Thursday, September 21The Voice of London

Studying Fashion: What’s It Really Like?

Voice of London talks to two BA(Hons) Fashion Design students to find out what it’s really about.

Reporter: Zynab Sandhu Sub-Editor:Jessica Penfold

When I think of working and studying in the fashion industry this quote comes to mind: “A million girls would kill for this job” – Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada.  Priestly is the perfect example of the stereotypical image of the strong, independent, competitive and glamorous women working in fashion.

It is true; the fashion industry is very competitive and powerful as shown in these flashy Hollywood films.  The British fashion industry adds an estimated £26 billion value to the UK economy according to the British Fashion Council and is the largest employer in the creative arts industry providing approximately 797, 000 jobs.  

We met two students studying BA (Hons) Fashion Design at the University of the Creative Arts in Epsom to find out what studying fashion really is like, is it all glitz and glam?

Both Shweta Vohra, 20 and Molly Sanford, 20, are both in the second year of their three-year course and both decided that they wanted to do a foundation year before starting the degree. “I think it helped me to decide which course to go onto. It wasn’t required but it gave me more confidence when applying to universities as I had the extra qualification.”  Here Sanford explains her reasoning for taking a foundation year.

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Fashion studios at the University of the Creative Arts (Zynab Sandhu)

A foundation year as Shweta Vohra explained, gives you the basic skills that are needed to progress into studying at degree level, “It really helped me, it didn’t teach me pattern cutting but it did help me with sourcing fabrics and design ideas.”

A typical university day for a fashion student is quite long, usually starting at 10am and finishing at 5pm.  Vohra describes her typical day at university: “It is mainly in the fashion studio, it will either be design work or sketchbook, sewing. Right now I am doing a tailored jacket project, so learning how to construct a tailored jacket, we constructed a half jacket then it will be making our toiles and doing our finals.”

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Shweta Vohra’s tailored jacket project. (Zynab Sandhu)

The stereotypical view of the industry is that everyone is super competitive. This can be the case at university too especially in the third year.  Vohra explains how there is the same vibe in the classroom: “In third year it obviously does get competitive. At this university we do a graduate fashion week and only 15 to 17 people will get picked to do the show, in my year there are about 60 people and only 17 will get picked, so it does create conflict and competition.”

However, she also said: “The stereotypical image seen in films, of the fashion student being really stuck up, that isn’t the case, it is the complete opposite, everyone is helpful, but obviously we all get our stressed out moments where we know to give each other space.”  Sanford also has had the same experience explaining that in the Fashion Design course it is less “catty” than the other fashion courses.

One thing that surprised me was the cost involved in studying a fashion degree. Vohra explains that the university only provide the teaching, fashion studios and sewing machines, “We pay for EVERYTHING ourselves, we probably only got the first thread and bobbin case free that was it. We have to pay for travelling to fabric stores nearly every week, for sampling, we have to buy our own threads, bobbins, unpicker, art materials, we even pay for printing. Last year for our final project I spent over £100.”

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Shweta Vohra’s final project men’s coat. (Zynab Sandhu)

The image above shows Vohra’s final piece from her cultural and ethnic project where she looked into the culture of the Mughal empire when they were ruling India in the 1500’s. This piece is a men’s coat. She explains how she had to research into the culture, find primary and secondary sources, doing stand work and developing design ideas. She explains how this has been her favorite project she has completed at university so far. Sanford’s favorite project was a contextual study where she looked into women’s clothing in the 1900’s.

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Mughal fashion

One thing that I really wanted to find out from the students was whether or not they had any regrets in choosing to study fashion at university. Vohra said: “I don’t have any regrets when I look back, obviously when I’m doing my work and get stressed I think to myself why did I pick this, but no apart from the expense it is good.” Sanford explained to me that her regret is picking Fashion and Design as her degree and wishes she chose one that centered more on merchandising.

Both ladies want to pursue a career in fashion with Vohra planning to work for her mum’s friend who works in fashion abroad near India, for a few months to gain experience and then wants to come back and work in London.  Sanford’s plans are to go into visual merchandising.

If you are looking to study fashion it isn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work and you need to be good at working under pressure. It is definitely not all glitz and glamour as the movies portray. You need to be prepared for the long days, sleepless night and spending a lot of money. “You need a strong motivation drive, if something isn’t going to plan you need to pick yourself up and carry on.” Vohra’s words of advise. Breaking into the fashion industry is hard but it isn’t impossible. “Work hard, engage with every aspect of your course and make the most of networking opportunities.” – Forbes.

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