We caught up with University of Leeds graduate, Charlotte Heley, to find out where she see’s herself in 5 years time, who and what inspired her 5 menswear collections and how the University of Leeds prepared her for graduation.

Charlotte designed her menswear collections using inspiration from Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and the retro beach setting for coach. Read how Charlotte used the pastel colour palette taken from Beate Gutschow’s work, to create a straightforward and relaxed Spring Summer collection with a delicate 70s touch.


How did it feel when your name was read out?

I was honestly so shocked, I was so happy! The whole experience was very overwhelming, but it was amazing to receive such positive recognition for my work and I am extremely grateful for the award. 


Which university did you attend, and how do you think they prepared you for graduation?

I attended the University of Leeds and something that Leeds is really good at is preparing us for industry. From first year we are given industry style briefs and our collections are always geared towards existing brands. We have a lot of freedom in final year to come up with our own concepts and inspiration but still design our collections for brands. This is great for interviews and having such a rounded portfolio gives me great confidence going into the industry. 


Describe the inspiration and concept behind your work.

My portfolio contains three main concepts of which 5 menswear collections have been built. Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet contains a number of interesting aesthetics. The gaudy religious motifs contrast the faded, shabby beach setting. These visuals provided me with the inspiration for 2, contrasting S/S collections. The first youthful, colourful and print-based for Golf Wang and the second a sophisticated but laid-back collection inspired by the retro beach setting for Coach. 

The second main theme comes from Brutalist architecture and the photography of Beate Gutschow. The framework and pastel colour palette of the concrete structures in Gutschow’s work have been translated into a simple and casual S/S collection for COS. A second collection draws from the bleakness of Gutschow’s photography to create a A/W menswear collection for Victoria Beckham. The collection has a subtle 70s influence, taken from the era where such architecture was most prominent. 

Iain Mckell’s photographic series ‘The New Gypsies’ provided inspiration for my final collection. Mckell photographed the culture for a number of years at their base near Stonehenge, the group were rebelling against a ‘Thatcher Britain’ and the mix of punks and hippies creates an interesting aesthetic. My collection for Gosha Runchinskiy draws from the punk aesthetic and also takes subtle influence from the groups involvement in the of rave culture of the 1990s.  


What would you recommend our readers do whilst at the event? 

Graduate Fashion Week is an amazing event and it was great to look at the amazing portfolios! But I would definitely recommend going to some of the talks the event put on, it is a great opportunity to hear industry experts in an intimate environment and ask questions- such a great opportunity! I loved seeing the shows too- amazing talent!



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What do you want to pursue now, where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

I am very excited to get into the menswear design, I loved my degree, but I am excited to begin work in the industry. I would also like to take a few months out to travel; but my main aim is to move to London and start working. In five years I would love to be in a successful head design role for a mid-range menswear company; with an aim to start my own label in the following years. 


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

I would just say to always enjoy what I was doing and not let things stress me out. Always try your best and don't be afraid to push yourself and take a risk.