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