Friday, 12 June 2009

Graduate Fashion Week Careers Clinic

When we told people we were going to Graduate Fashion Week yesterday, the general response was 'why are you going on the Education Day? It'll be full of kids!' But that's exactly what we liked about it. Education Day is now in its second year and is aimed at 14-18 year-olds who are thinking about studying fashion at degree level. Most useful is the Careers Clinic, brilliantly hosted by Caryn Franklin, which questions a panel of fashion experts on the nitty gritty of getting a job and working in fashion. On this year's panel were Richard Bradbury (CEO of GFW sponsors, River Island), Alison Edmond (Creative/Fashion Director of Harper's Bazaar), Vanessa Coyle (Fashion Editor of Harper's Bazaar), Adrien Parry Roberts (course leader of fashion design course at UCA Epsom), Ann Rafter (MD of Stephanie Churchill PR) and Mark Eley of Eley Kishimoto. Plus an extra surprise guest, PM's wife, Sarah Brown!

One of the key messages that came across from the panel was that the passion for creativity and learning was what drove them in their jobs (hey, it's certainly not the money). All the panellists concurred that they never stop being inquisitive in hunting out what's new and what's next, not only in fashion but in all areas of culture and lifestyle. Here are some other nuggets from the panel.

What do you look for from your work experience people?
Alison Edmond: People skills are really important, you need to be able to work as a team. I also expect people to know about photographers and fashion designers so make sure you do the research in advance.

What makes a good stylist?
Vanessa Coyle: Having a strong point of view. Depending who you're working for, the brief will always be different so you need to be versatile yet have a new point of view. For a freelance stylist you need to be able to identify different styles for different jobs.

How do you get your foot in the door for work experience?
Richard Bradbury: Be prepared. You have to understand it's your responsibility to get the job you want. If you bother to make an effort, you can get lots of knowledge so always do your research. We want to know that you're interested in us, remember you're competing with someone who may not be as well-prepared as you.

What's your advice for getting a job following work experience?
Ann Rafter: Get noticed. For me, the people that stand out are the ones that knock on my door and ask for an exit meeting at the end of a work placement.

What advice do you have for shy students?
Sarah Brown: Look for other ways to build your confidence. Volunteer in something at school, work in a shop...anything to interact and boost your confidence.

Another message that came across from Richard Bradbury was that not everyone needs a degree. Even though this was Graduate Fashion Week, Richard pointed out that half his employees at River Island didn't have degrees. This is heartening for those who don't finish their degrees or decide that academic life isn't for them. It seems the main requirements for success are passion and hard work and the only place you're going to learn those is through getting stuck in.

We had a good root around the stands after the Careers Clinic and were especially impressed with a project by graduate Andrew Loader, who has set up a website called Anyone looking for fashion work experience can log on for up-to-date vacancies - completely free of charge. 

We also picked up a copy of the GFW magazine which was full of inspiring tips from fashion industry success stories. River Island had also set up a photo studio for the week where various magazines had pitched up to do fashion shoots using River Island clothes - a perfect exercise in fashion marketing right before our eyes! You can see some of the pictures on

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