In our third year, each student is given a specific Mentor by our tutors as part of our Personal Development Plan. It meant we had to contact our Mentor who will be there for guidance and support during the process. I believe it is very vital as a new designer to have a mentor because it is essential that we know someone who can briefly tell us what one can expect after being a graduate although the lady from Paul Denicci who was meant to be my mentor with supporting and helping me through the process of my FMP never relied to my emails so I decided to find my own mentor – a designer from my work as currently I am working at a bridal shop called Abigail’s collection the Grooms room located in Colchester where I work as a bridal consultant and as an assistant in men’s wear with the Grooms room .
At Abigail’s collection we work very closely with bridal designer Lillian West and it would be my dream to become apart of their design team so I was encouraged to email the head designer Tony Mental and to my surprise me emailed me back straight away with a very long and inspirational, influencing email about his Role at Lillian west -being head designer of Justin Alexander ,Sincerity and Lillian West Bridal and how he got there with hard work and experience, He emailed about some of his previous jobs, experiences and educational which was so inspiring . Tony told me he had been head designer in his present position for 13 years which is purely bridal but that was perfect for me as one day I would love to be working in a designer team for bridal or women’s wear.
He told he that he found it really hard to get a job straight out of his degree as he didn’t have enough skills or any real experience – which is why work experience and placements are so important and which is why I’m am so glad that I have been able to have the opportunity of work experiment and placements over the years.
” I think many colleges don’t actually prepare students for the real life and skills of a job in fashion, I would say that doing work placements is a great way to see how the fashion business really works, but also what worked for me was to do a MA. ”
I found it really inspirational learning about his education and how he studied at the Royal collage of art , He was so helpful when it came to advice about further education for myself and talking about graduate jobs he also gave me amazing advice on the fashion /bridal industry , in how he thinks its better to be specialised and how it is better to be knowledgeable at one small area than to be skilled in many areas – just have one specific skill your good at and enjoy which I found surprising as we are always taught to have a wide variety of skills . But Tony advised its better to have very specific skills and design knowledge needed in one area but this is rarely teach at collages. He quoted its always better to have more skills in a niche area , as you are more than likely going to find that job and plus niche jobs pay better.
He told me how he learnt a lot by doing practical work placements and I spent months working for M&S in the factory which they then had in the UK making Bras (sadly a lot of this production is now in asia) but actually learning how production works and how things are made, taught him so much about design, fit, practicality.
he told me that he thinks me working in a Bridal shop will teach me a lot about the dresses, but he told me to learn as much as possible from the seamstresses about how the dresses are constructed
” If you know how a dress is made then you can design it better. you should also make your own clothes, if you start learning about flattering your own body, and what feels good to wear, you will also start understanding future clients. One thing students and many designers often forget is the person who will buy the product, most women do not have model proportions and think about your designs in relation to making and average 5 foot 4 size 14 girl feel beautiful.” – which is so true as you need designed gowns which will make a lot of body shapes feel confident
“I often visit shops and present the collection in store, and try them on real brides. Last weekend I was in Swansea and I had a girl who was 5 foot 2 and about a size 16, she had very little self confidence and was putting herself down, i found the perfect dress with lines to flatter her shape, which was nothing like she had believed she could wear, and she cried with happiness, because she felt beautiful.” which is what we get a lot at Abigail’s collection you need a dress that will make a women feel beautiful and confident which you do by learning the construction of a dress in the way its going to fit a women with the seam mines and proportions that will improve a body and which ones to detract.
He ended the email by saying if you are passionate about bridal or evening women’s wear design you just need to really learn as many skills as possible and he gave me a list of what he would expect from an assistant :
1.sew, both hand sewing and machine, I would want someone with min basic sewing skills.
2.eager to learn. someone who can take feedback and make it work.
3.fabric knowledge, you need to know what different fabrics are and how they move and sew.
4.drawing skills, able to show me what they mean through a detailed or quick sketch. be able to do drawings which would be clear for a pattern cutter to understand.
5.taste and style, it sounds simple, but know what you like and why.
6.knowledge of the past of fashion, read up, understand what has brought us where we are today. know your designers and what they did or do.
7. for bridal its all about decoration, so know about beading, different laces, embroidery.
8.personality/Charm, you need to be able to talk to people on sales events, dealing with customers and brides as well as people in the factories etc.
9.reliability, be on time, be energetic and enthusiastic, there is loads of traveling and long days, it is a lot tougher than you might imagine.
10. ability for abstract thinking, ie take a mood or several inspirations and mix them together to create something new.
11. computer skills, excel, photoshop, always useful.