into at a later stage, but it would be harder to switch from teaching to working in the industry. So I plan to put teaching on the back burner for now. So the job hunt begins. I have updated my Linkedin account with an updated version of my CV and personal statement, and have connected with several friends of friends who work in the industry, as well as my industry mentor, tutors, fashion & textiles alumni and Kate Wigley, the archivist at the Warner Textile Archive where I interned over the summer, and got on really well with.

Having the responsibility of a family and mortgage, I really need a permanent paid job, and ideally something local, which doesn’t leave many options. I would love to work at the Warner Textile Archive as their in house CAD designer, but unfortunately, they don’t have the budget to put me on the permanent payroll. There is Lavenham Jackets, Stephen Walters and Vanners Silks – all in Sudbury. There is also quite a lot of Colchester alumni that work for Paul Dennicci a babywear designer and manufacturer in Maldon, so these are companies that I need to target now, directly, to ask if they are looking to employ any graduates or whether I could intern for them over the summer. I also did some research on graduate training schemes before Christmas, and there was one for Florence + Fred at Tesco as a buyer. Although I hadn’t thought about being a buyer at all, the starting wages of £26-28K was appealing. But my sister said that a few of her friends started that way, and now hate it, but can’t manage to leave, because they have got used to the big salary, and after discussing my other options, she said she thought I should go for something local, in a smaller company, where I might have a better chance of moving up the ladder quicker.

In the past I have sold my designs and antique and vintage homewares on Etsy, Folksy and eventually on my own website. 17 years ago I used to sell handmade gretting cards at Camden Lock market every Saturday, and more recently I became an approved market trader at Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fairs, as well as renting a space at the Bocking Antiques Centre. However, all these ventures have been unsteady sources of income, and I think now I have the confidence to begin a design career, and work my way up the ladder within a company.

To promote my work in the run up to our end of year shows I wanted to set up my own website. Not necessarily to sell things, but just a place I can upload my CV, portfolio and a contacts form, which I can direct people too on my business cards. I have decided to choose a Wordpress site - at the basic level, it offers an easy to use format for building a website. However, as my confidence grows in web design, it gives me the opportunity to tailor make my website, having complete control of the design. Because of the money we have raised to fund our end of year shows, we should be able to afford a professional looking brochure. Last years graduates opted for theirs to be printed on newsprint, as they had a very small budget. But they were disappointed with the result. Because of the dull colour of the newsprint and the matte surface texture, it didn’t show their photoshoot images in the best way. We don’t want to make the mistake of spending over a grand on chip shop paper! Personally, I am going to pay the extra to get my own photoshoot done for my whole collection. After doing some research on Grey Gardens, and professional photoshoots inspired by Grey Gardens, I am really excited to use my vintage collecting/hoarding habit to create an amazing backdrop for my garments. I have spoken to Diamante (alumni, part-time tutor and my ex-employer) and asked her if she would photograph my shoot for me, which she has agreed to and is really excited about as well. We work well together, and I know she will give me good guidance, whilst still listening to what I want from the shoot. I just need to source a fantastic plus size model.

A lot of Graduate Fashion Week is about exciting, pushing the boundaries, avant-garde fashion – something that is definitely not my style. So I don’t expect to high in demand, ‘the one to watch’ or even win any prizes. What I do know is my designs are wearable, and most companies employing graduates want them to design wearable clothes for their company. Neither do I expect to storm the show at New Designers, I think students that are more textiles than construction based stand a better chance of wowing the judges and employers with their large ranges of sampling. However, one of my strengths, is digital print design, and I am accomplished in creating seamless half drop repeat prints, which are the most difficult to design successfully. Also I have improved my illustrator flats to a very high standard, with lots of detail. Although I personally have a love of craft and an appreciation of the skill in hand-making, in today’s fashion and textiles industry, these skills are required less and less. It is CAD design that is taking over. Knowing how different dyes react, and what pigments or binder to use is important to learn to give you an understanding of printed fabrics and what can be achieved. But the majority of print designers won’t carry out those processes in their day-to-day job. Most of their time will probably be spent on their Macs, and luckily for me, that is where I am most comfortable.

