Zhasmina Ivanova | Directories | University of Leeds

Zhasmina Ivanova

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I was born in Bulgaria to Bulgarian parents some 20 years ago, but we moved to Cyprus when I was still a toddler. I was raised in the sunny island and attended the local public school while taught at home the Bulgarian language and traditions.

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

I vaguely remember being 8 years old and telling my then primary-school teacher that, one day, I will study Fashion Design in England. No one really believed me and brushed it off as everyone in my immediate family assumed I will follow a more traditional career path. However, I have always loved art so when I saw the opportunity to enrol in my local technical and vocational school in the Fashion course I immediately took it. My Fashion path started at the age of 15.

The United Kingdom is a popular destination for Cypriot students. Big part of my friends’ circle was either already studying in the UK, planned to, or knew people here. After discussing my plans with some of them, Leeds drew my attention. Coming from a small town in an even smaller island, I am not a big fan of busy streets, tall buildings, and strangers. Despite Leeds’ huge size, it is defying the odds by offering a welcoming environment and friendly locals. The university campus’ location was a huge plus, as it is in the heart of the city and everything is within a walking distance.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

Fashion Design is a highly creative field with a lot of technicalities. I love the freedom to create and express myself while also considering and exploring shapes based on body proportions and shapes. Patternmaking is the part I consider most challenging, but also the most interesting. It is the process of transforming an idea into a real product which is when, I believe, the magic happens.

Being part of the fashion industry puts us on the front line of the fight against climate change. Being responsible for a big percentage of waste, I feel liable for the future of my planet and I am proud to represent and fight for a more sustainable future doing what I love the most.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?

Studying in a Russell Group University helped me explore a broader aspect of the fashion and design industries. Along with the given fundamental knowledge on pattern-cutting and design development, I had the opportunity to learn about research methods, marketing strategies, sustainable design and design throughout history. This helped me look at projects “outside the box” and implement unconventional methodologies that resulted in innovative and more creative projects. I am still in the process of finding myself and with the help of optional and discovery modules I learn and explore subjects I have not have a previous experience with. This results in all-around self-development and personal improvement.

How well have your teachers adapted to the switch to online learning?

Teaching staff was amazingly helpful during these uncertain for everyone times. I believe all of them went out of their ways to help students in their private hours by adapting the teaching materials, replying to frantic emails sent by stressed out students and simply being there as a friend when we needed to talk. Everyone is really understanding and are trying to help in all possible ways to help students while still maintaining a high teaching standard.

Tell us about a recent time a tutor exceeded expectations? 

During such difficult times there were plenty of occasions where tutors exceeded my expectations. But one of the recent ones is on a primary research project. For my assignment I had to conduct a participatory design workshop with both tutors and student. Despite the one-day notice, tutors happily agreed to participate in a two-hour long workshop. Everyone was very supportive and helpful and provided all data needed for the research immediately. Being very participant reliant, my research assignment would have been impossible without the help of the amazing staff.

What has the School of Design done to make you feel part of a community?

As a student leader I have first-hand experience with the School of Design trying to bring students together. This year’s response from both parties were extraordinary but more so from the School and the tutors. We understand that the School works under certain orders from higher stakeholders, but all our queries were heard and implemented. Along with the bi-monthly meetings between staff and students, the School organises online social activities that help bring different years and courses together.

How has the School of Design supported you in developing your career prospects?

I am doing a placement year next, and the School is very helpful and supporting. Along with the bi-monthly dedicated lectures, there is plethora of online support along with dedicated workshops and seminars. Attending the mid-placement presentations from current students in industry gave as an insight in their experience and connected us to fellow students.

What has been the most surprising thing about coming to Leeds?

Coming from a small, closed community, I would say the inclusivity and diversity of the student community. I felt very welcomed and was immediately able to connect with like-minded people. There is a place for everybody which allowed me to get outside my shell and go on the long journey of finally finding myself.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

The University of Leeds campus is huge but compact. There is a nice mixture of preserved old architecture and modern buildings. The lecture theatres are modern, big, and easy to access. The libraries are well equipped with study spaces for everyone. The School of Design is housed in one of the most beautiful buildings of the University. The preserved exterior, however, is highly contrasting the modern equipment the School offers. From multiple computer clusters and digital printing rooms to laser cutters and 3D printers, I cannot wait until things reopen and I am able to learn and use all the specialised machinery for my graduate collection.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

Leeds is great for hiking and walking in nature. Roundhay Park, Kirkstall Abbey and Tempal Newsam are just a few examples of amazing locations that are within a walking distance from the centre. The reliable bus routes make exploring easier and more accessible if you are not able to walk long distances.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

The University of Leeds offers way more than just broad knowledge on the Fashion and Design industries. It offers an inclusive community, a broad range of hobbies to pick up from and great opportunities for self-development.