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How to make it in fashion: Sophie Bailey

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Sophie Bailey

We are all about emerging fashion and creative talent at The Glass Pineapple – students and graduates are an important part of that. It’s not easy to make it in fashion and it’s particularly difficult to transition from studying to studio. Where do you even start? We asked Sophie Bailey, a De Montfort Menswear Design graduate who has worked at Lou Dalton and Phoebe English since graduating in 2016, to share her experiences.

The value of the degree…

I learned a great deal about fashion design throughout university and subsequently interning for Lou Dalton and Phoebe English. My course taught me valuable skills, such as pattern cutting and technical construction, but also built confidence in myself and my aesthetic. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was to always be bold and brave. This enabled me to push my designs much further and experiment, helping make my design process as organic as possible. My third year was exceptionally challenging with many students working together in a highly creative atmosphere, tensions were understandably high. Most days were spent in the studio working from 8am to 9pm in addition to time spent on producing a high quality portfolio of supporting work.

Sophie Bailey Menswear

The challenges of design student life…

Although I had prepared myself for the greater workload, longer hours, and associated stress. I underestimated how much impact this would have on me. I remained highly motivated and focused as my ultimate goal was to achieve a place on the GFW catwalk, however I did become overly critical, and stressed about every little detail. I was burning the candle at both ends and the process of producing my final collection was mentally very tough. This experience taught me to not neglect your wellbeing and take time out for yourself. I achieved my goal and made it to GFW, this was a huge highlight and made all the hard work and perseverance over the previous three years very worthwhile.

Going from graduate to professional…

Students and graduates can enter industry led competitions throughout university and afterwards, and these offer bursaries or cash prizes and exposure to the industry. Various graduate schemes and funding support is available e.g. Fashion Scout and the British Fashion Council, but I think that more could be done to help new creative talents break into the fashion industry. It is a very difficult industry to break into and I think a mentoring scheme would be invaluable, especially in the lead up to graduation with continued support thereafter. One to one support would also help focus on your own goals or propose other routes that you may not have considered. Networking skills are a vital factor in my opinion, as well as building a strong social media presence. Providing some level of business and financial advice would be an advantage if you were looking to set up your own label.

Sophie Bailey Menswear

Working in the industry…

Working in the industry was very different to university. It has a more professional atmosphere, but you are viewed as a valuable team member and given plenty of responsibilities and expected to show initiative. For me, internships are all about gaining knowledge and experience about the industry. I had positive experiences at both Lou Dalton and Phoebe English, gaining lots of knowledge dealing with factories, running errands to PR, fabric and trim sourcing as well as working in the studio pattern cutting, sewing, cutting toiles and garments for upcoming collections. I made many industry contacts which will help prepare me for my MA at Kingston University.

Sophie Bailey Menswear

Funding fashion…

Studying for a fashion degree is largely self-funded, and students have to provide almost all of their own fabrics and equipment. My final collection cost somewhere between £3-4K, and as a year group we also had to raise well over £5,000 in order to attend GFW. Other costs included printing, buying equipment, and preparing a professional portfolio and business cards. You need to be well prepared for the expenses involved so you must be very passionate about the subject and remain highly motivated throughout to be able to succeed.

As one of the first years to see tuition fees rise to £9,000 a year many young people have to think carefully about their plans to go to university and the accumulated level of student debt. I think the Government should review the whole system of tuition fees, taking into account family income and expenses, the course you are doing and the tutor time provided. I was fortunate to receive plenty of support and a good level of one to one tutor time. I think the Government should consider bringing back the grants that made it possible for anyone to go to university and not having to question the repercussions of the current student loan system.

How to make it in fashion…

Ultimately, success in the fashion industry is down to being very focused, motivated and building on your own skills and abilities. You need to be passionate about your work and have a strong desire to succeed.

All images are from Sophie's 2016 graduate collection.

Sophie Bailey Menswear

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