I hope that my vintage aesthetic and my utilisation of the personal archive I am collecting give me the edge with someone with a similar passion. Speaking with print designer, Grace Dear, (alumni) she remarked that using vintage or antique print design as a reference for a print collection is one of the best sources you can use – as, if it is old enough, the print design general won’t be under copyright. So it is much safer (legally) to use a vintage paisley scarf as a starting point for a new paisley design, than the paisley design that you saw down the catwalk at London Fashion Week for example. She said that her role as a print designer for the high street means that the high street stores are always looking for print designs that follow the catwalk trends, therefore, its always handy to have lots of different vintage print styles on hand to reference when designing. I am also hoping that my decision to design a plus-size collection will make me stand out from the crowd, especially as there is a recent flurry of media attention surrounding the plus-size fashion/modeling industry, with the likes of the first fashion glossy Slink magazine launching in November last year and the first so-called plus-sized super model “Tess Holliday” being signed to Milk Model Management.

10 companies or brands I would like to work for:
(a mixture of dream and reality)

·      Anthropologie
·      Monsoon
·      Collectif
·      V&A
·      Paul Dennicci
·      Warner Textile Archive
·      Vanners
·      Paul Smith
·      Bora Aksu
·      Ulyanna Seergenko

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Pre-Collection Evaluation

I have really enjoyed this module as it gave me the opportunity to final write, and work to my own brief which meant I could utilise my personal archive of antique and vintage found objects as inspiration in conjunction with contemporary digital print design. I also decided to feed, some the research that I carried out for my dissertation, into this project. Which made it very personal to me, and I hope that that is reflected in my work overall. Making the decision to make my collection in a 16 rather than the standard size 10, reflects my personal perspective and questions the conventional viewpoint of the fashion industry. This is an issue that I studied during the Diversity Now! 2014 project that I worked on last year.

 At the beginning of the module I attended a talk on "Fashion Design Research' at the Fashion & Textiles museum in London. It was very useful, and helped me to get back into the frame of mind for studying again after the summer break. I tried to keep the tips that we were given in the course in mind throughout my sketchbook, by continuing to feed new research along each step, not just at the beginning of the project. I also use draping on the stand which I documented photographical, instead of sketching out ideas, as I find it easier to work in 30 when doing construction. As well as secondary research, I carried out a lot of independent research in this project, including visits to the V&A Clothworkers Centre, Warner Textiles Archive and Hodson Shop Collection. Here I studied, up close, garments and textiles that are not on permanent view to the public.

 For the first time I was able to create CAD repeat print designs and send them off to be printed digitally, as in previous modules, this was not part of the brief. It is something I have always been keen to do and develop, and (thinking about the future after I finish this course) digital print design is something I can do as a freelance job from home, and fit around my family commitments, and the only equipment I need is a Macbook and my collections of beautiful antique and vintage objects. I am happy with my final printed fabric lengths, but I feel that I could develop them so much more. Perhaps if I had focused on print design rather than construction as well, I would have had more time to develop them, but I suppose that that is the purpose of this module - to experiment and create starting points that we can develop more deeply for our FMP. Something I must remember is to print out more stages of the design process whilst on Photoshop, as I don"t feel that I have evidenced these stages enough in my sketchbook. When Jess Baily came to show us her FMP work from last year, she had an annotated digital print design file, and I think that that should be something I should collate for my FMP. 

It really surprised me how long it took me to draft, cut and construct my toile for my maxi-dress. I suppose I could have made it less complicated and more roughly, but I wanted to practise some of the techniques that I want to use in my FMP, and I felt like I was a little out of practise after the summer break (as I had spent a lot of time on the computer working on digital work for the Warner Textile Archive, and not sewing). Completing the toile, having the photo-shoot, and evaluating it, has helped me to consider how to design better in my FMP, but has also proved that my thinking behind the garment shape and design with regards to flattering a fuller figure was right. One key issue that I discovered was how much fabric my design used -- 6m, which is a lot. Considering it cost me just over £90 to have two metres of fabric digitally printed, times that by 3, then times that by at least 6! I will have to rethink this for FMP, either reducing fabric in maxi dresses, or using the digitally printed silk more sparingly.

