A Frock in a Hard Place

PHOTOGRAPH: @theumpteenthnobody

PHOTOGRAPH: @theumpteenthnobody

Studying fashion design is unlike any other course I’ve entered into. Having dabbled in Psychology for a semester, and then completing an associate degree in Merchandising it still wasn't enough to prepare me for entering the realms of design.

The intense workload, and the exhilarating feeling you get from bringing something to life from a sketch is like no other. Yet the intensity of our degrees is shrouded by rose-tinted glasses to the general public, or really to anyone who doesn’t have to live with us through our beginner years.

Once commencing, it’s quickly seen that the effort we put into our degrees is often overlooked.

Innocent comments such as: 

“All you do is sit and draw right?” and “Oh please it’s just fashion.”

become irksome after the hundredth time. Unlike mainstream degrees, we spend an entire semester building a collection from the ground up. It’s similar to an essay. To begin with, you do your research, and begin to draft the skeleton of your collection. From here though, it’s fabric trials, pattern drafting, toiling, folioing, trim sourcing, photographer-hunting, location scouting.  This list is almost never-ending until the very few hours before end of semester panel. Those 4am bedtimes followed by a 5:30am start make for an interesting assessment period - trust me.

The great part about the labour of love we [designers] put into our work each semester is that we have an actual tangible project to show for it, as well as a cupboard full of failed toiles. However, some people still fail to recognise that we actually make the garments.

Is this where we begin to question how far removed we as consumers are when it comes to who produces our clothing? Another article for another day. 

Alongside the tempestuous hours we put into each project, we also funnel in every last bit of our savings. A soon-to-be graduate recently gave me some advice, and amongst their wise words was:

“They’re lying about saying you don’t need $10,000 (roughly 5,000 pounds) to finish your graduate collection.”

Everything adds up quickly, and when you’re time-poor from spending 16 hours at the University studios, it’s hard to fit in work hours to make sure we get to eat as well as produce a collection. I’m very thankful for two minute noodles and frozen beans right about now, and for the secondhand fabric store a state over.

But because of this, it’s also very easy to burn the candle at both ends whilst studying design. Don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say I’ve seen almost everyone in my year breakdown at some point, because I have.

We’ve all been there, so we are one hell of a supportive bunch. But no one really enjoys accidentally bursting into tears when someone asks how your morning is. Are we all masochists? Probably. Do we like it when you laugh at us for crying into calico? No, not really.

It’s hard trying to discuss the misjudgement of our efforts sometimes, with opposing commentary on the matter more common than not. You also don’t want to come across as whiney and ungrateful, or as if you're not as passionate as the next person.

But the reality of our degrees mean that we are stressed and high-strung, whilst enjoying expressing ourselves to the best of our ability. Sometimes we just need a little encouragement.

Myself and multiple other fashion students across the country recently discussed with i-D magazine our experiences within our fashion degrees. They created an article for us in a notion to try and help break down any perceived stigma surrounding the affiliated degrees.

Upon its publishing however, and much like any other think piece that dares to be released into the realms of the internet, the comments section flared up worse than a bad case of end of semester RSI.

In particular, comments made by various students of opposing faculties felt it was their duty to call us out on our decision to follow our passion, as they ‘just can’t sympathise much’. It’s disheartening hearing or reading these comments from our peers. Even when their comments are laced in irony, considering they’re actively interacting with pages dedicated to their interests and enjoyment but don't we dare-call them out for not acknowledging the work we do.

At the end of the day, we just want recognition for our effort without an eye-roll. We want to be able to share our work with you because we know you enjoy it, and we enjoy producing it, albeit at a small cost to ourselves. 

Because some of us have sewn through our fingers, taped them up and continued on just to meet a deadline - and if that isn’t dedication to your art, I’m not sure what is.

If you are interested in writing for theblab or have any ideas for blog posts. Please let us know, we would love to hear from you. 

Words by Jordyn Smith / Edited by Daisy Scott