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A day in the life - Desiree Köster

The senior pattern cutter and studio manager gives an insight into her day running The Fashion Studio.

My day normally begins very early when my alarm wakes me at 5am, because we start work at 8am and I have my daughters - who are 17 and 19 - to get off to school and university. I know I’m going to be rushed off my feet all day, so I always make sure I have a healthy breakfast, something like muesli or yoghurt. I’m normally joined by my cat Toffee. He’s really cute and likes to come and sit with me every morning.

From my home in Kennington, south London, it takes me just under an hour to get to The Fashion Studio using the underground and DLR. When I get to work I start by making sure my team, which consists of three pattern cutters, two sample machinists and my assistant, are all clear on what needs to be done that day, delegating tasks and helping them with the work.

The Fashion Studio opened in October 2010 at the Knowledge Dock at the University of East London, and is part of Fashion Enter, which acts as a business hub for designers. The studio houses a 19m cutting table and we produce samples for high street retailers such as House of Fraser, etailers like Asos and high-end couture designers such as Lorcan Mullany.

We are at the stage before designs are sent to the factory, and what normally happens is that a designer comes in to see us with either their sketches or ideas, we then make a toile, they come back to take a look and see if any changes need to be made and then we make it into a sample.

We’re here to help designers develop their ideas for a practical garment. We normally have six different projects going on at any one time. Something for Asos may take three or four hours, but a dress for Lorcan Mullany can take a machinist up to a week to finish, so time management is essential.

Lunch doesn’t always happen but when it does I like to keep healthy, so I normally have a carrot, an apple and maybe some strawberries.

I’ve been in the business for around 30 years as a pattern cutter and sample machinist and I know garment technology inside out, which makes it a lot easier to teach the girls, and means that 90% of the time I normally know what the designer wants to achieve. It can be frustrating if something goes wrong, but there is no point in panicking when that happens because you have to keep calm.

You never stop learning and I’ve got machinists here from all over the world who each have their own specialities and skills. A lot of my previous clients came with me when I started The Fashion Studio, but I’m proud of how we’ve got it to the stage that it’s at now.

I normally finish at 5.30pm and if I’m lucky one of my daughters will have made dinner when I get home. In the evenings I unwind by painting or gardening. I like to get a good night’s sleep, though on busier days I’ve been known to fall asleep in front of EastEnders.

Salaries for this position range from £30,000 to £45,000 (estimate provided by CVUK and Bloom Retail)


2011 Senior pattern cutter and studio manager, The Fashion Studio

2007 Creative pattern cutter and workroom manager, Bellville Sassoon

2003 Creative pattern cutter, Ritva Westenius

2001 Creative pattern cutter and sample machinist, Virgin Bride

1991 Sample machinist and workroom assistant, Pineapple

1990 Sample machinist and catwalk assistant, Helen Storey

1985 Managing director, Lord Vettlös

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