 With regards to me keeping to my original brief, there has been some changes. I had planned to toile two outfits and produce 4 digitally printed fabric samples - but through the process this changed to one dress and 6 digitally printed fabric samples. I had also planned to practise some decorative darning methods, which I didn't manage to achieve. I can see that I under estimated the time that it would take me to make my toile and design my prints, as it is not that I haven't spent enough time working on this module. I have been committed to coming in to college at least 4 days a week and working at my desk and in the sewing workshop independently, as well as going on many field trips to carry out research.

 I hope that I have a presented my ideas and concepts to a professional standard, evidenced in my portfolio, exhibition layout and photo-shoot and final outcomes, and that I have been selected to compete for the Nicola Abbot award. Unfortunately, 5 days before hand-in my macbook crashed in between ordering a new hard drive (to replace broken one) and it arriving in the post, and all files on my hard drive have been lost - diagnosed by the mac technician. Not only did that mean that I lost my most of my work (I had some files on usb and some already printed out) but I also lost two days last week whilst I was in limbo, that should have been spent designing my portfolio and finishing my illustations. My technical flats on illustrator have been lost and I have not had the time to redo them before hand in, and my requestion for a deadline extension, was denied because technical faults are not considered. So that does mean that I hand in this module not as complete as I would like, or normally submit, which has been a disappointing end to an exciting module.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Professional Fashion Textiles Practice Final Major Project Brief


Produce a womenswear collection of 6 outfits that can be worn layered together or individually. The collection will include:

2 x evening dresses
2 x transformable jersey tops/dresses/skirts.
1 x wool blanket coat
4 x extra-large, hand-rolled hemmed, digitally printed scarfs.

My final collection and portfolio will demonstrate my skills, to future employers, in CAD print and garment design, and my skills in garment construction.

Aims and Objectives:

I intend to produce a womenswear collection that combines contemporary fashion construction and CAD print design with historical influences. I will achieve this by utilising my personal archive of inherited antique and vintage textiles, ephemera, haberdashery, and china. Both physically, in the construction of the garments, as well as inspiration for print and laser cut designs.

I will combine my collection of antique textiles, garments and haberdashery with modern fabrics and techniques, remaking them into new garments, that can be worn layered or individually.

I will consider the contemporary issues that I feel strongly about: Diversity, feminism and fast fashion in my work, through deeper thinking of my research in my sketchbook and personal journal.

What will you research?

I need a fresh influence to be able to develop some of the themes of my pre-collection – Nostalgia, Collecting and Adaption.

I remembered watching the Maysles brother’s 1975 documentary, Grey Gardens, a few years ago and was intrigued about the deteriorating lives of the American socialites - Big and Little Edie in their East Hampton Mansion. I will revisit the documentary and watch the 2009 film that sets the documentary and lives into context, as well as reading more about them.

To support this secondary research, I will unearth some of my own inherited and collected antiques & ephemera, which I think represent a similar thread to Grey Gardens.

I will document my response to this research using words, photographs, drawing and painting. I will then reassess if there is anything else to research further into.

Working Methods:

  • ·      Photograph, paint and draw from primary sources
  • ·      Use of CAD for print designs using imagery from primary research
  • ·      Use of CAD for technical drawings
  • ·      Draping on the stand and drafting from blocks to produce design ideas and garment patterns.
  • ·      Machine and hand sewing for garment construction.

Materials and processes:

  • ·      Beaded antique garments and vintage textiles, lace and haberdashery.
  • ·      Digital fabric printers (Silk Bureau, &Digital, Lacuna Press)
  • ·      Pre-dyed silks (Beckford Silks)
  • ·      New Fabrics (The Silk Society, Borowicks, Fabric Godmother)


My women’s eveningwear collection is designed for autumn/winter ‘15, and is cut to flatter a fuller figure. Due to its incorporation of original vintage textiles, the collection is comprised of high-end one-off garments, which can be combined with transformable jersey separates and accessorised with a range of luxury scarves that can be reproduced to order.

