A survey of students and teacher in schools, colleges and universities, carried out by the University of the Arts London, determined that art students are leaving school without the necessary skills and insight needed to study at a university or find a career in the creative sector. As a visiting fashion educator collaborating with schools, colleges and universities, I found this survey carried out by the University of the Arts London very interesting. I could never understand why secondary schools removed the domestic sewing machine from the classroom. I had a fantastic art teacher Mrs Leigh and a needlework teacher Mrs Stokes who saw my creative potential, they both encouraged me towards my creative path and although they are no longer here, I will always be eternally grateful to them.
When I attended London College of Fashion in the early 80’s I studied two courses: 2-year textile machine embroidery and 2-year fashion design, both of the course timetables were Monday to Friday, 9:00 – 5:00 pm. At the time there were no internships or work experience available with designers, I would have loved to intern with some of my favourite designers. We had no free time in-between the days, no study or reading week like students have now, don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining, I’m just comparing the difference with the timetable then and now.
Currently, student’s spend three to three and a half days on their course per week, there is not enough contact time with students and lecturers in the week to fit all the core subjects I did in this allocated time. Pattern cutting can be daunting at first let alone grading or draping on the stand, some learners found it difficult to grasp whilst others were fairly confident with the subject. Students now are often asked to purchase books on pattern cutting and draping to use in the class because of the short contact time with their lecturers to demonstrate the topic.
On my fashion design course students specialised in one area: men’s, women’s or children’s wear in ie: daywear, evening, bridal, lingerie, contour, knitwear etc for our end of year graduation collections. I combined leather with machine embroidery, machine knitwear, and millinery with separates for my men’s and women’s wear graduation collection. I was advised by my lecturers not to have so many areas of specialism, I had to convince them I could pull it off and it did pay off in the end. I was able to show future employers I was versatile in many categories.
Mum was a seamstress she taught me how to sew using an industrial sewing machine from a very young age, my dad was a cobbler who made the most amazing leather shoes in his workroom at the back of our home. I was surrounded by beautiful fabrics and leather so it was no surprise I love creating things in fabric and leather. I had a passion for many other creative subjects and I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with fashion designers over the years in nine different categories in my career.
I tell my students all the time they have to learn how to juggle and pivot to survive in the fashion industry! Employers are looking for people who are multi-skilled and talented, who are always on the top of their craft. If you’re presently on or entering a fashion course make sure you are learning as much as you can about the industry and the sector in and outside of college or university time. The fashion industry is very competitive, you have to be determined no matter what if this is what you want to do as a career.
If you are passionate about your job it becomes so much easier to do, so if your goal is to become a fashion designer (illustrator), learn how to cut 2D flat patterns, learn how to drape on a garment stand 3D (creative pattern cutter), learn how to make up the toile (maker/machinist) because you never know when all these skills will and you that job you always desired. You might not or won’t necessarily sew together a garment but this is useful when you discuss your designs and the making up a process to the pattern cutter or machinist. This makes you more versatile and more employable than a designer who just designs, sketches, illustrates only.