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Seung-Yeon Jee

MA Fashion Womenswear, 2011-13

After graduation, I worked for a bit in New York as an assistant shoe designer at Derek Lam. Although I was getting experience, I felt like I wanted to go back to school and do something more creative for myself. I also wanted to go back to womenswear.

I first came across Kyle Farmer, one of my RCA tutors at Parsons School of Design in New York, where I did my BA. I really loved him, he was inspirational. Applying to the RCA was about getting European fashion experience – the US fashion market is so different. I applied only to the RCA. 

The first year was a bit of a shock. It was hard to understand the British terms. For instance, when someone asked me if they could borrow my calico, I replied that I didn’t have any. But it was muslin sitting right in front of me. I felt a bit stupid and didn’t know anything about the fabric shops or suppliers, or where to get things. There is a stock room in the school, but sometimes you need more stuff. I wanted to try different fabrics too. It took quite a long time to get used to shopping around and finding out where to get things. The technicians were really helpful and knew where I could go.

After the first semester, I understood how things worked more, so I had time to get inspired. I focused only on fashion – it’s easy to get inspiration in London, and the tutors were knowledgeable. If had a concept, they’d help me find something else relevant, so I could develop much more around it. I started getting used to having discussions with tutors, and it became quicker to develop my own concepts.

For the final collection, I started working with fabric suppliers and leather tanneries from different countries. Being in Europe means you can access materials very easily – French lace, Italian leathers or British tweed.

I have a lot of experience and technical skills, but at the College, I had many more projects and garments to make. Everyone has good technical abilities, but it’s all about time management for the final collection. The technicians can help giving advice about putting zips the other way, for example, but the programme is really about how to build your idea.

During the final collections preparation, all the machines were taken. The first years and the technicians were all helping us – it got a bit crazy. My final collection had lots of texture contrast and I introduced colour with yellow accents.

I’ll remember classmates most – we spent all our time together, from morning until midnight, working in the studio and then sharing a cab back home if we’d stayed until 1am. We’d get told by security to go home. We know each other so well, we’d always help each other and suggest things, being supportive. Now that I’ve graduated, I’m currently working on a project for a high-end brand. 

"There are so many facilities here, it’s easy to develop something different. You can use machines and facilities from different departments."
Seung Yeon Jee
Seung Yeon Jee