I did my BA at the London College of Fashion and while I was there, I did an exchange with a school in Amsterdam – the Dutch way of doing things is quite different from the British education system. They’re very much into group working. I ended up doing a Fashion MA at Arnhem in the Netherlands. That was 2001 and was considered quite unusual for someone from Britain to go abroad to do a course.
After that, I did a few different projects between fashion and beauty PR and creating art shows. It was during my MA that one of the things we talked about was what made a fashion city, and it's this that became my research topic. Because we were students at Arnhem, we had discussed whether or not Arnhem was a fashion city. We kind of decided it wasn’t, even though it’s one of the main shopping cities in the eastern part of the Netherlands, but it’s not a fashion city in the same way that London or Paris are. I always had it in my mind to go back and explore this. For me, my research is coming back to this space and exploring a question I’ve had with me for a long time in a very indepth way.
A number of friends came here to do MA courses. They had the opportunity to meet so many different people from so many different places, interacting with those working in different media and coming from different perspectives. It helps feed your own ideas.
Here, there’s such a plethora of guest lecturers who come in. For example, I’ve been to Vehicle Design lectures: William Kentridge was really impressive. He’s such a big name but was very grounded and open. The Sustain lecture series has also given me a lot of ideas in planning my own symposium, 'Fashioning the City'. I quite like the format of having presentations and then a discussion where all the ideas are brought together.
When I joined as a full-time MPhil student, the college helped pay part of the fees but since then I’ve been self-funding as a part-time PhD student. I also work. It can be challenging at times, but it’s good to have another activity because it gives you that time to reflect on what you’re doing.
I’ve been working on my research for three years now, reading about other peole and seeing what they’re doing. It seemed there was a sort of discussion platform that was missing. The College has given me the opportunity to bring that to fruition.
The whole process has taught me management of projects from start to finish, managing each step along the way, but at the same time being flexible enough to meet the challenges that crop up.
"The best thing about the RCA is all the people you get to meet. Everyone comes as their own expert and they come here to develop it further. That crosses students, speakers and staff."