Although Lyle & Scott’s knitwear designer works for a brand based in her homeland, she believes in expanding her horizons.
What does a typical week involve?
It varies depending on the month. I may be out researching, delving through our archive in Selkirk, not far from Hawick in Scotland where the brand was founded, engrossed in the Central Saint Martins library in London or visiting exhibitions. I could also be abroad at yarn fairs such as Pitti Filati in Florence and Spinexpo in Shanghai, or visiting one of our knitwear manufacturers and investigating new capabilities. Most days I’m based in the design studio mapping out the new collection with my inspirations and seasonal yarns, preparing for a sketch or final range review, developing seasonal stitches and finishes or fitting prototypes. Most of the year the seasons overlap so much that I can be juggling a number of these tasks at once.
What task are you most looking forward to today?
Today I’m presenting the final knitwear designs for autumn 15 to the rest of the company, with the help of my knitwear product developer. It’s the first time the newly designed autumn 15 collection is presented in full and the first time the design team see all their research transformed into a fully segmented collection. It’s an exciting time.
How did you get to where you are today?
In 2005 I worked for [Italian-born but British-based] womenswear designer Milena Silvano, where I researched and sourced cottage industry manufacturers that were willing to work with small start-up fashion businesses and manufacture in small quantities. I built up a valuable knowledge of small knitwear manufacturers and their capabilities. At the time this role absorbed most of my day but I gained contacts and relationships in places I never predicted would be so valuable to my career. Following this I worked with the likes of Von Sono, Carolyn Massey, Stansfield and Christopher Shannon, consulting on their knitwear designs, development and production. This is one part of my career that has assisted in elevating me into the position I am in today.
What has been your career highlight?
Opening The Gentlewoman magazine to find model Stella Tennant wearing a key tartan knitwear piece from our autumn 13 collection - the first collection I worked on at Lyle & Scott. The imagery supported an amazing piece that addressed the future of Scottish manufacturing, looking at Hawick in particular, a topic relevant to Lyle & Scott’s birth, heritage and future.
If you could change one thing about your career path, what would it be?
I’ve learnt a lot about the value of self-publicity. Had I realised the importance of this in the earlier days, I think my career path would have been slightly different. The experiences, contacts and knowledge I’ve gained are all invaluable assets and conveying all of these strengths in a succinct and integral manner is key. You must always be proud of what you’ve achieved and realise your own self-worth.
Who is your mentor?
My mum, a little Scottish lady called Ann Cockburn from a small town in Scotland. She moved to Brazil in the 1970s to work as an au pair for a Brazilian family, all of which was arranged via telegram. This courageous move inspired me to move from Edinburgh to London and gave me the determination to follow a competitive career in fashion design.
What’s the best piece of advice she’s given you?
Go see the world, expand your horizons and never restrain your talents.
How do you see your career progressing?
Lyle & Scott is going through an exciting change right now with global expansion. I see my career taking the next step to design manager.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Get as much work experience as possible. You don’t really know anything about a career or the industry until you’ve worked in it, and no one will have learnt anything about you until you’ve worked for them. Your knowledge and contacts list are invaluable.
If you could work in another area of fashion, what would it be?
Creative direction has always interested me. I love the idea of consulting for a brand with the sole responsibility of researching and developing concepts.
- Salaries for this position range from £35,000 to £50,000 depending on the size of the business (estimate provided by Le Pont)
2012 Knitwear designer, Lyle & Scott
2010 Associate editor/knitwear designer, WGSN
2005 Consultant knitwear designer for Milena Silvano, Von Sono, Carolyn Massey, Stansfield and Christopher Shannon
2005 Launched own knitwear label, A Minute Silence
2004 MA in Fashion Knitwear, Central Saint Martins College
2003 BA Hons in Textile Design, Central Saint Martins College, London
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