10 teachers’ tips for wannabe fashion students
For anyone anxiously preparing for an upcoming interview or daydreaming of a creative career change, these insights and pearls of wisdom could make all the difference.
Whether you want to study to be a fashion designer, writer, photographer, stylist, art director, archivist, trend forecaster, curator, or PR, there are certain common threads that can define who will or won't earn a highly sought-after place on a fashion-related course at University.
With this in mind, i-D consulted with ten fashion course leaders and tutors from a mix of well respected BA, PG Cert and MA level courses at colleges in and around London. Decades of combined experience and expertise means they can confirm those special qualities, skills and mindsets they are typically seeking from aspiring students.
Absorb their words of wisdom -- because this talented bunch not only teach within academic environments, but also successfully practice what they preach across the global fashion industry.
Fabio Piras, Course Director, MA Fashion, Central Saint Martins
"Why do you want it? What's the ambition? How interested in the subject are you really? Who do you think you are? What are you into and what makes you seriously tick? Do you have something to say? A fashion education will be the catalyst to help you formulate answers to the questions above. But if there is anything else you'd rather do: then you would be better doing that instead."
Hywel Davies, Course Leader, BA / MA Fashion Communication, Central Saint Martins
"Work hard, know your subject, be yourself, and dress appropriately. Make sure your social media is well considered and not full of selfies."
Judith Watt, Pathway Leader, BA Fashion Journalism, Central Saint Martins
"For me, it means being authentic, having an open mind, a fascination with clothes, whether past or present and to be original. You must too have a visual sensibility; even if you see yourself as a writer, without an understanding and appreciation of the visual you will be lost. Finally, for journalism, you should be a voracious reader. But all this is if you want to be the best."
Dennis Maloney, Course Leader, BA Fashion Journalism, University for the Creative Arts
"Knowledge of current affairs, basic knowledge of fashion terminology, knowledge of the zeitgeist, an awareness of the fashion cycle and not just of the four main fashion weeks, but the others as well. An awareness of fashion news and of designers -- not just the big names, but emerging designers, too. And you should know your subcultures, as well. You should be looking at magazines and not just the obvious ones like Vogue or Elle. And you should have good communication skills."
Andrew Tucker, Course Leader, MA Fashion Journalism, London College of Fashion
"What I'm looking for from applicants is creativity, ambition and a sense of humor. Someone who can surprise me, intrigue me, even weird me out. I'm not so interested in the conventionally 'cool' applicant who knows the right names to drop, although it helps that they're aware of them. Freaks and geeks are far more stimulating company. Overall, I think the two most important attributes I like to see are integrity and a desire to learn, but a sense of humor comes in handy -- you'll need one to work in this industry."
Claire Robertson, Pathway Leader MA / BA Fashion Communication with Promotion, Central Saint Martins
"They say a picture speaks a thousand words and having just gone through hundreds of applications for this year's intake of BA FCP, initially what I am looking for in the portfolio is something that touches me instantly -- I'm sorry that I can't really put that into words! I guess it's passion, whether quiet or wild. The 'pictures' don't necessarily have to be technically brilliant, but they must have something to say, a point of view, a personal vision, most definitely not trying to be fashion. As in the portfolio, I am looking for an individual and authentic voice in the applicant's written Personal Statement. Someone who is also able to articulate the cultural, social and political influences that inform their image making shows an understanding that (good) fashion doesn't just exist in its own little bubble."
Julie Verhoeven, MA Womenswear Fashion Pathway Tutor, Central Saint Martins
"My best advice is to be curious, have an opinion and vocalize it. Be vibrant."
Nilgin Yusuf, Course Leader, MA Fashion Media Production/ Program Director of Post Graduate Media Courses, London College of Fashion
"We recruit students with a first degree in any subject but who are motivated by fashion and hope to build their future in that industry. Ideally, this motivation should be evidenced in some way with personal work such as a blog for instance, portfolio, or work experience. At MA level, we are also looking for a specific focus -- an area or theme that really engages the candidate and that they would like to research with greater depth and rigor. Ultimately, I want my students to leave as distinctive individuals with some sound knowledge and research under their belts as well as a strong and fresh practical outcome which they can present to industry or start to develop as their own concern. So, I am looking very hard for a spark of this at interview; also someone willing to work hard, who is enthusiastic, curious, questioning, keen and has good interpersonal skills. It's about trying to find the ones with creative potential who are driven, mature and independent learners."
Rob de Niet, Senior Lecturer, BA Fashion Journalism, University for the Creative Arts/ Associate Lecturer, Post Graduate Fashion Journalism, London College of Fashion
"It's important to read as widely as possible -- not just the usual fashion magazines but about art, music, technology, subcultures, industry, current affairs... Fashion doesn't exist in a bubble and nor should you. Also develop some taste in terms of who and what you're looking at -- who is a great fashion writer and what makes their writing so brilliant? Get writing. It's easier than ever to put your work out there and if your writing's good, it will get noticed. Don't just write stream-of-consciousness word vomit though. Get out there, interview people, experience stuff, write about things that are happening."
Peter Jensen, MA Menswear Pathway Tutor, Central Saint Martins
"Be brave, be on time, and don't be a know it all."
Text James Anderson