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Superheroes of fashion; Just before the annual graduate fashion and costume shows in Huddersfield, staff and students celebrate the 21st birthday of a university department that now has an international reputation.

Byline: Hilarie Stelfox

IN the 21 years since Dr Kevin Almond started the first-ever fashion course at the University of Hudders-field, the Department of Fashion and Textiles has grown into a faculty with a national and international standing.

It began with just 30 students but now has up to 350, with 83 in the final year graduating this summer. As well as preparing students for careers in different aspects of the fashion industry the department also has a costume course, which offers undergraduates the opportunity to work in theatre, television or film as part of their studies.

The department has won many accolades and its BA (Hons) Fashion Design with Marketing and Production degree programme is one of only seven such courses in the UK to gain a Creative Skillset Tick from the industry body for the creative industries.

Clare Evans, course leader, says Huddersfield's reputation goes before it and graduates are given a wide range of technical skills that improve their employability. That's in addition to the sandwich year-out in industry that many take.

"Around 90% of our students have a placement year," explained Clare, "and it makes all the difference. It is a selling point for our students who often find work through the placement year. Our courses are known for the diverse technical skills they give the students.

"Placement years in many universities are reducing because they find them hard to manage as it involves a lot of extra administration, but we have always made it a priority. During their placement year the students grow up and learn what's expected of them."

The School of Art, Design and Architecture, to which the fashion department belongs, boasts a post-graduate employment rate of nearly 96% (six months after graduating), with around 65% going into the creative industries.

Kathryn Brennand, course leader for Fashion Design with Textiles, says the strength of the department is that all the degree courses cover disciplines other than just fashion design and students leave university ready to work.

She added: "We get placements for students all over the world and with big national companies we've had students go to Anna Sui in New York, Top Shop and LK Bennett as well as local companies. The recession of the last few years hasn't really affected us. We have not struggled to find them jobs or placements. Our students design quite commercially and that makes them very employable. Their portfolios are job-ready."

Costume students also enjoy placements at prestigious organisations, such as The Royal Opera House, Royal Shakespeare Company and Pinewood Studios.

Next week the university is showcasing the work of students in two graduate shows Fashion on June 16 and Costume on June 18 both at the Lawrence Batley Theatre.

We spoke to a handful of final year students from both the fashion and costume courses - all feel that their studies in Huddersfield and the breadth of their experiences during the placement year have equipped them for the world of work.

Antonia Sharkett, 23, one of the department's |award-winning students, was inspired by a trip to Barcelona - her prize in a competition to design a shoe based on the work of Spanish artist Miro. She created a graduate collection of smart, tailored clothing, entitled The Colours of Gaudi. She was particularly impressed by the stained glass windows created by the Catalan architect. Her degree incorporated textile studies, which has given her an interest in fabric printing. However, she thinks she may apply for work at the Manchester company which supplies designs for Marks & Spencer where she spent her placement year. She said: "I'm going to take the summer out to think about what I want to do."

Hannah Singleton, 21, created a sportswear |final collection called Over Precision, inspired by her placement year, during which she worked with stretch fabrics for the Huddersfield design brand Me and Thee. "They helped me a lot," says Hannah, "I couldn't have done my final year without their help. I did a lot of print design and now I would quite like to do something in the field of digital print."

Chantelle Mallin, 23, discovered during her |degree course and placement year that her future lies in fashion PR and marketing. "I had placements at Oxfam online doing PR and marketing for the festival shop and the fashion," she said. "I also had a virtual internship with a travel fashion website. I don't think I would have been as prepared for my third year without the year out. It's useful for your CV and building up contacts." Chantelle's monochrome collection has a sports vibe and is based on insect bodies.

Costume graduate Fernley de Ruiter, 22, chose |the 1973 film The Wicker Man as the base for her final collection, giving it a contemporary, British outdoor heritage twist. During her sandwich year she worked at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, Buxton Opera House and at Hope House Museum in Derbyshire, where she was involved in costume restoration. "I want to work in theatre," she says, "but I'm more of a maker than a designer." For her collection she created her own tartans and felts.

Elsa Wood-Gee, 22, another costume gradu-|ate, chose the 2005 fantasy film MirrorMask as the inspiration for her final collection. She has yet to decide what she would like to do in the future but had a year out sampling a variety of costume-related placements - from being part of the alterations department of a Birmingham costume hire company and filming with the BBC on a series about Chester Zoo in the 1930s to attending an arts festival in Scotland.

Emily Rose Spreadborough, 22, based her | final show collection on the Victorian satirical novella Flatland: A Romance Of Many Dimensions and gave her outfits a period silhouette with a modern twist. She spent two months of her sandwich year at the National Theatre in London; three months at an embroidery company where she learned about gold thread work; and also worked on set for The Village, a television series filmed in Derbyshire. "I think we have all acquired lots of transferable skills and have been trained at a high level in making and design," said Emily. "I'm hoping to go into television work." Tickets for the graduate degree shows are available from www.thelbt.org or by calling 01484 430528.

'Our students design quite commercially and that makes them very employable. Their portfolios 'Our students design quite commercially and that makes them very employable. Their portfoliosare job-ready' - Kathryn Brennand, course leader

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280515AUNIV_14 COSTUME PICTURES BY ALEX BELDEA Final year fashion students (above, from left) Antonia Sharkett, Chantelle Mallin and | Hannah Singleton. Far left: a design by costume graduate Emily Rose Spreadborough. Above right: a costume inspired by The Wicker Man by Fernley de Ruiter. Below: Elsa Wood Gee's two creations based on fantasy film MirrorMask. Right: Jessica Tonks models an outfit from the final collection of student Hannah Singleton. Below right: Charlotte Walsh in one of Antonia Sharkett's outfits
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jun 11, 2015
Words:1166
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