Harriet de Roeper
I’d always had an interest in textiles and colour, but never really had the chance to explore the surface design side of fashion as much as I’d wanted. And, as much as I enjoyed textiles and surface design, I never felt like I wanted to just do textiles.
After graduating from Kingston, I did print design at Religion clothing for some time, but I knew that at some point, I wanted to do an MA and develop a strong aesthetic around surface design. I chose the Royal College of Art because it allowed me longer to develop. I wanted time to breathe. Once I got here, I was grateful it was a full two years, rather than 18 months. Even in the final six months, I grew so much.
Elaborate shape and silhouette has never really been my thing. I wanted to use clothing as collage so I did lots of cut-outs. The facilities here at the College made it possible for me to blur the lines between surface and fashion – important for the way I work. It felt like a real luxury to be able to use the dye lab or the print table, which was quite generous of the Textiles programme.
The first project we had was a personal one, with Julie Verhoeven, who is an amazing tutor. We all had huge respect and were all nervous starting. My crit didn’t go so well – I had all the elements that were in my final collection but in a really naïve way. I had sequins; lace; I hand-painted on a dress and had glitter. It was a complete hash. I had missed a trick. Looking back, though, it was the beginning of what I had in the end.
In my second year, I contacted Sophie Hallette and got sponsorship. It was a good opportunity to research and find links between the lace and what I was doing. If you have a strong idea about what you need to use, you can be savvy and get sponsorship. You’ve got to be polite and persistent, be willing to put in the groundwork, and use your initiative.
My final collection focused a lot on glitter. I knew I wanted it to be feminine but in a tomboy way. I had to figure out how I was going to achieve that. When I first started I was concerned with how I was perceived, and I wasn’t sure of what my strengths are. It was about feeling comfortable among others who were also finding their strengths. In the end, you have to learn to focus on yourself. Once you start having crits, it’s about making all the links and applying everything you’ve learned to the final show.
You have so many crits, so many work reviews and so many tutorials where you have to take criticism, you’ll get advised lots of different ideas and developments, you have to be brave enough as to what you want to take and to leave. If you take every bit of negative comment, you’ll never move forward. You have to believe in something that you’re doing.
" The RCA doesn’t allow you to stop; I had my head down for the whole two years. It was really important to keep going and evolve."