Tom Bird-Jones, graduate of Manchester Fashion Institute, currently holds the position of a design assistant at Missguided. We caught up with the GFW17 alumni to hear why he feels completing internships is crucial, how his student collection explored the notion of fairytales through heavily embellished and theatrical pieces and how elated he felt as being chosen to showcase at GFW17.
Congratulations on graduating and showcasing your collection at GFW17! How was this experience for you?
Graduating was truly such an amazing achievement to start my journey into fashion 4 years ago and to make so many contacts and incredible people along the way was just something everyone should make the most of. Being selected to showcase my work at GFW17 was one of my biggest achievements to date, when i found out I was going to showcase I was elated and couldn't stop smiling.
You are currently a design assistant at Missguided. What has your role entailed so far?
My role at Missguided is to assist the woven designers, this includes researching new and exciting shapes, designing into current trends we have, sourcing fabrics and trims and organising all the prints that the company uses and identifying which fabric bases they're on relaying this to the design team.
How did the opportunity arise for your current position?
I am very thankful that GFW introduced me to the team at Missguided. Whilst showing my collection I was approached by a senior designer from Missguided who had asked if I had ever thought about working for them, I handed over my business card and a couple days after the show I was contacted and asked to design a small capsule collection for them with a brief they had set. I was then asked to interview and was offered the job!
Before graduating you completed various internships and design roles, including an internship at House of Holland, Freelance designer at PassOut and Design Assistant at Boardman Bros Ltd. How were these experiences for you and how did they differ?
The best thing I think I did for my career without really knowing it was to do these internships and placements, the knowledge you learn from working in different companies really is so crucial. You learn so much from how a sample is made, how it gets bought by buyers and then the end process of how the item lands in store and how it is presented to the customers. My main experience came form working with suppliers who are a crucial part of the industry, I was working on several different brands at one time and it really allowed me to design multi product across a range of different brands from major supermarkets to high street.
At House of Holland where the product was more premium and the workforce was a lot smaller, it was great to see garments being designed, patterns being made and then samples created all in the same room, which doesn't happen at bigger companies. All in all I would say that getting as much experience as you can whilst you can is the best thing to do.
BA Hons in Fashion Design and Technology was your degree choice at Manchester Metropolitan University. How did they prepare you for post graduate life in the demanding fashion industry?
My degree taught me everything I needed to know and I went into my first role after graduating with a set of skills that just meant I could hit the ground running. The technology side of my course meant that i had already learnt how to use Illustrator and Photoshop which are programmes most major companies use to design. Missguided were impressed with the skill set I had obtained from my time at university. I was also taught to about designing with my philosophy in mind and how to adapt that to different market levels, which is crucial to working in the industry.
‘Every Fairytale needs a Villain’ was the name of your graduate collection. What inspired this theme?
I always wanted to created a collection that was pretty embellished dresses, I knew that whilst I was at university I had to make the most of the complete creative freedom and to use all the equipment and advice from around me. I wanted to created a fairytale collection and then something just clicked that I should flip it on its head and make it darker, to really push myself.
A neutral and monochrome colour palette, alongside embellishments were the base of your collection. What inspired these colours and fabric choices?
My fabrics kind of happened by accident. As a fashion and technology based course, we have a great resource centre that has fabrics, trims and innovative fabrics. I came across this spacer fabric which was almost like it was 3D printed and just started to play around with how it worked and what would happen if i were to manipulate it in certain ways. I decided to sew some crepe cord into the channels of the fabric and came up with a rather luxe armour type fabric that reminded me of Olivier Rousteing's work for Balmain. The spikes came to me again by luck really and took a while for me to figure out. I wanted to play on the 'beast' in traditional fairytales and began to cut up pieces of plastic and sew them onto my toiles and see how they would move. After spending all day on the laser cutter I had figured out exactly what I wanted and how to achieve that.
In terms of colour I knew I wanted to work in mostly black as it is so sleek and mysterious and to just add hints of earth tones and gold to add some colour and relay back to the theme. Fur was also a big part of my collection, I have always been fairly against fur until we had a local company come to talk to us about a competition the BFC were running. I ended up just loving the textures and how it moved with the 3D printed spikes, I just had to use it in my collection.
If you were to collaborate with any designer, or influencer of your choice, who would it be and why?
I have always admired the work of Olivier Rousting at Balmain, however I still have the urge to create heavily embellished fairytale gowns so I would have to pick Elie Saab. His work is the reason I love fashion and the beauty he manages to create just inspires me in so many ways.
Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
In 10 years time I would like to still be designing, hopefully doing dresses, as they are my main passion and love. But ultimately I would just love to still be in the fashion industry and maybe even a lecturer.
What advice would you give to students hoping to participate in GFW18?
My advice for graduates showcasing at GFW18 is to enjoy it, speak to everyone, go to as many talks and shows as you can and take business cards with you.Make sure to have a really good and creative CV that you can hand out. You never know who's looking at your work and you could find your dream job right under your nose!
Words by Amber Whitaker