Breaking into the Cut-Throat Industry


An airy bedroom decorated in black and white with every book on sewing situated on the top floor of an old Victorian house. Just after a week of starting back at University, Loren Stennings, 20, shows off her new sewing machine table in the corner of the room, ready for her upcoming collaboration with River Island. She is in second year studying Fashion Design at the University of Creative Arts, in hope like many of breaking the fashion industry. She describes her style as ‘printed, edgy, vintage and collective’ with her favourite designers being Elie Saab and Alexander Wang.

The industry can be a hard one to crack, as the accusations of Gucci exploiting staff show, graduates are supposedly used for unpaid work experience for the chance to work with the latest designer set; this questions whether passion and talent is really enough to make it big. It is quite clear that Loren has the talent and passion, today she wears one of her  latest bargains, a long silk monochrome printed kimono she found hidden in Primark for £1, a trend she says ‘is soon to be in’.

Meanwhile, in a small University bedroom in Southampton filled with a small treasure of make-up and the latest catwalk trends blue-tacked to the wall, Rebekah Newman, 18, shares a similar aspiration. She has recently started first year at Southampton Solent University studying Make-up and Hair Design. She has just completed an exhibition of her work at Re:So gallery and is ready to start her new project of Victorian Gothic Designs. Today she wears a tanned eye shadow accompanied by MAC’s ‘Lady Danger’ lipstick neatly applied, which she explains ‘it’s my ultimate

favourite, I love the colour it’s so bold’. She describes her style as ‘modern, I don’t follow trends but I keep up with them’, with her favourite make-up artist being Pat McGrath.

Both girls are devoted to their course; this is not a short term fashion fling. ‘I got into fashion from a young age, my mother made me costumes when I was little and I thought it was really clever and wanted to do the same.’ Loren reminisces. Rebekah entered the idea of fashion differently; ‘I watched a lot of you tube tutorials and I really enjoyed experimenting with make-up and that made me want to apply at University for it.’ Courses can be very competitive, ‘I think competitiveness means limited chance of getting opportunities so that’s when exploitation comes into play, if you write on your C.V you did work experience for Gucci, you might get somewhere.’ Loren who says since studying fashion she looks at things creatively argues this is not always the case; ‘Fashion is constantly evolving, Fashion houses are always looking for the newest ideas they can find.’

Universities are offering a growing number of fashion and make-up courses, however even with an education; fashion is hard to be successful in. Alice Vandy has only just made it after leaving University 6 years ago. ‘There really needs to be more courses in the fashion and beauty area, there is a very limited choice, but I think University is the best way to get your foot in the door and learn the right techniques for fashion make-up,’ Rebekah explains, only 27 Universities offer her course in the country. Loren agrees ‘University is the best way in, I wouldn’t even know how get a career in fashion without University, there’s so many techniques you need to learn, you’re offered better opportunities when you’re associated with a Uni.’

Arguably many celebrities create fashion brands without a University education; ‘I find that unfair’, Loren argues, ‘They don’t know the fundamentals of fashion, and they just put together pieces that look nice, it’s just branding.’

Fashion seems to be an industry that is never stagnant; a clear example of this is the enlargement of traditional measurements of sizes to accommodate the average body size getting bigger. This gives promise that the industry will always offer fresh opportunities for upcoming fashion entrepreneurs. Both girls express passion for learning the vital skills at University in order to make it; ‘I would say with make-up try don’t be afraid to try something new and experiment, and that also goes for fashion.’ Rebekah advises.  Both her and Loren are on track for a successful year in their studying and are looking forward to their future in the fashion industry.

Published: 11/01/2015


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