The womenswear designer at short-order brand Lavish Alice got her foot in the fashion door thanks to a Topshop internship.
What does your typical week involve?
There’s really no typical week - we are always working towards the range so work varies across one to two weeks. At the moment we are doing lots of research, looking at images of catwalks and street style online, then bringing everything together. After that stage, we review the results and pull out the styles we like.
Next, we sort and select fabrics, which involves more research that is followed up with testing. This involves the problem-solving process, where we troubleshoot any issues we may have with the fabrics.
What task are you most looking forward to today?
At the moment we are at the designing stage, which means a full day of designing for me - which is great. We do two stages of
designing for our spring and autumn collection, which is delivered in three drops. At the moment, we are working on the second drop for high winter 14. So it’s about translating all that research into a design.
What tasks do you wish you could postpone?
Probably liaising with the factories. There can sometimes be uncomfortable conversations, especially if we are not happy with their progress. We work internationally so we have to keep in mind the time differences and keep them in check for deadlines. Often we have to be on their backs to get samples in on time.
How did you get to where you are today?
I knew I wanted to design from a young age. I studied art and textiles at Widnes (now Cronton) Sixth Form College and did an art foundation course at Carmel College in St Helens, where I specialised in fashion design, followed by fashion design at Manchester School of Art at Manchester Metropolitan University. It helps to know what you want to do early on, so you can work towards that.
I then did an internship at Topshop head office where I worked alongside the designers. After that I became a personal shopper at Topshop, where I developed a commercial eye for what the customer wants. You can pick out what you like from the fashion magazines, but it’s harder to know what the everyday girl wants and pulling a capsule range together. I worked as a junior designer for a supplier called Influence, supplying soft separates to retailers such as New Look, Primark, Bank and Asos, before starting at Lavish Alice.
What has been your career highlight?
Last week my first collection for Lavish Alice went online with Asos. One of the designs - a powder blue cropped mini dress - sold out in the first week, which was incredible and a career highlight. The dress is made of a super-soft scuba fabric with a neat high neck and double-layer detail with split back and a visible silver zip.
Who is your mentor?
I don’t think I have one, but I’ve always been inspired by Victoria Beckham. She made a transition from one career to another through hard work and now she is recognised as a credible designer. Her collection has brilliant commercial success and she also shows at New York Fashion Week, which is a huge achievement.
How do you see your career progressing?
I’m very lucky to have landed at Lavish Alice, which is a small and close-knit company. At the moment I’m happy to stay here and play a part in building the brand and to share in its success, especially as we are now looking towards how we can grow the business in the future with one way being growing internationally. We are in talks with an American agent, but it is very early days.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
You have to know what you want to do and focus on it. You have to be willing to work out of office hours, because no one is going to give it to you on a plate. You have to stick at it and knock on as many doors as possible to develop contacts. Then, you also have to have confidence. When you’re a graduate and starting out with no experience, there’s so much competition. You have to believe in yourself to make someone else believe in you.
If you could work in another area of fashion, what would it be?
Probably styling. I like thinking about the complete look. Perhaps I got this from my background in personal shopping. It would be fun to create looks for shoots, thinking about the head-to-toe style and engaging with the customer to see what they think.
- Salaries for this position range from £25,000 to £34,000 (estimate provided by CVUK)
2013 Womenswear designer, Lavish Alice, London
2012 Junior designer, Influence, Manchester
2011 Personal shopping assistant, Topshop, Manchester
2011 Intern, Topshop head office, London
2011 Graduated with a BA Hons in Fashion Design from the Manchester School of Art
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