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Roundtable discussion: Where & should I study Fashion in NSW? 4 Fashion students weigh in

Welcome to another, Footnotes Roundtable Discussion 

Hi Footnotes,

I have always been interested in designing and making my own clothes. I already know how to sew and have made some items of clothing for myself but I want to learn professionally so I can make my own clothes properly and possibly sell clothes as well.

I want to study fashion, but I know it is really competitive to become a designer, so I thought that I should make my degree a double to play it safe. I looked at a few private colleges that offer Fashion Business courses, but the fees are pretty steep.

I was just wondering what either current or past fashion students had to say. Or if you could give me any advice from people that are actually working in fashion today.

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For this round table discussion we called in:

  • 1 x  Billy Blue graduate (today works as a junior designer for an Australian label)
  • 1 x FBI College drop out (today works at a fashion PR company)
  • 1 x UTS Fashion and Textiles graduate (Owns her own label that is sold via the Iconic and her site)
  • 1 x Head Designer for an Australian Brand

Head Designer:

99% of our hires here are made internally. This usually means that they have interned here before and are ready to move into a paid role.

Where an intern studied or is studying does not impact my hiring decision. This is a skills and attitude based industry. Though, of course – your skills are a result of your course!

I think it depends if you want to be a designer, or work in the industry. If you want to design, you’ll need to study because fit, design and even conceptualising a line is very technical and it takes years and practice.

Though, production and fashion business can be learnt on the job.

So, my advice is to look at each of the courses and what they include verses what you want to do.  I would try to find out whether the lectures and teachers are active in the industry, and also look at the students work/portfolios online.

Something else to consider is the equipment availability and cost of your college / university. I have heard of students paying thousands of dollars to produce major works.

At the end of the day pretty much all the courses around these days will should be giving you a grounding in the basics of pattern making, fit, sampling, techinque and the rest is learnt on the job.

I’ve seen quite a few graduates portfolios over the years and I personally think there isn’t much separating students work from colleges/unis X, Y or Z. A possible aspects which may separate them for you is whether they are active in helping you find work experience as part of your studies and helping you after.

FBI College Drop out:

In my honest opinion, what you study as well as where you study is totally up to where you eventually see yourself working.

I studied at FBI college because 1 – 2 year course appealed to the impatient side of me who couldn’t commit to anything longer.

Would I encourage others to follow in my footsteps?

Well, let’s cut to the chase, if you grew up following fashion and feel you know enough about the industry to be able to secure an internship in the area in which you want to succeed, try that first.  Fashion Business college is a good place to be in order to grasp the full workings of the fashion industry, yes, but it will not be the make-or-break for landing a job.

Basically your diploma or marks will not get you a job, it’s about how you perform at an internship. 

What I found quite strange with interning was that here I was with a college course, working in a fashion cupboard with girls doing law and journalism degrees.  Although we were all doing completely different courses, we all had the same end game, and in the end it came down to our commitment to the role within our internship position that determined our success.

The biggest asset of a private college is their careers centre. Agencies, designers and fashion publications actually contact colleges personally asking for interns.

Designer, Label Owner and UTS Graduate:

Would you recommend UTS?

What is the step-by-step process to launch a fashion collection?

Billy Blue Graduate and Junior Designer:

The teachers are from within the industry, the classes are small – so I liked that.  I guess most institutions bring in industry experts as teachers… so that probably isn’t too unique. Though, I agree with the comments above – 100%. My internships were the thing on my resume that landed me positions. From my first internship, to my second – to my Graduate role. If you have been a design intern for Sass and Bide for a year, they assume you have skills.

I emailed  Sass and Bide out of the blue and got an internship straight away.

Initially I was placed in a generic role; unpacking jewellery and checking for blemishes.  The Head Designer introduced me to the team and gave me a tour of the offices, for a  fashion student this was absolutely inspirational.

I continued my role with the jewellery team for two days until I was approached to stay on as an intern in their design team. Sass & Bide have a lot of students come through their doors but they said my Photoshop and Illustrator skills really made me stand out as a candidate that would fit their needs on a more solid basis. (I learnt these skills at Billy Blue).

I would go in 3-4 days a week during my college break and help them either piece drawing, painting patterns to appear on dresses or fabric cutting. The design team only had one intern, which meant I received some great mentoring across a range of introductory design tasks.

When my final year at college rolled around the team actually recommended that I focus on my final year of study at Billy Blue without an additional intern commitment; and gave me their contact details should I need help.

As a visual and practical person I found the theoretical process of learning at college somewhat overwhelming but Sass & Bide showed me that a functioning business is different to what you learn in books. I loved seeing a line come together.

So, would I recommend studying?

Yes! I loved my course… but internships are the real make-or-break.

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