Kate Clark isn’t your average graduate. Having shown her collection on the SmartFocus Catwalk around a month ago, the Kingston alumni is about to pack her bags as she moves to Paris. Having previously interned with the likes of Sophie Hulme and French Connection - she has now been snapped up by one of the biggest fashion houses in the industry, Chanel. We sat down with Kate to discuss her excitement for the future and her time at Graduate Fashion Week.
Hi Kate, thanks for taking the time to chat with us in what must be a very exciting time for you! Let's start at the beginning- what made you want to be a fashion designer?
I would say my passion for design has come from an obsession with dressing up. I’ve always loved playing with dolls and making clothes for them as well as making clothes for myself to play in. It amazes me how through the clothes, you can transform into a different character.
I used to collect porcelain dolls – I had at least 30 all around my room. I adored their clothes and their other-worldliness. I’m inspired by escapism and fantasy, and the space between reality and imagination fascinates me. I like fashion because it’s real, it’s tangible – I can touch it and wear it – but it can also have a sense of fantasy. It brings the two together.
You've just come to the end of three years at Kingston University. What was your time like there?
Kingston has been magical. It really has been. I would say I am definitely on a post-finishing high at the moment. They worked me so hard but taught me so much – we ended up being like a family. You hate each other, you love each other, you argue with each other, you drink with each other and you definitely cry with each other! I don’t know how you cannot be in love with a place after spending 12 hours a day with the same group of people for 3 years.
I love learning and I love being around people – to feel like you’re part of something is the most amazing feeling. It never stopped and there was always more to do – I’d say I’m a workaholic, so this course was literally perfect for me.
Kate's graduate collection on the catwalk at Graduate Fashion Week 2017, shot by Danny Woodward.
What was your experience like at Graduate Fashion Week 2017?
It was such an exciting time! Having worked there for the last couple of years, it was surreal showing my collection – especially knowing some of the team so well. It was so rewarding seeing people’s reactions and excitement around something I’d worked on for so long. When you’re in the midst of finishing your collection, you hardly have any perspective on your work because you’re so busy doing it!
It was such a success – I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better ending.
There have only been a few weeks past since GFW. What has life been like since?
After all the build up to the show, it took me a couple of days to get back to reality! I went away to Brighton for a brief holiday, and then went back to the library to organise my portfolio and start looking for jobs – that was until I got the call from Chanel.
It’s been really strange because relaxing is not really my strong point – I have this need to be working constantly. I’ve kept myself busy with a few projects, and have also had to send my clothes out to here, there and everywhere for various shoots.
Congratulations on your role at Chanel! How did you manage to get the position?
Our placement officer at Kingston had an email through from their textile studio requesting portfolios to be sent over. I was then called in for an interview and now here I am! It was really one of those moments when everything just comes together – it was one of the best interviews I have ever had, it felt so natural. They hired two students from Kingston – Giorgia Presti and I – which is very exciting as I wasn’t sure if they’d hire one of us, let alone two! I remember hoping that Giorgia would get it, if not me – she’s very talented and works incredibly hard.
We’re going to be based in the textile department and expect we’ll be doing a lot of hand embroidery and embellishment, something which I really enjoy doing.
What is your best advice for other graduates who are looking for placements?
That’s a tough question. A friend of my grandma’s called Mrs Marshall always writes letters on pink paper with green ink, and she’s always got a response!
I feel like I’ve been very lucky – although my tutors would tell me off for saying that as I do work incredibly hard and I always have done. Just know yourself and what you want – don’t rush things, do it because you want it and know you can do it. And never forget to do your research.
If you could work for one designer, who would it be?
I would be so grateful to work with any designer – but, I’d love to have worked for Meadham Kirchhoff. The most important thing for me is being at a place where I can be myself, work hard and have a sense of belonging. Where that will be? I’m not sure – I have so much time ahead of me and I can’t wait to explore.
Here at Graduate Fashion Week we're dedicated to bridging the gap between education and the fashion industry, easing the transition for graduates in what can sometimes be an unsettling time. Kate's story so far demonstrates that whilst leaving education behind can create an odd feeling as you take your first steps into a new environment, it can also be one of the most exciting times of your career! Of course, make sure to update your portfolio's and LinkedIn profiles, but if in doubt, heed the advice of Mrs Marshall, dig out the rainbow gel pens and get writing.
Words by Hannah Stacpoole
Edited by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins
Photography by Danny Woodward & Rory James