At Graduate Fashion Week 2018, design graduates were given the opportunity to pitch their work to Henry Holland, in order to win a two week placement at Debenhams, in the graphic t-shirt department. Elizabeth Welland impressed the pop art designer with her prints, inspirations and concepts and was named the winner of the placement!
Having just spent a fortnight learning from the team at Debenhams and exploring her work, we caught up with the emerging designer to find out her tips for pitching in a short space of time, her opinions on sustainability and what she plans to do now.
Firstly, congratulations on winning a two-week placement on the Debenhams Womenswear Design Team! What did you pitch to capture the attention of Henry Holland and the other judges?
Thank you so much! It’s such an amazing opportunity which I never expected but am extremely grateful for. I pitched my graduate collection print and graphics work within my portfolio which was inspired by the iconic Television Test Card featuring the little girl and her toy clown. The elements of colour and stripes within this image sat really well with my overall concept and had so much potential within my print work.
How did you feel when you found out that you’d won?
When I found out that I’d won I felt delighted and so excited for the opportunity to work with new people on a new project. The whole process also felt surreal after meeting Henry Holland, whose work I’ve always admired, and it being announced in front of an audience by the Managing Director of Debenhams following an inspiration live talk at GFW Live.
Do you have any interview or pitching techniques that you found useful in overcoming nerves?
Interviews and pitching your work can be daunting but be confident in your work and proud of what you have achieved. By putting in all the hard work and long hours you will know your work inside and out, so your portfolio will reflect your journey and development throughout your final collection. When explaining your portfolio be yourself and show them what you have to offer and you hard work will definitely pay off!
What have you learnt about so far, during your time with Debenhams?
Debenhams has given me the chance to see what it is like to work within a company that sells on the high street. I have learnt so much from being in a real life working environment and the people I have worked with have been extremely supportive and have helped me to develop so much in just 2 weeks. I have worked a lot with Adobe Photoshop developing print graphics which has enabled me to learn so many new elements and techniques. I have also had the opportunity to develop my creative and design skills within a commercial brief whilst keeping in mind that it needs to work with Henry Holland’s brand style.
If you were to give our readers one thing they must do when they attend GFW19, what would you say?
GFW is a fantastic event to end your 3 years at university with as there is such a wide range of industry there excited to see what a new set of graduates have to offer. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so you really have to go open minded and optimistic. The advice I would give to GFW19 students would be to talk to as many people as you can. If you see someone looking at your portfolio on your stand, initiate a conversion, you never know who they are or what they are looking for. Also, take your portfolio to industry stands and see if you can show off your work, it may lead to something in the future. Plus, keep an eye on any extra opportunities as the week goes by. If I hadn’t gone up to the Debenhams stand and spoken to them I would never have found out about the Henry Holland interviews. It is amazing how quickly things can change after a 2-minute interview!
Which university did you attend and how did it prepare you for graduation?
I have just graduated from Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) and I have really loved my time there. The tutors and technical demonstrators are truly amazing people and have supported me so much in building my graduate collection and putting together a strong portfolio. There was also valuable guidance on constructing an attractive CV and advice on what job may suit you best. AUB has been an amazing place to study and has really inspired me creatively and provided me with so many skills I can now take forward into industry and develop further.
What influenced you to choose design as your career pathway?
Throughout university I have found it hard to decided what path I actually want to go down when it comes to finding a job in industry. As I enjoy so may areas of creating a garment it has been a difficult decision to choose between design, pattern cutting and construction. I personally love to be challenged creatively and want to develop my design skills further which is why I aspire to work within this department. I feel that choosing a career pathway into design would allow me to utilise all my skills I have learnt at university as it is important you know how to construct a garment to be able to design one!
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 believe that we all have a duty to our planet to be more responsible and considerate designers and consumers. With the fashion industry being the 2nd most polluting industry in the world after the oil industry, we are causing so much damage to our environment! There are so many new opportunities within the fashion industry today to be sustainable and more responsible without it limiting the design process. Designers such as Christopher Raeburn and Stella McCartney, and the high street giant H&M paving the way in sustainability and diversity within their design are becoming inspirational forces for us to follow. In addition, Lenzing, a sustainable denim company are supplying some wonderful denims to many brands, giving us the chance to wear a pair of denim jeans without wondering how much water was used to grow the cotton to make these jeans. More and more brands are implementing sustainable practices which will help to educate consumers to buy responsibly which will be vital for the fashion industry.
What do you plan to pursue now, and where do you hope to be in five years?
I am going to pursue every opportunity that arises and see where it takes me. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working at Debenhams and hope to have many more experiences like this in the future. I think it is important for me to continue to have fun with whatever I do next and be open minded when looking for something new. In 5 years time I hope to be happy and continue to be excited and creative with whatever I am doing which, ideally would be working within a design team.
Here at Graduate Fashion Foundation we send our congratulations to Elizabeth and look forward to seeing what exciting opportunities the future holds!