In talks with Graduate Fashion Week manager/tutorMonday, 06 June 2011
FU: Which parts of the design course do you oversee? HC: The whole process really from research to concept development all the way to production and execution.
FU: Over the years how do you think the industry has changed and what differences do you notice in final year students now? HC: For students, the industry has become a lot more placement led. Generally, by the time students graduate, they have already worked in the industry for 6 months or so. I think this is a really positive move and, perhaps, why, over the years, the course students I have taught have become so much more organized and professional. I do see, however, how consumer and commercial led the industry has become. Ideas are not so innovative, but more about what will work – I think this means students today must be more computer literate and adept with photoshop and design software.
FU: Talk me through the assessment process for the catwalk show. HC: We look across the aesthetics of the whole year group. In early May, each student shows us 4 outfits for assessment processes. We select ones that will fit to create a good balance in the show. This year, there is a good selection of diverse directions; work-wear, clever cutting, semi-layering, eclectic use of fabric, and colour technique.
FU: And there is also a focus at this year’s event of creating interest and awareness of other sectors of the industry... HC: Yes I think it’s a great step. I think there was a time when colleges where just churning out students into the design industry – now I definitely think there is a move to broaden skills, whether that be into marketing or buying jobs.
FU: And talk me through some of your success stories or students who have gone onto do great things... HC: UEL students go on to gain really good positions in the industry. That is our USP. We don’t necessarily produce only high end design students but work across the board including on a high street level – for instance, a couple of alumni went onto take up womenswear positions at ASOS. Notable graduates that come to mind include Bunmi Koko, who is now on the third season of her own label and getting really good reactions from press and buyers, and Lucy Johnson, who has gone onto gain a lot of press for her menswear.
FU: What do you most like/value about the British fashion industry? HC: I am proud of the fact that Britain is the number 1 high street shopping destination – with visitors from around the world. Our industry is full of so much creativity – we are still leaders in design.