Before I started the MA in Fashion Menswear at the Royal College of Art, I studied womenswear at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. My first job after leaving the Institute happened to be in menswear, and since then I’ve been working as a designer with fashion houses including Ralph Lauren, Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger. My longest position to date has been with Gieves and Hawkes – I was with them for three years.
My main motivation for returning to education was the chance to explore my personal design aesthetic in menswear, unbound by the constraints of employment. As I had previously studied womenswear, my career seemed to be a response to a commercial brief. I wanted the chance to reflect and develop my own personal voice within the menswear community.
Studying at the Royal College of Art was a very different experience to my previous education in the US. There’s a different methodology behind the teaching. In my interview for the RCA the tutors were very careful to explain the structure of the course, so that I knew what to expect. In contrast to my previous experience, programmes here are much more fluid, and are designed to help you learn about problem solving, rather than to get you to achieve a certain number of separate skills. In fact, you’re encouraged to develop all the skills you need by applying them simultaneously to a single project.
I applied to the RCA because of its reputation for producing incredibly creative and sophisticated menswear designers, many of whom show at the London Collections Men. I think the menswear course here differs from other similar courses because of the emphasis on the individuality of each student – the course is really crafted to allow each student to take their own path. The tutors encourage you to find your own voice. The many industry projects throughout the course allow you to apply this individuality to a brief, and gain invaluable feedback from professionals at high-profile companies.
There’s a real mix of students on the programme. In my cohort we had students fresh from their Bachelor’s degree to people like myself who were more mature and had much more life and work experience. We were also lucky to have students from many parts of the world. It was a nice mix. The Menswear programme, being quite small, is very close-knit. You end up spending all of your time with your cohort and become very close. You build great supportive relationships on that MA – there’s a great camaraderie.
I found that the course shaped me in many different ways. The most unexpected was how I was able to connect with my past, and get to the essence of what defines me as a designer. It was a wonderfully fulfilling experience. At the RCA, I also learnt the importance of always questioning your work, always pushing yourself, and of being critical about what you’re doing. If I was able to go back and begin the course again, I’d really make the most of collaborating across the RCA – of getting to know as many people working in the different Schools and programmes, and making the most of having all those people and all those opportunities in one place.
Ideally, I would love to carry on with the work that I was doing at the RCA. I’m currently trying to balance consulting work with the development of my own collection. Re-entering the industry, I feel confident that the course has increased my career prospects and, thanks to the Fashion Show, given exposure to my personal work. There’s a lot of buzz after you graduate, lots of people are looking to work with you and to collaborate: that buzz really keeps you going.
"I found that the course shaped me in many different ways. The most unexpected was how I was able to connect with my past, and get to the essence of what defines me as a designer. It was a wonderfully fulfilling experience."