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Kathryn McGee

MA Fashion Menswear, 2013–2015

My BA was at London College of Fashion in Womenswear. While I was there I made quite conceptual designs. Although the course was quite commercial, the tutors just let me get on with it! After I graduated, I worked for Christopher Raeburn, a graduate of the Royal College of Art. He was actually the first person I met who had gone here. It was while I was working with Christopher that I started to think more about the Menswear programme.

I also heard a lot about the course from another designer I was working alongside, called Bronwen Marshall. Bronwen told me that the programme really encourages students to make their own design identity – and it’s true! Not one person comes out of here looking the same.

It was clear to me, that although everyone who graduated from the RCA’s Menswear programme was producing very unique collections, each of them shared a design ethos. They all had a really impressive attention to detail, such high quality finishes, and a really strong context for their designs. I wasn’t sure whether the Menswear programme would accept me, since my background was mainly in womenswear, but eventually I decided to go for it.

My experience at the RCA has been really different to my BA. On my BA, the classes were much bigger, it wasn’t as intimate and you felt like a small cog in a very big machine. It was great to come here and to be so close-knit with the other people on the course. We’re encouraged to help each other out a lot, and we get a great deal of tutor time. I’ve found the support here incredible. There are plenty of opportunities to talk about your work and gain confidence.

The course has definitely influenced my work. Although I still produce similar designs, I now think more about how the garment will fit, and how someone will be able to understand it. While women might be more likely to try out different shapes and styles that might not be traditionally ‘flattering’, I think men are still much more concerned with fit and functional elements. Here we’re encouraged to have regular fittings with our models. Whatever we’re doing, it still has to look brilliant on the model. This functional aspect has put some restrictions on my designs, but it’s been a really useful challenge.

There have definitely been some things that I’ve found difficult. Money is an issue, but I think that it has taught me to be much more resourceful. This year, I started to explore other ways of getting the fabrics I wanted. I work with leather a lot and have recently started deconstructing motorcycle race leathers in order to get really good quality leather without paying a huge amount of money; it’s also much more ethical, which is important to me. Like many of my cohort, I have had to juggle jobs alongside studying to get the money to support my work. Time-management has been tricky and as someone who struggles with that, the first year was a massive learning curve. I made some very valuable mistakes and learnt some lessons that I’ll take with me into the future!   

Kathryn McGee
Kathryn McGee