Charlotte Parry DeBoltz
- Course: BA Fashion Marketing
- Year of graduation: 2023
What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?
I have always had a love of fashion and from a very young age knew that I wanted to study it at university but having come from quite an academic background and education, I realised that I wanted a course that combined both creativity and academia.
After taking textiles at A-Level, I discovered that I am not a natural designer so from the start I knew that I didn’t want to be involved in the physical making of clothes, but rather the branding, communication, and marketing of it. The Fashion Marketing course at Leeds was a perfect mix of creative thinking/visual communication and research to understand why fashion is sold the way it is.
Leeds was also one of the only Russel Group universities that offered a fashion marketing course as a Bachelor of Arts, which made it really stand out to me as I knew that I needed to be at a university that best reflected my skills and intellect.
The campus and Leeds as a city were also really appealing as it has a lot going on and offers an amazing student experience but doesn’t feel too overwhelming.
What aspects of the course do you enjoy the most?
I really loved the different perspectives that the course offers, and it allows you to be independent and take your degree in whatever direction you want. Not only do you learn about how and why fashion brands market their image, but also why consumers behave in certain ways, and how best to target them. There is theory and a bit of psychology involved which I found interesting because it opened my eyes to things that I never would have thought about had I not taken this course.
There are so many levels to marketing in the fashion industry, and the detail and execution of each step are so important in order to create a successful brand. The course also allowed me to explore personal interests through the optional modules. Aside from fashion, I really love history, so being able to take a 20th Century fashion history module in my second year was really rewarding for me.
The course is an individual experience for every person who takes it, and no two projects or assignments are the same, meaning that everyone graduates with a unique experience and set of skills.
What were your inspirations behind your degree show project?
My degree show project was a combination of everything I had achieved in my final year. The main focus was on my final project in which we were tasked with creating a brand concept that targeted a gap in the market. Having looked at overconsumption, textile production waste, and landfill, I created a brand that allowed consumers to make their own clothes at home, called ‘Stitch Planet’. The idea stemmed from existing brands like Hello Fresh, that send ingredients to consumers’ homes so that they can easily make their own meals with the exact portion size. I thought that if I could do this with clothes, then not only will waste be eliminated from the production process, but consumers will learn more about sustainability and be less likely to purchase from fast fashion brands.
The communication campaigns that I had to create in semester 2 involved an educational advergame, a pop-up workshop, and a brand collaboration to target younger generations. I also included some work I did for my styling module, in which I had to design a photoshoot for a heritage brand but reimagined for a modern-day audience. I chose to explore the idea of gender stereotypes within a heavily feminine brand, Chanel. I styled male celebrities in the iconic tweed skirt suit to change the perspective on what consumers have always associated Chanel with. This was a really fun assignment to work on as the fashion industry is so fast-paced and always changing, particularly surrounding gender ideals, so I thought it would be impactful to completely flip Chanel’s image on its head and style men in typically ‘feminine’ clothes. I also included some of the photoshoots I styled for Leeds RAG Fashion Show, in which I worked backstage to organise outfits for the models walking down the runway. I was really pleased with my work and it made me feel proud to see everything I had achieved in my final year at university.
What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?
Whilst the Fashion Marketing course does not require as many practical facilities as other courses in the school, there is a lot to offer in terms of support from the lecturers and faculty. The School also offers Adobe Suite for all students, as well as access to the Mac cluster which is really useful when working on assignments.
The support I received throughout my time at the University was outstanding, and I never felt I had to go through anything alone, particularly from my programme leader. If I ever had any queries or concerns about my work, or even if I was just feeling overwhelmed, there was always someone to answer my emails or just have a friendly chat with. I also found it good that any member of staff within the school is readily available to help you out, even if they are not part of your course team.
What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?
The list of activities and societies available at Leeds is endless, you can quite literally find anything you’re interested in! I think that sports in particular are very popular and rewarding for students who are interested in competing or for just a bit of fun and exercise! I had a really great time watching the varsity rugby final at Headingley Stadium, because it gives you a real sense of pride amongst everyone at the university, which is something I hadn’t experienced before as I had only been involved with my school.
The biggest extracurricular activity I was involved in was Leeds RAG Fashion Show, which is the largest student-run event in Leeds. The show takes place in the student union and involves students from all the different universities in Leeds, all to raise money for different chosen charities each year. I was lucky enough to be the makeup stylist in 2022, and a scene stylist in 2023, which I have to say were some of my proudest achievements at university. In 2022, I was tasked with designing the makeup looks for 100 models and managing a team of 20 makeup artists across two show nights, as well as working behind the scenes for 5 promotional photoshoots.
In 2023, my role was similar but this time I styled the clothes for the final scene in the show, and worked with local designers to bring my creative vision to life on the catwalk. The show gave me extremely valuable experience and knowledge of how a professional fashion show is run, and working amongst the hustle and bustle of it all, I learnt that it really takes a small village to run this sort of event! I would definitely recommend the show to anyone who is interested, (not just fashion students) as there several different aspects to get involved in, such as finance, marketing, sponsorship, sustainability, and styling. I have made some amazing memories and created work that I’m really proud of, and it will definitely give me a talking point in future employment opportunities.
How do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with your career plans?
My time at Leeds has allowed me so much insight and knowledge into the industry I’m hoping to go into. First of all, the course prepares you so well as everything you learn is based around the current fashion industry, and you get to grips with how quickly everything changes and how you can make an impact once you leave university. Every assignment is set to help you develop your ‘real world’ skills, like research, critical thinking, trend forecasting, marketing theory, understanding consumer behaviour, brand image and so on. Not only does this prepare you for a career in fashion, but marketing for any brand as you learn fundamental skills that can be applied to almost anything.
The environment at Leeds has also taught me that hard work and determination really pay off, and although it might be hard sometimes, as long as you try your best you will be rewarded. I also built some really strong relationships with those around me, including my tutors, which has helped me immensely with my collaborative and communication skills, and I’ve definitely learnt that you should never be afraid to ask for help because it will only benefit you in the long run.
Everybody at the University of Leeds is so different and we all come from different backgrounds, so it was really good to immerse myself amongst people I may not have spoken to had I stayed in my hometown. You’re also not going to get along with everyone you meet, and that’s okay! This is great preparation for the future because that’s exactly what the workplace is like, and you have to immerse yourself with different people and communities in order to get the job done. Had I not had these experiences, I might be feeling a lot more nervous about starting a new job.
What are your plans after you finish your undergraduate degree?
Currently, I’m thinking about many different options. I have a lot of interests within fashion and so at the moment I am just seeing what is out there for me. I’d really like to stay in Leeds and work here or in Manchester, with a fashion brand doing PR, social media, marketing campaigns, buying, or something along those lines! I know that I’d really like to get some more experience within the industry working for a brand I love, but recently I have been thinking about one day, returning to university to complete a PhD so that I could start teaching.
I’ve been so inspired and impressed by my programme leader, which is why I have started to think about this particular career route, and both she and my dissertation supervisor said it is something that I should definitely consider. The future is so unknown at the moment, which is nerve-wracking but also really exciting because I know that I could do anything and all I have to do is go for it!