how to get into fashion school
James Anderson, Associate Lecturer at Central Saint Martins, shares 20 ways to wow 'em at your interview.
You formally applied to your ideal fashion course a few months ago. You might have since been shortlisted, from among the many hopeful applicants, to attend an imminent interview at the college of your choice. This means you could have a decent chance of being offered a place there. With so much resting on the success of this interview, though, it's crucial to make it a positive experience in which you show yourself to your best advantage. After sharing 10 teachers' tips for wannabe students, i-D now offers the potential fashion talents of the future twenty tell-it-like-it-is interview tips.
1) Prior to the interview, re-read the Personal Statement you wrote as part of the application process, so it's fresh in your mind. The interviewers might refer to this statement during the interview, so you need to be familiar with whatever 'creative embellishments' and bold claims you may have included.
2) Remember to go to the toilet before your interview starts. You don't want to be squirming in your seat and focusing on bladder control during such an important occasion, do you? (The toilet could actually be an ideal private place to re-read that aforementioned Personal Statement).
3) Be punctual. In fact, get there at least twenty minutes before your allocated slot, so you can quickly grill other applicants about their experiences as they emerge from the interview room. Buying into the notion that 'fashionably late' will endear you to people whose daily 'to do' lists are longer than The Game's dick is massively misguided.
4) Switch off your phone and put it away. Students distractedly fiddling about with their phones during lectures and classes is a constant source of irritation to lecturers and tutors. Any aspiring student similarly doing so during their interview could be texting their way to oblivion...
5) Recognize that fashion designers don't just base their ideas and collections on fashion itself. They look at, read, watch and listen to tons of stuff -- music, films, art, architecture, graphics, technology, politics, science and so on. Immersing yourselves in these 'other things' will make you better at understanding fashion. Bring your interest in these subjects directly into the interview process -- talk about this stuff.
6) Defining yourself narrowly as a 'visual person,' as though you are above ever bothering to read or write, will cause concern among your interviewers. All students undertaking fashion-related subjects at degree level will have to successfully write essays, reports, and a dissertation of many thousands of words, in order to pass the course. Instagram can undertake none of these on your behalf.
7) Think carefully about describing yourself as a 'brand'. This seemed to become a 'thing' with applicants and students a few years ago, but has now thankfully fallen out of favor.
8) Don't assume that being merely aware of current fashion trends is enough. Anyone can know that stuff, nowadays -- it's flung all over the internet, it's a piece of piss. During the interview you should, if asked, be able to expand upon how those trends arose in the first place and why. You should be able to critique them. And, more importantly, you should be able to speculate convincingly about what is going to happen next.
9) Have you sorted out your social media? What does it say about your ability to create and curate a powerful convergence of image and text? If it's just a hot mess of drunk vacation selfies, or re-tweeted snaps of Justin Bieber's meat and your lunch or kittens, this is not going to induce a reaction of, "fascinating and insightful person -- definitely the future of fashion, we must have them on the course." Similarly, if your blog is little more than some links to other people's work, then what is the point? Only draw attention to your social media and blog during your interview if you have filled both with fresh, imaginative content.
10) Don't arrive at the interview with a hangover, reeking of stale booze and cigs, splattered with miscellaneous dancefloor gunge from last night's activities at Dalston Superstore thinking you can blag your way in. This approach might have worked in the early 80s, if it was accompanied by an inarguable talent and the suitably nasal-camp "nightclub voice" of that era. In today's more competitive climes, however, it will most likely be translated as, "this person will be off their face all the time and will never turn up to classes." (Having said that, a "lively" social life can, of course, add valuable fuel to your work as a student).
11) If you are asked a really straightforward question, such as "Which fashion designers do you find the most interesting?" don't blurt out, "That's a really difficult question!" because it isn't.
12) Think about what to wear to your interview, but don't dress in a way that is not reflective of who you really are. If bore-core is your usual style, it is pointless to suddenly try and pass yourself off as the inheritor of Leigh Bowery's laundry basket. If, by contrast, dressing like an tinsel-strewn Xmas tree is your authentic 24/7 activity, this will be noted and possibly appreciated if it's done inventively. If head-to-toe designer finery is your obsession, fair enough, but you should be able to articulate the work and ethos of your chosen designers. Whatever the "look," if you have nothing interesting to say, no amount of careful styling is going to cut it, anyway.
13) There is nothing wrong with feeling nervous before or during your interview. At least it shows you care.
14) Don't talk non-stop-and-really-loudly during the interview, or interrupt the interviewers and not listen or respond to specific questions you are being asked, in the belief this will make you seem "ballsy" or "a character." All mouth and no trousers is not a good look. (Particularly so within the context of fashion, where trousers are often Very Important Indeed).
15) Don't bring a takeaway coffee into the interview room: way too casual.
16) Engage your interviewers in a discussion. For example, if they ask you if you have been to any interesting exhibitions recently, tell them about what you have seen and liked or not liked, then ask them which shows they have seen of late. An interview should be a conversation, not an interrogation.
17) If you don't know the answer to a specific question you are asked during an interview, don't babble any old fashion bollocks just to fill an awkward silence. Suggest you return to that question later in the interview, then in the meantime mentally formulate a smart response.
18) Be wary of blabbing on about a love of reality TV or celebrity culture, unless you have developed some astonishingly original, never-heard-before theories about both. You are seeking entry to an academic establishment, not the Big Brother house or a launch party for Kim Kardashian's latest book about Kim Kardashian.
19) Don't confuse your obsession with shopping with a genuine interest in fashion-design-as-a-creative-process. The former could be seen as mindless consumerism. The latter requires a functioning brain. So, being good at buying things doesn't mean you will be a good fashion student -- make it clear you are more than just someone with a credit card.
20) Please, at all costs, avoid gushing about your "Passion for fashion!" This particular cliche makes everyone want to violently scratch their own skin off.
Text James Anderson
Photography Anabel Navarro Llorens