Firstly, a huge congratulations on winning at Graduate Fashion Week 2019! What award did you win?

Thank you very much! I won the New Fashion Media Award.

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How did it feel when your name was read out during the show? 

It didn’t feel real at first, prior to the final I had a glimpse of hope that I may have won the award but thought it would never actually happen. Therefore, when they called out my name, I was beyond shocked. To think all my numerous breakdowns and my year of work paid off, it will be an unbelievable experience I’ll never forget.


Which university did you attend and what course did you study? 

I attended Birmingham City University and studied Fashion Business & Communications. They helped with putting together a portfolio and CV as a module in order to have our work prepared for leaving university and displaying our work to employers. My goal is to work within publications and organisations whom have a voice and social impact. There had been many students aiming towards a role in buying and merchandising and marketing and I do feel I would like to steer away from this and towards a more of a creative role.

….What is the most valuable thing that you learnt there?

I learnt about who I am and what is my strengths as they cover a range of roles within the fashion industry. We had covered modules such as trend forecasting, buying and merchandising and marketing and within that we learned creative skills such as the Adobe software and this is where I found something I love and want to explore. Moreover, as I am from Northern Ireland moving to a different country enabled me to become independent and discover who I am and what my interests are. 

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 Tell us about your story. What lead you to fashion and choosing that course?

I had done Art GCSE and A level and my teacher had encouraged me to explore fashion further in my studies. Within Northern Ireland there isn’t many options for fashion other than design in colleges and universities therefore I had found courses in England such as fashion business and communications. I did not know I had the potential to excel in the course I had chosen and also find something that was perfect for me. Choosing the course felt as if I was going into something blind and not knowing what was in store for me. However I am very grateful I had done so. 

What themes do you explore with your final year project?  And what do they mean to you?

I had explored the topic of female sexual health and the stigma surrounding sex education and women’s bodies which needs to be addressed to this generation through certain media channels such as social media and publications. Female empowerment was the underlying theme due to the male dominated society that we live in. As a young girl going through puberty, her confidence is lowered immensely and living in a society which sexualises a women’s body does not inspire these girls and their bodies. 

  

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Talk us through your final project presented at GFW. How did that come about?

 My final project was an online community called Pinkie which was a female sexual health organisation empowering, celebrating and educating young women and their bodies. A mobile application mockup was presented which was an education platform for young women about sex education, gave locations to nearby GPs and sexual health clinics and involved a chat room for users to discuss topics surround sex, health and bodies. A newspaper magazine was presented to the judges which included stories by fashion influencers discussing certain experiences such as; side effects to contraceptive pill and sexual assault. Interviews by female creators were featured such as illustrators and artists as they discussed their work and the topic of female empowerment. Marketing was displayed on boards showing the social media channels where influencers discuss the topic of sex education becoming this generations sex educators. Merchandise was given to the judges such as stickers and badges showing phrases such as ‘viva la vulva’ and ‘girls girls girls’. This work was all presented to show the brand image and the full concept of Pinkie. 

 

What sort of work did you undertake and how did you decide to work this way?

 A numerous amount of research was needed therefore questionnaire and focus groups had been arranged. In order to build a brand I needed seek guidance from industry experts therefore I had talked with the CEO of American sexual health organisation Talk Tabu. To present the media channels I had worked in Adobe InDesign for my magazine and Adobe XD for my mobile application. I decided to use the Adobe software channels as I am very skilled within these and enjoy it. 

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Describe the inspiration and concept behind your work. 

I was firstly inspired by the rise of women’s sexual health and pleasure as more women were becoming CEO’s of women’s sex toys. I saw an article in Viewpoint magazine which discussed sex toys that was more fitting to women’s pleasure such as the clitoris and also the brands in which are catering to sexual health and periods for women. I thought to myself there isn’t much awareness for women’s body and even education. There was a lack of sex education for girls and they’re right to enjoy sex. Being brought up in Northern Ireland and attending an all girls’ school, I was definitely not open to knowing a whole lot about my body which gave me a lack of confidence as I grew up. Moreover, I had suffered a traumatic experience where I was raped at 18 which also pushed me to this project and want to teach young girls and women who suffer and how to help. My concept began with thorough research into sex education, the porn industry and social media and its influencers. Due to the sex education curriculum being outdated by 20 years, this made me explore the reasons why we should fix this and how. The growth of social media had shown that generation Z responds to these influencers therefore making them this generations sex educators. My project is an online community for generation Z and the young women who need empowered and educated. 

 

Do you explore any political, social or historical notions through your work? If so, what messages do you hope to convey? 

