Going into graduation year of fashion school, ampoule I’m in that sickeningly reflective state of mind. I’m remembering the first time I stepped into class along with the first evening of panic and hysteria running up to the first deadline day. It’s all very vague because since then a hell of a lot of things have happened for me at The London College of Fashion.
Specialising in Womenswear, I didn’t really know anyone who had studied it there before I started. I was experiencing so much anxiety, worrying about everything from my choice of clothing to my time management and if my ideas would be understood by tutors. The industry has a plethora of egotistical and unhealthy stereotypes around fashion students and tutors and I needed to know to what extent these were true.
If you’re starting, re-starting or thinking of applying to study a fashion design course or just at fashion school, I’m going to try and use what I have learnt in order to attempt to reassure any doubts. If you’re none of the above, still stay tuned as I would like to clear up some of those lovely stereotypes we so regularly have pinned on us.
I’m gonna keep this one simple.
I was so protective of my work initially but as soon as we started, tutors reassured us that we could take action if designs were copied. You have to promote your work and share it in class in order to gain an audience, feedback, opinions and input from other creatives. If someone does copy and gets away with it then just discuss with someone who understands your aesthetic and decide how you wish to act. BUT, most of the time it is best to just keep quiet then produce something even better.
At school I never trusted the quiet ones and the late ones were never taken seriously. However, I have learnt this is not the same on my course at fashion school. Take people as they are and try not to assume. They might be late cause they were putting in extra work the night or had an interview with a magazine.
In times of self-doubt, remember you were selected from many to be one of the few to study this course. Fashion schools in London are extremely competitive and sometimes it’s a great confidence booster when you remind yourself you have just as much right as anyone else in your class to be on this course in this amazing establishment. Comparison will always take away part of your self-confidence but you must remember you can’t measure worth that easily when the work is creative and subjective. Focus on your own brand.
No, seriously. Whether you finish your work for the day an hour early or have a 30 minute train journey to a fabric store. Read that next chapter in your book, have that bath, meet that friend for a quick juice, Facetime your significant other. Time is so so precious, especially when you are studying a course you are expected to live and breathe.
Make friends with the machine technicians and the weekend staff, write down all feedback when talking to your tutor, bring more work than they expect for a critique. However, it must be stressed that you cannot forget your own design ethos. Your tutor should have your best interest at heart but sometimes you have to use your own judgment on design direction because your preferences will differ. They, however, could have the one connection or tip that makes you, so hold tight and stay on the grind.
All the diet coke drinkers, coffee addicts and chain smokers do exist at LCF but one thing I’ve learnt the hard way is that when studying fashion, health is wealth. I repeat HEALTH IS WEALTH. To be able to keep up with the high demand of work and long list of deadlines, you NEED to do your best to stay healthy. Sleep is a must. All-nighters can happen but in moderation and not consecutively. I would advise you take multi-vitamins and zinc in particular for your immune system and make sure every day you’re downing plenty of water. Food is also something that you cannot forget or skip. Find things to eat on the go but make sure at least one meal a day you stop what you’re doing to eat and let it digest properly. Exercise when you can, I recommend the Nike+ Training app for short workouts you can do at home. You need your energy and your health. Exhaustion can be prevented whilst working hard, trust me.
Experience, experience, experience! Whether you’re a dresser, pattern cutter, assistant, part-time or whatever, just make sure you’re seeking and accepting opportunities, your CV will blossom with every company you add and your knowledge with it. Make yourself available but do not let people take advantage. If you’re working for free, make sure you are firm about your availability and any other jobs and responsibilities.
We will all be a dresser or backstage at a show at some point but don’t be disheartened if you miss out on fashion week, you’re working towards your own show.
It is great to have friends on your course as they will have understanding if you can’t do dinner one night because of extra work etc. Also, if you want to spend time catching up but also need to get started on an essay (YES we write essays at Fashion school) then you can kill two birds with one stone and do it together. However, don’t spend too much time together as you may be at risk of over influencing each others work. Just be smart, you’ll know when it’s enough time together. You barely have time to yourself so you definitely don’t have time to see and catch up with lots of friends. Keep your circle small and a circle which is understanding of your priorities who won’t take offense if you cancel plans and make sure they support your aspirations. I thought I didn’t have any time for bullshit before uni but now I REALLY don’t have time for it.
One last tip.
Enjoy it as much as you can because before you know it, you’ll be going into grad year and realising it’s definitely time to adult and whatnot.
Written by Jessamy Mattinson