My target consumer is a woman with an eye for detail, a love of vintage clothing and an appreciation of fine craftsmanship. Her style is feminine and classic, but with a quirky, contemporary edge. Beginning to grow out of the fast-fashion high street, she is looking for beautiful clothing made with integrity that she will love and treasure, and others will covet.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Fashion Design Research @ Fashion & Textiles Museum

Yesterday evening I attended a lecture at the Fashion & Textiles Museum. It was based around Ezinma Mbonu's new book, Fashion Design Research, and she was joined by four other speakers: Erika Trotzig, Christine Yai, Tom Pike and Gemma March, who discussed how they began their research for a collection, and how they prefer to carry out and present their research.

Because it was almost like an informal discussion, it was interesting to learn that they all had different ways that they preferred to work, but there where common points that kept cropping up, that they were all in agreement with.

  • Inspiration can come from both a positive or a negative reaction you have to something. Quite often, if you question why you don't like something it can lead onto other things - making you more curious. Curiosity is key to researching, as it draws out ideas different to what you already know.
  • Research can never be too broad, but it is important to edit your research down into what will be relevant to your final collection. Think of your work like a funnel shape - with the research at the widest point and the final outcome at the narrowest point.  Sort your collated inspirational imagery, text, sketches, objects, etc. into key areas of shape, mood, colour, texture/fabrics, etc. onto a pin board. Anything left that doesn't quite fit should go (even if you love it - you can file it away to use in a different project).
  • From your research, you should have some initial ideas, but to generate more design ideas it is important to keep going back to your research and analyse it. Also look back on what you have done particularly well in past projects and question how you can evolve it. Research isn't separate to your design process, you need to keep going back to it and question it, draw from it, experiment with it. Discuss you ideas with tutors and peers, and make a note of the dialogue.
  • Dealing with a creative block: Do something different - take a walk, listen to music, talk to a stranger, go to the library and pick out random books, listen to the news.

When working this year, I will definitely make good use of my pinboard in the visual spider diagram way that was recommended in the talk. Be able to move the images and text about will help me to keep making connections and continue to edit my inspirations and research. Having the board in front of me all the time will help me to keep analysing my research and refer back to it during my design process. I must remember to take regular photos of my inboard too, to record the progression of my work and so I can look back on the changes I have made along the way.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

Following three interviews in the last two weeks, I have been offered placements from them all. A paid internship one day a week for the whole year at Lavenham Jackets in Sudbury, voluntary work pattern cutting at People Tree in 2-3 days a week in Brick Lane, London (Travel expenses paid), and 2 days a week (flexible) at the Warner Textile Archive for the summer (5 mins drive from my house).

Although it was amazing to be offered a paid internship, if I accepted, it would have meant a commitment to Lavenham Jackets for the whole year - not just through the summer, but throughout my final year - and I just felt that it would be too difficult to balance it with my studies and my family.

During my interview at People Tree, it was really interesting to learn how, because of their commitment to ethical fashion, the relatively 'low-tech' way they communicate with their manufacturers abroad. The placement would be unpaid, but they would pay for an off-peak ticket from Braintree to Liverpool, which is more than most companies offer, but they do want me for 3 days a week, which might be difficult to balance.

Finally, my interview at the Warner Textile Archive went really well too. They were impressed by my cad skills in my portfolio, and were interested on how I could develop their product range for the archive gift shop, as well as working as an archive assistant which is really exciting! Although the position will be unpaid, the archive is only about 5 minutes drive from my home, and they have said that I can stick at two days per week and work the hours that fit in with Ella, which is great news.

I think I have decided to accept the placement at the Warner Textile Archive, as it is more flexible and closest to home, so makes it more achievable to work there for the whole summer. Also the WTA is a place I have wanted to work at since I moved to Braintree, so it is wear my heart lies.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Work Experience and Internships

Deimante Meilune

I am currently working as an intern for Deimante Meilune one day a week, which I am really enjoying. My duties have included so far hand-embroidery, pattern cutting, toile construction and alterations, manipulating prints on photoshop, visual research, and helping out on photo shoots.

Lavenham Jackets       Orla Kiely for People Tree     Collectif

I have an interview for a paid internship once week at Lavenham Jackets this wednesday, and I am in the process of arranging work experience over the summer break: pattern cutting at People Tree and archive work at The Warner Textiles Archive. I am also in communication with Collectif with regards to some possible work experience.