I explore social notions such as women’s rights and equality in terms of their bodies which convey an empowering message and allow women to become as powerful as men in the world. I also investigate political in terms of lack of sex and relationship education. The government need to enforce a new type into schools as a different generation has come along with a vast development of the internet and social media. The message I hope to convey is change for the representation of women and the stigma surrounding their body. Also change within the education sector and help these young people learn as they will end up learning somewhere else and not in the most ethical way. 

Many say that the industry is undergoing a huge change, with sustainability, diversity and responsibility becoming huge themes. Do you have any opinions on these movements? 

I am glad there is a change within the industry, as it is one of the biggest, we need to ensure it is taken care of. I do feel the emerging generation Z have made the impact on this change due their advocacy aspects. I congratulate the brands/companies who have made the change to sustainability as the little things to help the environment will make a big change. However these themes can come across as just a trend as brands will use these to attract consumers but not to make an actual change. An example of this is when gay pride was due in cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Belfast and high street stores had used rainbow as a trend on their clothes but there was no sign of celebrating LGBTQAI within the brand. I am very thankful for the changes that are being made although we do still have to keep the themes going further to make a full impact. 

Mobile App Plans

Mobile App Plans

 How would you describe your personal style? What influences you the most?

My personal style would align with vintage clothing as I love thrift shopping and finding the best bargain and also it is a sustainable choice for people. I like to challenge mainstream clothing and put a twist on things. I am inspired by fashion I see when I’m walking about and also on online. I like to look chic and smart, but I also wear streetwear. As I am very visual, colour schemes are key to me in everything I wear. I am also inspired by my beliefs such as feminism, as I wear pink in order to take the power of the ‘feminine’ colour and put it in my favour. I also love to wear blazers and suits similar to the style of a working 80’s woman. I am mainly inspired by past fashion such as the 70s, 90s, 00s. 

How are you hoping your work will evolve in the future?

I hope my work will become a brand and make a change for the women’s sexual health sector. I hope to have collaborated with current sex educators and influencers on Instagram in order to portray the message about the lack of sex education and awareness of women’s bodies and pleasure. 

Where do you hope to be in five year’s time?

 I wish to be working at a women’s magazine/brand as a digital designer in London. I also see myself working on Pinkie as a side project and hope it has progressed further. 

 

Graduate Fashion Week provides a platform for fashion graduates to showcase their work regardless of the specific discipline. Which area of the industry are you hoping to pursue, and what informed this choice? 

I would like to work in the area of branding, digital media or online/print publication. I would like to also explore women’s organisations and brands such as gal-dem as they were my inspiration for my magazine which I displayed at GFW. These choices came from my love of digital design and using visual effects such as imagery, videography or illustration to portray a message of brand. My interest in visuals began in university when I discovered Adobe software. I had fell in love whilst using InDesign, photoshop and illustrator therefore I wish to stay in this sector and move forward creatively. 

Winning her award

Winning her award

What one thing would you recommend our visitors do whilst at GFW?

I would recommend they go around the exhibition and see the work graduates have explored. I remember seeing different types of themes through clothing, publication and photography which was interesting to see. Talking with the graduates about their work is something to do as you can explore their development process and their final project. The fashion shows are also something I would recommend as they are pieces of art on a body which is incredible to see. I remember getting goose bumps whilst watching the shows with the brilliant work the graduates created. 

 

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself in first year at university, what would it be? 

I would tell myself to explore the industry by asking tutors questions and reading magazines / books and using the university resources as much as I can such as the library and exhibitions. Moreover, I would say to explore outside university and go to art galleries or just walk around cities and observe. I would say to make contacts and connect with other fashion and creative students such as photography or design.  

 

What top five tips would you give to final year students? 

1.    Use university resources and act as if it’s your full-time job. The more effort you put in, the more it shows. 

2.    Discuss your ideas with friends and ask for honest feedback. Another perspective on your work will allow you to explore something you would’ve never known. 

3.    Look for inspiration on social media channels, you will discover a lot of what’s happening in the world as much as online. Also go outside! Go to art galleries, exhibitions or just walk around cities. 

4.    Collaborate and connect with people in different courses or graduates. They can contribute a little but it can help you a lot. 

5.    Be prepared to feel broken inside and out but ensure to take care of yourself and not to stress too much. Mental health should be your number one priority therefore speak to family, friends or a professional if needed. 

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR:

If you or anyone you know have been effected by the issues raised in this article, the following organisations maybe able to offer help and advice alongside many others. Whilst at university, you also have access to support from onsite councillors, so please seek guidance and help.

NHS Choices

Victim Support

Work portfolio by Ciara Neale

Work portfolio by Ciara Neale