This week we meet fashion design graduate Frankie Spry from UCA Epsom. Frankie’s final collection was inspired by her experience as a physical training instructor in the British Army, which she did alongside her fashion degree. Aesthetically, her menswear collection experiments with urban camouflage, while her conceptual focus revolved around recycling and salvaging materials otherwise destined for landfill. Frankie’s ultimate message is to encourage consumers to put down their phones and become weekend warriors.

What was the starting point of inspiration for your final project?

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Working as a Physical Training Instructor in the British Army alongside my studies, I am constantly surrounded by the uniform that serving personnel wear and have first-hand experience of the practicality that it offers. I wanted to be able to design a menswear collection which offered the same levels of practicality and functional design as this uniform but also looked cool.

From a young age, I have been interested in recycling and remaking anything I could get my hands on, and as it’s so relevant today, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how discarded garments, such as those no longer fit for purpose in the Army, are a valuable resource. I have been very lucky to have access and be able to source such garments and materials straight from my Army unit, I was even given a parachute! 

What does the final product look like?

 I have designed an eight-outfit collection. The University for the Creative Arts offers a unique branding pathway in the final year, so I will be producing two of these outfits whilst incorporating all the relevant branding material, creating a look book and high-quality technical packs for all the garments. Of course, this will also involve producing a portfolio.

How has it evolved from your initial ideas and what have you learnt along the way?

Although I had some initial design ideas to start with, I decided to use the surplus materials and garments I sourced as a starting point for the design process. I never expected to be gifted a parachute by my Army unit and this definitely influenced my designs in terms of what I could create with the vast amount of fabric that this fantastic resource offered. I also never intended to use my own print design in this collection but after finding a photo of an urban brickwork camouflage that will potentially be issued to the British Army, I was inspired to create my own.

I feel like I’ve learnt so much about the industry in this past year and through this project I have learnt the importance of trusting others and being able to hand over my work to them, for example through the manufacturing process and collaborations. This can be a hard and stressful thing to do but ultimately working with, and being able to ask others for help, is a very valuable skill to have. Finally, this final major project has allowed me to continue to develop effective time management skills. I believe this is one of the most valuable skills I have learnt through my work and studies; I rely on it every single day. 

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What is the message behind your project that you want people to take away?

I believe my collection, ‘Weekend Warrior’, is very relevant in contemporary culture; it is encouraging consumers to put down devices and venture out of the city and go exploring on the weekends. Producing garments that perform in both urban and rural environments was very important to me as it discourages fast fashion and encourages consumers to buy less but value the clothing they have more. As a result, creating the garments to be well-made and versatile was a must for me.

I am very passionate about demonstrating how we can create more with less as we have so many valuable resources which end up in landfill, damaging our environments. The production of new clothing is having devastating effects on our planet, so creating garments which have been remade from other unexpected materials is my small way of helping fight against a massive problem.

What is your plan once you finish your BA?

 I would love to work with a brand which has the same design ethos as me, I have a few brands in mind that I will definitely be applying to! I will also be continuing to work as a part-time fitness instructor with the Army and civilians when I can. These are my passions and I feel so lucky to be able to do them both. Ultimately, I would love to be able to start my own clothing brand, but who knows what the future holds, I just know I’m excited about it!