What's it like to study... Fashion

Fashion - glamorous and easy? No way! Pandora Howard-Griffin studied BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Development at the London College of Fashion

Coco Chanel once said that ‘Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening”. This is a mantra that I and many fashion designers before me live by. Creative inspiration comes from every experience and every day, no opportunity can be missed and no inspiration can be too obscure!

Working and studying in fashion often brings to mind scenes from ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ with menacing figures at the root of fashion houses or magazines that make decisions on the latest trends, which affect everybody whether they realize it or not. Working in fashion is a career that many aspire to. with glamorous ideals painted by the media. Everyone can and has to engage with clothes and whether you realise it or not, this plays a huge role in your life and how it maps out; first impressions are always important. Why wouldn’t you want to be part of such a huge and influential industry?

Certainly part of the stereotypes behind fashion are true; it is a competitive industry - each job opening one ‘a million girls would kill for’, which means that an ambitious and hard-working nature is needed to survive and thrive in an ever-changing industry. It’s true as well, that we get discounts from friends of friends with a network of contacts all eager to scratch one another’s backs! However I’m sorry to deliver the news that fashion is not simply glamorous – we just work with glamour, but some of it is bound to rub off.

My story starts with a foundation course at my local college in general art and design where I took classes in ceramics, textiles, illustration and photography to experience previously unknown aspects of the arts. I produced two collections, one on regency dress and the other inspired by Midsummer Night’s Dream, and gained a distinction from my initial year immersed in design.

From here the London College of Fashion was my first choice for my studies since the course BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Development combined the savvy sense of business with the practical knowledge of design and garment construction. For me, each aspect of fashion supports and makes sense of the others within such a dynamic industry. London is, and forever will be, one of the fashion capitals of the world and a designers’ playground. That’s why creative people gather here, and where my college, one of the best in the world for fashion, forms an amazing community under the University of the Arts umbrella. The myth that an arts degree may be easier than others is just that: a myth. Working in any creative industry is a lifestyle rather than simply a job. Once you’ve completed one project you’re on to the next. They overlap, and you carry it with you in your mind wherever you go. It may be hard work but it enhances the world and makes you who you are.

The course offered ‘live projects’, which meant working with clients such as Volcom and Kings College London to get industry feedback on targeted designs for a specific customer in mind. My year prepared a portfolio and prototypes for new NHS nurses’ uniforms, and Volcom commissioned a younger perspective on women’s sportswear. This was perfect training for eventually working for a brand where the brand’s ethos and customer profile informs the outcome of their collections.

The third year of the course is a year-long placement year to gain experience of the industry first-hand and help us to see which direction we might wish to follow both in or final year project and in our future careers. I worked at Mulberry Company Design for the full year as a raw material buyer for both sampling and production purposes. Mulberry celebrated its 40 year anniversary last year and still remains one of Britain’s most successful heritage brands. During this year, I was offered a part-time role in Product Development which suited my skills of being a creative designer whilst still applying business sense to every decision made.

Working three days a week at Mulberry whilst studying in my final year pushed me to start my own business, Make Fashion British, to unite young designers such as myself with manufacturers here in Britain. I graduated in July with a 2.1 and am now working at Mulberry which is a wonderfully friendly company with an extraordinary team. I have the opportunity to work on the runway collections and work backstage during London Fashion week, dressing the models and preparing the outfits to be viewed at their best. Famous names abound in the fashion world and I have rubbed shoulders with Jimmy Choo, Lana Del Ray and Anna Wintour to name but three.

I would recommend a career in fashion to those who appreciate beauty in design, are ready to work hard under pressure and understand that fashion is one of the world’s largest international industries that has moral and economic issues as well as being the glittering show-stopper on the cover of Vogue.

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