Catherine Fuller is Course leader for BA (Hons) Fashion Contour at LCF, has worked for the likes of Nordstrom and Victoria's Secret and tells us about her experience in the industry and what its like teaching lingerie and contour.
Tell us about your professional and educational experience and background?
I studied womenswear at LCF during the late 70's and my final major project was a collection of pyjamas - so I had already been "hooked" by Contour. I blame it all on falling in love with a piece of Chantilly lace in my second year.
After graduation I worked for Wallis Fashion Group in their production department for several years, and one day saw my dream job advertised, working as a production manager for lingerie designer Julia and her husband Charles Grahame. Whilst I was working with Julia I also got involved in designing lingerie again.
I moved to California in the early 80's where I worked for Victoria's Secret, Nordstrom and Macy's freelance designing initially, but then was offered the opportunity to join Macy's buying team. When I returned to London I spent 4 more years working for Macy's in their London Buying Office, before being tempted back into Lingerie!
I worked as a Brand manager for Layal before starting my own brand "Outrageous Fortune" which I sold in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and the USA, where Victoria's Secret were my biggest customers. It was during the time I was working at Layal, that my LCF course tutor, Alex Roll, asked me to come in to deliver some lectures, and that was the beginning of my involvement as an associate lecturer at LCF. I later joined the short course team at LCF and became deputy business manager and Study Abroad Course Director at LCF.
Why did you choose to teach Contour?
The course was very new and I jumped at the chance to join the teaching team, initially as an associate lecturer, but I became Course Leader three years ago.
What do you think you offer LCF students?
I am very proud of my course teaching team.
We are all passionate about Contour and our enthusiasm for what we teach is one of the nicest things that our students say about us. Contour is a specialist industry sector, and over the past three years we have built up some fantastic contacts within the industry. Our graduates work for many of the leading lingerie designer brands, and this opens lots of doors to our students in terms of live industry projects, but also the variety of graduate destinations that are available within the Contour field. These opportunities are now also increasingly with Eveningwear and Bridal companies, because out graduates have specialist skills in pattern cutting, construction and design.
And what do you learn from them?
We have increasing numbers of International students on the course, and it has shown me that our students need to be aware of all the opportunities for them to work globally, and we need to constantly be updating our knowledge of emerging international contour designers and brands.
What inspires and excites you in terms of your area of practice?
I still love beautiful lace! I also really enjoy working with second year students on live projects with Industry Partners. We have worked with M & S, Debenhams, La Perla, Fleur of England and Coco de Mer in the past couple of years. These projects are often a huge learning curve for the students, and we really appreciate the time that our industry partners spend working with us each year. I also love working with my final year students, particularly as they work on their final major projects. I find the variety of concepts and ideas amazing, and it is just lovely to see how far each one of them has developed their creative and technical skills during their time on the course.
What do graduates of the course go on to do?
The is a wide variety of exit destinations for our graduates. Significant numbers are offered permanent jobs as a result of undertaking internships during the optional placement year.
We have graduates working for suppliers to most of the major high street brands, but several are also working for leading lingerie brands such as Myla, Coco de Mer, Playful Promises etc.
Increasingly graduates are moving into working for mainstream fashion brands, but also we have recent graduates who have launched their careers in buying and brand management, and in the past year 3 recent graduates have succesfully launched their own brands.
And briefly, how would you sum up the LCF experience to prospective students.
Being a student at LCF, and also at UAL, provides students with a huge range of opportunities, such as working collaboratively with students on other courses at LCF, access to technical workshop facilities 7 days a week, our amazing library, guest speakers from the fashion industry. On contour specifically, it is the opportunity to meet and work with students across all years on the course in a supportive but also challenging and exciting atmosphere. We are also so lucky with our location in London. All the major museums and galleries are on our doorstep. For any prospective student who has been bitten by the contour "bug" LCF is the place to be!