Fashion Graduates Today: ‘Ill
East London University to re-launch its 2016 MA Fashion course to include an emphasis on pattern cutting to skill the individual to production level, for the high street as well as specialist tailoring. Why this emphasis? Speaking with Dorota Watson, Subject Head of Fashion & Textiles, University of East London, she iterated how the graduate of today on balance is ill-prepared to engage with the professional marketplace with a whole variety of specialist skills, including pattern cutting that are not necessarily design oriented, but very much an integral part of the design process. How many times have we heard it remarked of the illustrious few that make it as successful brands that ‘the best designers are usually the best pattern cutters?’ The relationship is not accidental, yet the draw for many to the world of fashion is still primarily, overwhelmingly ‘design’ with scant regard to all other skilled functions within the industry.
Some of this is based on the disproportionate weighting and publicity given to the design element, sweeping all before and under it, seducing the student into ironically the most competitive and risky end of the business. I suspect the remainder is based largely on pure ignorance as to what the other job functions actually are. Some undergraduate courses have a built-in requirement that all aspects including stitching and pattern cutting must be passed before passing the particular course. There may still nevertheless be a disconnect with the professional, commercial environment but at least it won’t be rabbits caught in the headlights when the studio manager says, “show me what you can do…” pointing to a sewing machine and a cutting board.
There’s arguably an onus on the bigger retailers and brands to help communicate the nature of the multiple varied jobs on offer that do not involve design, and to work with the colleges to make them appealing. Visits from professionals able to talk about their roles to the colleges would also help. But clearly, to be competitive within our own UK market, the more well versed and skilled in the life cycle of the garment, the better it is for the individual.
By Paul Markevicius