The Future of Fashion: fashion graduates respond to Covid-19
Plymouth College of Art’s BA (Hons) Fashion and BA (Hons) Fashion Media & Marketing courses have responded to the coronavirus pandemic in a variety of ways, from volunteering to make personal protective equipment (PPE) working with Makers HQ, to hosting a series of industry talks with international speakers and alumni for current students.
Four students from the BA (Hons) Fashion course were shortlisted to represent Plymouth College of Art at the biggest graduate showcase of the year. Students Megan Roberts, River Smith, Cerys Mullaly and Rose Garcia were selected to join other students and graduates from across the country to show their final year collections at Graduate Fashion Week 2020, originally due to happen on 31 May until 3 June, before the lockdown rules forced its postponement.
Cerys Mullaly's designs and working from home space
Representing the future of creative design talent across the globe, Graduate Fashion week is a showcase of work of over 1,000 students and graduates and usually attracts over 30,000 guests to the event each year. With 22 catwalk shows, exhibitions from over 40 universities and an acclaimed Gala Award Show with live talks and workshops led by top names in the fashion industry, it’s a networking highlight of the year for many students and graduates. This year, however, Graduate Fashion Week has had to cancel their May event, with the hopes of collaborating with London Fashion Week on 17 and 18 September.
Megan, who joined the BA (Hons) Fashion course after completing a UAL Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at the Pre-Degree campus said: “I’ve wanted to show at Graduate Fashion Week since I came to Plymouth College of Art. It’s been a significant driving force and goal throughout my degree. To be selected was an incredible feeling, it felt like all of my hard work and development over the last three years had been worth it. It's such a unique opportunity to potentially kickstart my career.
“Graduate Fashion Week has moved almost completely online now, using the increased exposure on their digital platforms to complement the delayed physical event, which will hopefully go ahead in September. Until then, I’m engaging with their Instagram and competitions as much as I can to get noticed and raise the profile of my work.”
Megan Roberts' work
Rose, from Callington in Cornwall said: “I think it’s every fashion student’s dream to be featured on the runway at Graduate Fashion Week. Although its cancellation means missing out on some opportunities to network and show our work to industry professionals, I’m continuing to promote my work online to maintain momentum. I also plan to do a photoshoot with my completed garments as soon as it’s safe..”
Cerys, who joined Plymouth College of Art from Maesteg in Wales said: “Graduate Fashion Week have updated their awards to accommodate the difficulties we’re facing in terms of working from home and I’m aware they’re organizing multiple smaller events where we will still have the opportunity to showcase our work to industry professionals.”
“It’s very important for us as emerging designers to get our names known. Networking and connecting with people in the industry can be so beneficial to our professional development, as well as the opportunities to experience and understand the behind the scenes process of a fashion show, such as fitting garments and styling in a fast-paced environment.”
“The disappointment of the cancellation of Graduate Fashion Week made it difficult at first to work from home, I was worried that my motivation to finish my collection would fade. However, I have learned that sometimes being creative means you have to adapt to change. Challenges and constraints mean I’ve had to think outside the box and that is when exciting things can happen.”
River Smith working from home
Originally from Bristol, River, who also studied Fashion & Textiles on the Extended Diploma at the Pre-Degree campus said: “Despite the changes, we’re all continuing to work towards showing off our work in Plymouth and ways for the whole class to show their collections. I’m really looking forward to that.”
Subject Leader and Senior Lecturer on BA (Hons) Fashion, Heather Martin said: “Covid-19 has put a huge question mark on the industry as a whole, but because of that we’re going to see amazing innovation. From Gucci declaring they are going seasonless to the British Fashion Council and the Council for Fashion Designers of America calling for systematic change to how the fashion cycle operates, these are much needed shifts and I’m interested to see how our students respond to them.
“Moving online so quickly isn’t an ideal situation, but the Fashion students have been so positive. Graduate Fashion Week has changed in its delivery and our students are now working in makeshift home setups rather than our lovely college spaces, but the industry has pulled together to generate some fantastic opportunities for 2020 Fashion graduates that weren’t options previously. For example, travel and location are now non-issues, so we’ve been able to line up a series of top notch industry talks from all over the world. As teachers, it has jolted the team to better understand just how far reaching hybrid teaching can be to engage with the many different types of learners that we have.”
BA (Hons) Fashion, Media and Marketing have also responded to global changes this year by proactively hosting professional alumni talks, where students from the current course are linked up with those currently working in the industry. Students were able to pose questions to the graduates, finding out how their jobs have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak and how the industry has responded.
Rose Garcia's work
Joint Subject Leader for BA (Hons) Fashion Media and Marketing, Milly Brown said: “As much of the industry is restricted, with many employees working from home, we have been using our lockdown lunch hours to connect our wonderful alumni with our current cohorts, in particular our year-three students.
“Through a series of live-streamed discussions, students have been able to put questions directly to those now working in fashion, media and marketing, with brands including Dior, Ellesse and End. The response from our students and the wider college community has been wonderful. It’s great that our students are able to get the insiders’ view on how the creative industries are changing with the event of Covid-19.
“Students are taking more risks, being more creative and I would say that some are even communicating better online. We miss the technical support and collaborative practice in person that we are so proud to nurture on the course, but we’re finding new ways to work in the same way that the industry does - together!”