- Course: BA Fashion Design
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I grew up in the North of England with my Jamaican father and English mother, in a town with little ethnic variety. Since I can remember, I have been exploring ways to express myself through fashion, music and drama. Throughout my entire life I loved feeling individual; I have a real flair for creativity and always knew I wanted to explore a career in the arts.
What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?
I always had my heart set on getting into a Russell Group University. For some this isn’t important, but I set myself the personal challenge since not many of my family members had been to University, and I wanted to make myself and everyone proud. I knew a lot of people who went to the University of Leeds and sang its praises, so I was automatically attracted to the social life of the city. I am a very sociable individual and I love to meet new people and I had heard Leeds was a great University to do so. At Leeds University you can choose discovery modules completely outside your area of study and I loved this option as it enabled me to learn about another subject I loved and meet more people. I had been visiting Leeds with my friends a lot before University because it isn’t far from where I grew up, but I felt Leeds was far enough away from home to get the full University experience.
What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?
I knew I wanted to be a Fashion Designer since I was a small child. I used to be obsessed with the TV show ‘That’s so Raven’ and on reflection, Raven was my role model. Raven was a Mixed White/Black Caribbean Fashion Designer and I think seeing someone being a successful Fashion Designer on TV, visually similar to myself, motivated me to follow a similar path. I also have always felt fashion can be a tool for expression. I recently conducted my dissertation on how a political message can be presented through fashion design. With all the political violence we face today, I always wanted to explore fashion as an unassertive method of communication.
What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?
I love keeping myself busy and I am always looking for new research and inspiration. My favourite area of the course is the research and design development stage because I like gathering new information, looking at trends and selecting colours, fabrics and silhouettes. When I first started University, I was really nervous about pattern drafting/cutting (making the paper patterns for garments), because it is more numerical than creative. However, now this module is one of my favourites on the course because it is very rewarding seeing your 2D ideas transform into 3D garments and you have the freedom to design a collection you want. Another aspect of the course I am incredibly grateful for is the option to do a placement year/year in industry. This year was vital in shaping me into the designer I am today and gave me vast amount of confidence in my work. It also prepares you for a career after University because you already have an insight into the industry.
How well have your teachers adapted to the switch to online learning?
I was very sceptical about my course being online in final year, however my teachers adapted incredibly to working online. For example, we have been taught this amazing new software this year called Clo3D, and it basically illustrates your final garments on a virtual model. Since I'm near the end of my course I have been looking for future careers and I have noticed a lot of the jobs are looking for candidates experienced in Clo3D. I am beyond grateful my course adapted so well to being online and taught us this new software, because now I am confident on Clo3D, which will give me an advantage on my CV. We also have weekly feedback each week online, which is something I love because it keeps you on track and means you are constantly getting comments on how to develop your work. Moving digitally for my final year has actually been a blessing in disguise because now I'm a lot more confident working digitally on CAD, which will help future careers.
Tell us about a recent time a tutor exceeded expectations?
In my final year, the technicians who have assisted me in the sewing studio, have really exceeded my expectations. Because we are working during a pandemic, we could not access the facilities on campus, so the technicians made up our final garment. I had a very complicated garment that was difficult to explain how to make but my technicians/tutors went above and beyond to help me produce and understand my final garments. They really went the extra mile when I faced any complications, and I am also extremely grateful for their support when I contracted Covid-19. The stress of University could have become overwhelming but having constant support from tutors really helped me stay focused and feel more relaxed.
What has the (University/ School of Design) done to make you feel part of a community?
Leeds University has one of the best student unions, and these unions really help make you feel part of the community because there is always someone you can turn to and get advice from. I also really appreciate the weekly newsletters that get sent on email each week because they keep you updated on everything happening in the University. The School of Design are particularly great at making you feel part of a community. In first and second year there were occasional meet and greet sessions where we were provided drinks and food and everyone studying Fashion Design got together to socialise. It was an opportunity to discuss University work and make friends on the course. I found this helpful because but the older contacts I made from these networking sessions were great contacts when I needed advice, since they had previously been in my position.
How has the School of Design supported you in developing your career prospects?
The School of Design regularly send out newsletters with job opportunities and competitions which is really helpful to expand career prospects. Also, if you’re interested in participating in a placement year, there is a database offered by the School of Design with contacts including where past students have worked. You can email companies that have taken University of Leeds students in the past and ask them for any future career opportunities. I managed to find my placement through other students at University of Leeds/word of mouth, so having that sense of community at University really helps bring more career opportunities. The Fashion Design course was specifically great at setting me up for career in design because the work we produced was a similar process to designing in industry. When I entered my placement year, my knowledge of the design process was strong so I got a lot more out of my role.
If you are part of a society, what are you most excited about for when restrictions are more relaxed?
