We caught up with designer and alumni of Birmingham City University Elina Pagett, to find out about her inspiring journey since showcasing her beauty pageant inspired collection at GFW17. Now working as a designer for H&M in their home country of Sweden, Elina fills us in with all the wonderful opportunities that encouraged and assisted her move to Stockholm, and beginning a career in her dream role.
CONGRATULATIONS ON GRADUATING AND SHOWCASING AT GFW17! HOW WAS THE ENTIRE EXPERIENCE FOR YOU?
Thank you! GFW was amazing, final year was tough but I worked so hard and it was so worth it as soon as I saw my collection on the catwalk. It's a great chance for networking in the industry & seeing so many students' hard work & creativity.
HOW DID STUDYING BA FASHION DESIGN AT BIRMINGHAM CITY PREPARE YOU FOR POSTGRADUATE LIFE IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY?
BCU gave me so many great opportunities, from a placement in New York at Li & Fung to showcasing my graduate collection on 4 catwalks - GFW, Modepries in Germany, Grand Central Birmingham station and BCU showcase. The tutors are all so talented and really give you the chance to explore your ideas. Collaborating with students from other courses was so beneficial, like using design students' garments for photography & fashion communication students' work. Everyone involved gets more for their portfolios, and I loved seeing how others would style my pieces.
YOUR GRADUATE COLLECTION PRESENTED SHEER FABRICS, WITH STATEMENT BADGE EMBELLISHMENTS. WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FROM?
My inspiration was the idea of a beauty pageant in the 80's getting ambushed by punk feminists. I juxtaposed ideas of both stereotypes, and then embroidered over 400 different patches inspired by lots of slogans/icons/ideas I discovered about feminism and punks in the 80s along the way.
CONGRATULATIONS ON BECOMING DESIGN ASSISTANT FOR H&M! SO FAR, HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE BEEN?
It's been incredible, H&M is such a fun company to work for and every day is totally different. I've been able to have lots of design input already, and knowing things I've helped design being in stores worldwide is so surreal. It makes final year worth it now I have a job I love and I am on my dream career path already.
BEFORE YOUR ROLE AS A DESIGN ASSISTANT FOR H&M, YOU HAD ALSO COMPLETED VARIOUS INTERN ROLES FOR COMPANIES INCLUDING ASOS AND HOUSE OF HOLLAND. WHAT WERE THESE EXPERIENCES LIKE FOR YOU?
Interning gave me invaluable experience within industry that I know contributed massively to both my knowledge for final year, and my future career. I interned for 3 totally different companies, with House of Holland being more high end, ASOS high street and Li & Fung in New York, which was a supplier. So each role was really different, and I learnt totally different things at each one. House of Holland was a lot of fun, and getting to go to the LFW show was great. ASOS was amazing, the team of designers are all so talented and I had the best 6 months ever there - every day was so exciting, and I felt so valued within the team and got the opportunity to work with various departments within the design team.
HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT FOR YOU TO COMPLETE AN INTERNSHIP PRIOR TO BEGINNING YOUR PROFESSIONAL CAREER IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY?
Super important - one of the main reasons I went to BCU was because they offered a sandwich year course. I knew how important it was in this industry to make connections. Interning for different companies massively influenced which career route I wanted to take when I came to graduate - my ASOS internship was the most exciting for me personally, so I knew high street was the route I wanted to take.
STOCKHOLM IS YOUR NEW HOME, WHICH MUST HAVE BEEN A HUGE CHANGE FOR YOU! WHAT ENCOURAGED YOU TO MAKE THE MOVE?
It has been a huge change, especially as I've only ever visited once - and that was only for a day for my H&M interview! So the one-way flight was pretty scary. But all I told myself was that the worst thing to happen is that I wouldn't like it and I'd have to fly home. Thankfully I love it so this won't be happening, as Stockholm is a beautiful city and I love my life here now. But I think taking every opportunity is important and more often than not, taking a chance pays off.
BEING ONE OF THE WORLDS BIGGEST HIGH STREET BRANDS, H&M ARE ALWAYS IN THE LIMELIGHT FOR THEIR COLLABORATIONS WITH DESIGNERS SUCH AS KENZO, STELLA MCCARTNEY AND ALEXANDER WANG TO NAME A FEW. WHAT DESIGNER WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THEIR NEXT COLLABORATION WITH AND WHY?
Honestly I think every H&M collaboration has been great, so I have no idea! Vetements, just because I love them. Or Victoria Beckham - she has a great history of inspiring girls and women, and her collections are so classic. Maybe a smaller upcoming designer would be fun too.
H&M IS ALSO A BRAND RENOWN FOR TAKING SUSTAINABILITY INTO CONSIDERATION WHEN DESIGNING THEIR GARMENTS, BUT NOT ONLY THE FABRIC AND PRODUCT CHOICE BUT ALSO WORKING CONDITIONS IN TEXTILE FACTORIES. IS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU THAT THEY INCORPORATE ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS TECHNIQUES INTO THEIR WORK?
It was important for me to work for a brand that was sustainable, it's something I've always taken an interest in and I actually wrote my dissertation on sustainable fashion too. I think it's so easy for people to overlook fashion brands' sustainability, but H&M are one of the best high street retailers for their sustainability and it is a big part of their ethos. They offer training for staff to learn more about sustainability at H&M too, which is really interesting.
IF YOU COULD GIVE STUDENTS WANTING TO SHOWCASE AT GFW18 SOME ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Make the most of every opportunity you come across. Work hard - it will pay off and be worth it!