Style challenge

Kelly Lupson, 23, graduated with a fashion degree from the University of Westminster
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The Independent Online

I started off in college doing art and design and just through various projects touching on fashion I became interested in it. I looked at all the courses in London, seeing as it’s the UK’s fashion hot spot. I couldn’t get into university on just my A-levels as a lot of the courses required a foundation course.

So, I decided to do a foundation – which lasted a year – at the London College of Fashion, and I got sponsorship to do it. After that year I applied to universities and ended up enrolling on a three-year course at Westminster. It’s been a long process but it goes extremely quickly – you don’t really realise how quick until it’s all over!

Over the three years of the course you deal with both the technical and the design side of fashion, while also making contacts within the industry to do work experience. You do the business side of things as well and look at the history of fashion. You submit coursework every six to eight week and you’re assessed on the individual project that you’ve done. Projects are given up to 15 credits and to pass the year you have to get 120 credits. You’ve got your thesis in the third year too – I did mine on punk fashion, looking at subcultures within punk and its influences.

In your third year it’s up to you what you do, finding your own style, whereas in the first and second year you have set briefs. Some of the time you’ll have people from the industry come in and set you a brief, so you’re actually working with designers and people from different areas of fashion, which is interesting.

We had a work placement module where I worked with the designer Alexander McQueen. I found the company’s contact, gave them a call and explained my situation – it really is a case of just putting yourself out there. It was all very professional – I had to take along a portfolio but I was only in my second year, so obviously what I had to show them wasn’t up to the standards they’re used to, but they were understanding and took me on.

I went with them to Paris – they have quite a few students, so getting to go was based on a selective process looking at how we’d performed in the previous month, and they said they’d love to take me. I said, “Go on then, if I have to!”

The last module is a double module based around Graduate Fashion Week – you’ve got to create a collection that could be shown there. Creating clothes for the catwalk is always in your mind but this is the project that really prepares you for it, in the sense that you are actually designing and making a whole collection rather than odd garments. It’s the whole package, because you’re also thinking in terms of merchandising, how you put the collection together and the feel of it.

At Westminster they do a selection process about three weeks before the show, and that’s based on how each student’s collection will work together as a whole – they don’t put people through on the merits of their individual collection. It’s hard but it does prepare you for what the job is like, and it doesn’t affect your degree in any way. We’ve all got our degree marks now too so that’s all out of the way – I got a 2.1.

Recently I’ve been signing up with fashion agencies, going for interviews and things like that. I’ve been working part-time for a bit to get some money together. Your student loan isn’t enough by itself when you do a fashion degree – you need savings of at least £2,000 to £3,000. I’m also constantly working on my portfolio because I think you can always make it that bit better, in terms of jotting something down if you think there’s something that can be done differently.

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