I was a member of the Snowriders (the ski society) because of their legendary ski trip. Unfortunately, last year it was cancelled due to the pandemic, so I wasn't able to go. But every year the University of Leeds offer a ski trip where you can learn to ski and snowboard. Being part of this society is a great way to meet people and the ski trip is a great way to spend time with your University friends outside of campus and get to know people in a new exciting environment. Although I can't go on the next ski trip next year once I have graduated, I'm excited for restrictions to be relaxed because it means the union will be open. Although it's not necessarily a society, the union has ‘Old Bar’ and ‘Terrace’ which in my opinion are two of the most entertaining places to drink and socialise with friends on campus, especially in the summer.
Which online events (if any) did you attend this year? What did you think of them?
Every week the School of Design offer a fashion forum, where someone influential in the industry talks to us about their experiences. This used to be in person but now with the pandemic is done online. I think this is one of the best aspects of the School of Design because it is invaluable to hear other people made in the industry, and it's a great way to ask any advice or questions to influential people and past students.
What would you say have been your main achievements this year?
My main achievement this year was definitely my dissertation. I'm not the best writer and don't usually write a lot of essays, so completing a dissertation was a great achievement for me because I really thought I would struggle with it, and I actually really enjoyed it. I spent my most of my time at University fearing final year because of the dissertation, but once you get started it is actually really enjoyable and once it is completed you have an amazing sense of fulfilment. I am also proud of every single student this year who is managed to work during a pandemic because it's not necessarily the easiest thing and I would definitely consider it an achievement. My biggest achievement throughout all of my time at University would be my placement year. I had the best year living in London and it really helped prepare me for final year, as I was a lot more confident in my work.
What has been the most surprising thing about coming to Leeds?
I think the most surprising thing to me about coming to Leeds is finding my best friends for life. It is so nerve racking moving to a new city alone, but if you just remember everyone is in the same position, you usually end gravitating to like-minded individuals to yourself. Another surprise to me personally is how much of a vibe Leeds is as a city. I underestimated Leeds before University, but I think a lot of the students at the University of Leeds are passionate about similar topics. I was also surprised how much of a voice you have as a student. You really can make your mark at the University of Leeds and stand up for what you believe in, and the majority of the time you will be heard and see a change.
What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?
In the School of Design in particular, we have great facilities for fashion design. We have a big studio and access to industrial machines which is helpful because you are experienced with this machinery when joining the industry. There are also great places to access online software, the School of Design have a Mac cluster and each computer has all the Adobe software built in. This is helpful if you are struggling to afford the software on your own computer, you can use the Macs for free. You can also visit numerous different facilities in the School of Design that suit your area of research. For example, facilities such as: knitwear studios, laser cutting, 3D printing and fabric printing are available to design students. You can really develop your knowledge of machinery at your own pace depending on what you are wanting out of your time at University. But if you make the most of the facilities on campus, it's a great addition to the CV.
What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies and which ones have you tried out yourself?
There are so many activities you can take part of outside of your studies and there is a lot of opportunity to find something that appeals to you. There are competitions you can enter which can help boost your CV and these get sent round by tutors and in the newsletters. There are also some amazing trips the School of Design offer, for example during my time at University, we went to New York and many fashion museums and exhibits. In New York it was an amazing trip because our lecturers had some connections within the industry, so we were able to get private tours of fashion museums and visit the DKNY head office to meet their designers. I really enjoyed this trip because you had a lot of freedom to explore New York but also took part in opportunities that you would only get on the University trip.
Did you take a work placement or study abroad year? If so, how did you find this experience and what have you gained from it?
I was extremely lucky with my placement year, I worked as a designer for a supplier and through the experience I met a lot of designers and buyers in the High Street fashion industry. I worked with companies such as: River Island, Topman, Urban Outfitters, Fat Face, Next, Whistles, White Stuff, ASOS and Collusion and many more. It was amazing way to network because now I have emails for all of these companies. I also was lucky enough to go to Florence and Paris during my placement year to visit fabric fairs and shows such as Premier Vision and Pitti Uomo. I got so much from my placement year and learned a lot that I can transfer into my designs.
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?
If I was applying again, I would still choose the University of Leeds. I love the balance between the academic side of fashion design on the practical side of fashion design because I think it gives you a rounded knowledge of the fashion design process. I also would say don't worry about not knowing too much prior to University because you learn it all from scratch. Looking back at my first-year work compared to my final year work, it is crazy to see how much of an improvement I've made over four years and that is a great feeling. I have also met a lot of different individuals at different universities, and everyone says how jealous they are of the community within the students at the University of Leeds. Even the small elements such as having Hyde Park locally to the students adds to the sense of community. Whenever the temperature is above 12 degrees you can expect to see students in the park, and in summer it is unbelievable.
What do you plan to do when you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed / you’re developing at Leeds will help with these plans?
After University I want to look into working for a more luxury brand. On my placement year, I got a lot of knowledge and experience designing for High Street brands, which I am extremely grateful for. I feel like my placement was a great stepping-stone to designing for luxury brands, and because I knew the direction I wanted to go before final year, I directed my final collections to include luxury and High Street brands. My overall dream would be to move abroad or have the opportunity to relocate in the future, and I think that has stemmed from the independence I have gained from my time at the University of Leeds.