Emily Clark, menswear designer and alumni of Kingston University, presented her capsule collection at Graduate Fashion Week as part of the Best of Show. Inspired by the colourful originality of Salvation Mountain in California, and with an aesthetic focused on graphic prints, Emily was coined as an particularly inventive emerging designer. We caught up with the Boden menswear design assistant to hear in which ways the industry differs from being a student, how to make the most out of GFW and why internships are crucial to success.
CONGRATULATIONS ON GRADUATING AND SHOWCASING YOUR COLLECTION AT GFW17! HOW DID YOU FIND THE EXPERIENCE?
I'd never actually been to GFW before so had no idea what to expect but it was all really exciting! I was very surprised to be picked for the Kingston show as there were so many outstanding students in my class and then to be chosen again for the final 25 was a complete shock! The show was a great way to celebrate our work and also see what other graduates have been doing. It was great for meeting people in the industry and securing a few interviews!
HOW DID STUDYING AT KINGSTON UNIVERSITY PREPARE YOU FOR WORKING IN THE COMPETITIVE FASHION INDUSTRY?
Our tutors were always very honest and would constantly push you to keep improving and learning. I think this prepared me well as it taught me to think out my ideas fully and be able to justify decisions when questioned.
YOUR GRADUATE COLLECTION WAS SELECTED AS PART OF GFW17’S TOP 25, CONGRATULATIONS! WHAT INSPIRED YOUR FINAL COLLECTION?
Thanks! My final collection came from looking at old ice hockey uniforms and sports kits, and wanting to present a luxurious, modern ready-to-wear menswear collection based on these references, but not making it obviously 'sporty'.
A big inspiration point was Salvation Mountain in California, if you don't know what it is I recommend researching it, its incredible! I took references from the bold colours and graphic prints and used them as the starting point for my own prints, using a combination of screen and digital print to transfer these onto my garments.
GFW CATWALKS TEND TO BE PREDOMINANTLY WOMENSWEAR COLLECTIONS, AND MENSWEAR CAN BE OVERLOOKED. WHAT INFLUENCED YOU TO DESIGN MENSWEAR?
It happened a bit by accident. I had started off with womenswear during school and no matter how hard I tried the clothes I was designing never looked flattering. I certainly wouldn't have bought them. One of our pattern cutting tutors in second year looked at my sketches and assumed I was designing menswear, when I told her that I wasn't she replied, "well you should be". Immediately I was excited about menswear in a way I never been with womenswear and it all just clicked into place!
SINCE ENTERING THE COMPETITIVE FASHION INDUSTRY, WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CREATING A COLLECTION FOR UNIVERSITY COMPARED TO THE WITHIN INDUSTRY?
The industry reality is far from the experience you have at university. At uni your collection is very personal and self indulgent, picking shapes, fabrics and styling based on your own tastes and ideas. In industry it's all about the customer and what they want. At university your collection is your own, so you are sole decision maker. Within a brand it is a massive collaboration between directors, buyers, merchandising etc. and so there is a lot of compromising going on.
WHAT HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A MENSWEAR DESIGN ASSISTANT AT BODEN BEEN LIKE SO FAR?
Really great, everyone there is so supportive and friendly which makes it an excellent learning environment. Its been really insightful learning how the industry operates and making that transition from being a student to actually working within a fashion company.
PRIOR TO GRADUATING, YOU COMPLETED VARIOUS INTERNSHIPS. HOW IMPORTANT WAS THIS FOR YOU IN YOUR CAREER?
Very, I think especially in fashion internships are crucial to gaining a job after graduation. Sadly, unless you do them as a placement year, many internships still don't pay, however many of them will allow you to do a couple of days a week which means it is also possible to work part time as well. I don't think I would have gotten nearly as many interviews or even my current job had I not done any internships.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND UNDERGRADUATES COMPLETE INTERNSHIPS ALONGSIDE THEIR DEGREE?
Yes, definitely. It is necessary when you graduate to have industry experience. Most jobs ask for a minimum of 1 year alongside your degree, and although you can definitely get away with less it is generally required to have at least a little experience.
WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE IN 5 YEARS TIME?
In 5 years I would like to be working as a menswear designer, preferably abroad. I did a year abroad whilst at university and it's definitely influenced me to spend a few years living outside the UK.
IF YOU COULD GIVE SOME ADVICE TO STUDENTS HOPING TO PARTICIPATE IN GFW18, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
Make the most of networking and chase up any emails you get afterward! There is a lot of opportunity if you strike whilst the iron's hot.