Warner Textile Archive

So I hopefully am on my way to having an interesting summer-break, gaining some valuable work experience in both textiles and fashion. I hope it will also help me to narrow down what I would like to do after yr 3, as I am still not clear on what career path I want to pursue in the near future.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Warner Archive Textiles Fair

Last year, I had a great day at the Textile Fair run by The Warner Textile Archive in Braintree, and I was not disappointed this year either!

Not only do they have lots of traders with stalls selling fabrics, textiles, yarn, and books. But they always have a good selection of free talks from experts in their field. I attended all of them and a free store tour (Inside the archive itself).

The production of Burnished Indigo in minority south-west China - Martin Conlan
Batik from Java - Diane Gaffney
Textile Conservation in Practise - May Berkouwer
WW1: Fashion in Conflict - Katy Conover

I made some great contacts. May Berkouwer has invited me to visit her lab/studio in Sudbury during June, Katy Conover has given me her email address and has offered to help me with my dissertation and I also introduced myself to the Archive's Archivist, Katy Wigley, who I am in talks with to hopefully get some work experience at the archive itself. All in all, a productive day - and right on my doorstep!

Monday, 28 April 2014

Dissertation Preperation

Our lecture today was aimed at preparing us for our 3rd year dissertation. Interestingly, the advice we were given in the lecture from Dr Jeremy Spencer (delivered to the yr 2 art students as a whole), differed somewhat from the advice given in our seminar (delivered to our yr 2 fashion and textiles class afterwards).

Dr Spencer was keen to advise that our dissertation is meant to be an argument and that we need to write with a purpose, and that the title should always pose a problem that your dissertation should solve. There was also some really good tips about dissertation structure.

In our seminar Jackie gave us some good tips too. The difference between an essay and a dissertation,  where to get ideas for deciding on what your dissertation will be based on, and how to make a start.
She was keen to emphasis that we should write about something that we love and are passionate about, and that it doesn't necessarily have to pose a problem.

I know that the 3rd year will be really hard work next year, and I will struggle to balance my uni work with my family life. So I MUST use this summer - not just for internships and work experience, and giving my house a much needed sort out - but write the 1st draft of my dissertation, collate a decent sketchbook of work for my pre-collection and have done a few experimental toiles. This way, I can start the new term on a role.

I have a few ideas mingling around in my head about what my dissertation might be about, but nothing firm in mind. It will very likely be about historical clothing, and I am more interested in working class women and the making of textiles and clothes. For example, I often pick up hand made vintage aprons and pinnys at car boot sales, and they all sit in a suitcase under my bed. When I look at them, I wonder about the woman who made and wore it, there is something evocative about them to me. This might be a good social and cultural thing to look into and I could probably look at it from a feminist angle too.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Jean Paul Gaultier @ The Barbican

After spending my birthday submitting my personal philosophy essay,  I decided to spend my birthday weekend visiting the much talked about Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Barbican.

What I really loved about the exhibition, was like the Paul Smith exhibition, you where able to take photographs and videos of everything (I had a very dead battery after two hours!). You could also get up very close to the garments and try and work out how they were constructed. Also the size of the exhibition was huge, so I think there is something for everyone really - definitely a must-see!

Although Gaultier's garments can sometime be a bit outlandish to me, I admire his use of historical and cultural references throughout his collections. He also has a strong emphasis on craft. His use of muses also drew parallels with my own experience during the Diversity Now! competition.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Woman's Hour Fashion Special

Celia Birtwell; Grayson and Philippa Perry; Breton stripes

Jenni Murray talks to Celia Birtwell about her passion for print, textiles and her career in fashion.

We discuss the difference between clothes and fashion; why is it that we form an emotional attachment to some clothes and throw others out?
Grayson and Philippa Perry talk about the wardrobe they share with Clare, Grayson's alter ego.
Fashion historian Amber Butchart and Melanie Rickey examine the enduring appeal of the Breton Stripe.
And we ask why do so many of us adopt a kind of uniform, wearing the same colours and styles, day in and day out?