Programme Director for Product Claudine Rousseau introduces BA (Hons) Fashion Sportswear, a course that has developed a strong bond between function and design creativity, and has extensive links with industry.
My first job on leaving London College of Fashion was designing dresses for Middle Eastern clients in Dubai at the beginning of the 1990s. It taught me the importance of fit, body types, how to negotiate with clients and international buyers. Good communication played an important role in working with the diverse team in Dubai and Mumbai where we produced much of the beadwork.
Working with a design consultancy, Goose Design in London is where I really engaged with more commercial brands and honed my true passion for pattern cutting, fit management and technical innovation. This included projects with Levi’s Innovation team, Puma sailing, Puma Urban Mobility, Fifa, Berghaus to name a few. From there I continued on a freelance basis to work on projects with Hussein Chalayan for Puma, Dunhill, a special Olympics project with adidas. I continue to collaborate with Rapha Cycling and Christopher Raeburn.
I have been fortunate to share knowledge and expertise to wider communities; twice at the V&A as part of their Game Changers Olympic focused event and presenting insight into technical fabrics as part of their ‘Fashion Day’; working internationally with the Lebanese American University (LAU) to develop a new fashion program in Beirut, Lebanon and to further represent London College of Fashion through presentations in Barbados, and as an External Examiner in University of Bedfordshire and IMA in Turkey.
A typical session with sportswear students might be in the sample room where students learn pattern-cutting and manufacturing. We may unpack a particular sport to analyse design decisions and understand the context of how the construction and fit was arrived at. There is a hands-on approach to develop skills with demonstrations and practice. We have a breadth of technical machinery to test ideas. The aim is for students to learn how to think, as well as really perfecting skills.
Graduates go on to work as designers and product developers. This is for both technical sportswear and sports lifestyle brands. Two students have set up their own business and a few have extended their learning through undertaking MA courses.
Key advice to someone applying for the course? Be prepared to work hard, push and test ideas. You will have a real interest in how things work not just how they look and will be preparing for questioning the relationship between form and function. An interest in sport is useful but not essential. In the meantime, nurture your practical skills in drawing and sewing. Your time on the course will be a wonderful place to push creative possibilities in problem solving. You will make mistakes but they are only useful if you learn from them.
The last industry project was with Rapha Cycling. Students were asked to design cycling ranges for London in 2029. This will be 10 years after the proposed TFL new infrastructure will have been completed. This is a good example of the types of projects that work well for Sportswear to truly consider the consumer, environmental conditions and future innovations that may contribute to exciting design solutions. For this particular project, students also collaborated with knit and print students; this enhanced their learning in negotiation and strengthened their project outcome. Having this opportunity also lays a good foundation for further collaborations in the final year. A select group of students went on to present their projects to the wider team at the Rapha Cycling main office. Two students were offered placements.