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A day in the life - Sabrina Emami

Beyond Retro’s technical designer started out assisting high-end designers but feels more creative on the high street.

What does a typical week involve?

Currently, I’m researching trends and street style for spring 15. We’re always thinking about how to transfer trends into wearable designs, creating a new look or reworking a vintage piece. The fabric is sourced from vintage clothing, so there’s a challenge in production - every piece is unique.

What are you most looking forward to today?

We’ve got a meeting with the vintage buying team to discuss spring 15 trends. I’ve created my own trend and street style research, and they will have done the same. We will think about how we can work together in terms of what is available in our warehouses that will fit those trends.

What activity do you wish you could postpone?

Every Monday we have a meeting with our manufacturing unit to discuss the quantities they have made over the past week. They might not have made the quantity we need, so it’s all about difficulties they’re having and pushing them to make more.

How did you get to where you are today?

I graduated with a BA in fashion design. At Graduate Fashion Week, River Island noticed my portfolio and offered me a job as print design assistant. While there, I produced a printed jerseywear range of my own. As I’d done internships at Erdem, Alexander McQueen and Giles Deacon, I was keen to get back into working for the luxury market so went to work for new womenswear designer Julian J Smith as design assistant and studio manager. That taught me a lot about range building and designing show pieces.

I then worked part-time for various designers, settling with digital knitwear designer Brooke Roberts as assistant designer and pattern cutter. While working part-time in the Soho branch of [vintage retailer] Beyond Retro, I got the chance to become technical designer, which was a good opportunity to cover a multi-product range.

What has been your career highlight so far?

Travelling to our manufacturing unit in India, working with the team there, and getting to see a different culture and how they work.

We travel to India three to four times a year. Our last trip was in March, and we’re on our longest gap between visiting now because of the weather.

If you could change one thing about your career path, what would it be?

I’ve worked in luxury and high street brands across print and garment design. I did enjoy high-end, working with the best fabrics and quality finishes, but I see more of a future in high street in terms of how I can be more creative.

Do you have a mentor?

Beyond Retro’s production manager Claire Price taught me the best ways to communicate with our manufacturers to achieve results. She’s really helped create a structure within the design process and always strives for better outcomes. She’s worked for Radley, Ben Sherman and quite a lot of designer brands, and has experience of working with factories in India and across the Middle East.

What’s the best piece of advice she’s given you?

She taught me how to design in a pyramid. The core range will always be the biggest range, at the bottom of the pyramid, making money to support the high-end. High-trend designs at the tip of the pyramid won’t be made in as large a quantity, but it’sstill key to have them.

How do you see your career progressing?

I will look to still work as a designer in the high street, eventually progressing to senior designer within a young brand, and a role where I can gain responsibility within a brand that suits my style.

Do you have any advice for someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Be a sponge and absorb as much information from as many opportunities as you can. Working in a big company is a bonus when you start, because you can understand the structure and transfer those skills into a smaller brand or your own business.

If you could work in another area of fashion, what would it be?

I love drawing, so it would probably be as an illustrator or print designer. I like designing my own prints and drawing in my spare time - I have a website for my designs at

  • Salaries for this position range from £28,000 to £35,000 (estimate provided by CVUK)


2013 Technical designer, Beyond Retro
2012 Design assistant/pattern cutter, Brooke Roberts
2010 Design assistant, Julian J Smith
2009 Print and jerseywear design assistant, River Island
2009 Graduated Fashion Design BA Hons from Northumbria University

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