katie roberts-wood talks transitioning from the lab to the runway
Katie Roberts-Wood is the ex-medicine student who’s one-to-watch this London Fashion Week.
Katie Roberts-Wood's entirely laser-cut graduate collection was a rippling success, winning her Collection of the Year and the Vogue Talent Award at International Talent Support (ITS) last year, and the Fashion Scout Merit Award this year, which means the former medicine student will be presenting at London Fashion Week for the first time ever this season. Like her parents, she began studying to be a doctor, but after realising that wouldn't satisfy her creatively, decided to quit, took three years out to practice designing and do a pattern making course, and then completed an MA in womenswear design at the Royal College of Art, without having done a BA beforehand. Clearly, those three years her peers had over her meant nothing! We get an exclusive preview of her spring/summer 16 collection, presenting under her label ROBERTS | WOOD at LFW this Friday, and get her advice for anyone else making dramatic life choices…
Why did you switch from medicine to fashion?
Medicine involves studying such a fascinating range of subjects. From anatomy to psychiatry to pharmacology, I feel so lucky to have had the chance to explore such a discipline. I had always been so creative from childhood and the desire to pursue this finally broke through. I realised I wanted to pursue a very different life to the one that would have been laid out for me as a doctor.
Was it a difficult decision to make?
Yes, definitely. The hardest decision I've made so far. I'd spent my whole life working towards the medical degree and becoming a doctor, so it was a huge deal for me to work up the guts to change from that path. I had to accept the uncertainty and risk of the future I was choosing, but since then I have realised I prefer to not have my life mapped out in front of me. That way, anything is possible.
How was it going straight into the MA without having done a BA?
It was intimidating at first but once I embraced the fact that I had a different background to everyone else, I realised I could use it to my advantage. It's useful sometimes to approach design from a completely different point of view.
What advice would you give someone who wants to make such a dramatic change?
I should say to think it through very carefully and weigh up the realistic options you have; that's the sensible thing to do. But actually for me it was very much a gut decision, once I knew it was what I wanted to do, I never doubted that it was the right thing, even though its been such a hard road since making that decision.
Describe your aesthetic in five words...
Images speak louder than words.
Tell us a bit about your design process...
I would describe it as experimental but technical. I approach fabrics as though engineering them, often building structural, textural or 3D surfaces from repeated shapes. I mostly look at unconventional methods of constructing clothes, often without using stitching.
How did it feel to win the Fashion Scout Merit Award?
The Merit Award was such an amazing surprise. It's a great feeling to have that kind of support and have people who believe in you enough to give you a platform. It's really an honour.
Which other designers do you look up to?
Although I don't look up specifically to one designer, I mostly love the aesthetic of Japanese designers.
Do you think 3D printing is the future of fashion?
Technologically advanced methods will definitely impact the future of fashion in a big way, but there will be much more than just 3D printing.
What can we expect from your collection with Fashion Scout next week?
There is definitely a different feel from my previous work, although my signatures are all still there. I would say its part of a continual evolution.
What advice would you give to fashion students just about to start their first year?
Keep your eyes and mind open!
Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
One of the reasons I didn't want to pursue medicine was so that I didn't know where I would end up! I don't want my future to be too planned, so I'll leave it open for whatever comes.
Text Felicity Kinsella
Photography Paul Phung
Styling Lune Kuipers
Hair stylist and make-up artist Florence Teerlinck using MAC Cosmetics and Bumble & bumble
Model Jessica Luostarinen at SUPA Models
Lace Bodysuit Kriss Soonik