Bianca Laporta

Bianca's interest in textiles led her to study BA (hons) Fashion Contour.

Tell us a bit about what you were doing before the BA course?

I was studying A-Levels in Product Design: Textiles, Business Studies and Geography. My first textiles project was a fitted dress for AS Level and then for A2 Level I made a bridal lingerie set with accessories.

And why did you choose the BA (Hons) Fashion Contour course? 

I always knew that I enjoyed textiles and it was something I excelled in. When I started looking at universities, I saw the Fashion Contour course at LCF and suddenly it was a dream I wanted to pursue, which is why I made my first set for A-Level. Designing lingerie is amazing, the intricate details, trims and body contouring is very inspiring.

What were the first and second years of the course like?

First year was initially a shock to my system. University was more sketchbook-based and this was my weakness at first. I found illustration difficult, but found ways around this and my visual presentation and Illustrator skills grew with each project, throughout the year. I’m still learning and developing these skills today. Making my first bra was great and it remains one of my favourite pieces. The year was very much about learning and developing skills to take forward to next year.

Second year had great industry projects and really made me develop my skills and learn new techniques. I believe by the second year you feel more confident to experiment with new fabrics and machinery. I first used the specialised machine room in second year for my Speedo project.

Did you get involved with any industry projects?

The Fashion Contour course has had a wide range of industry projects with Sony Ericsson, English National Ballet, Debenhams and Speedo. My favourite projects were the English National Ballet and Speedo. Both were very different, but allowed me to be really creative.

Throughout placement year, I had been entering lots of competitions. I won the opportunity to showcase my lingerie pieces at the Lingerie Collective show, which has led to other opportunities that I can’t talk about yet, but they are very exciting!

What did you get out of these projects?

The English National Ballet project was a brief to design a piece inspired by the Ballet Russes. I designed a white silk jersey and georgette body suit with raw appliqué. This piece got chosen at the end of the project, to be developed for a performance exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. 

The second bodysuit I made, was a mink colour and had more appliqué detail to the shoulders and hip area, to accentuate the female form. The bodysuit was danced in by the prima ballerina at the Diaghilev Ballet Russes V&A show last November.

The garment I produced for the Speedo project, which was made out of the now obsolete Lzr Racer suits they gave us to recycle, is exhibited around the world with Speedo.

These creative projects have allowed me to explore the boundaries of contour fashion, and in doing so, I have created unique pieces. My Sony Ericsson and Ballet Russes pieces have been used for editorial photo shoots.

What is the balance of practical and theoretical work on the course?

I think the balance is good. Portfolio/sketchbook plays a big part in the design process and making is very hands-on. Each term has a piece of academic writing, with Cultural Studies in the first and second year, a report for placement year and the concept proposal for the final year. I found out I was dyslexic whilst on the course and the university provide great study support services.

Where did you work during your placement year?

On my placement year I did three placements, Harrods-stocked designer Lee Klabin, Alöe Loungewear and ASOS. Each of them was valuable, as I gained insight into a different side of the industry at each one.

At Lee Klabin I worked on the production side and it was very hands-on with cutting of fabric for the garments, tracing patterns and hand finishing. I made a couple of patterns for the collection and also got to sew samples and learn great techniques for draping and modelling on the stand.

I was a PA at Alöe Loungewear, for the creative director, who runs the company by herself. As it was such a small, intimately run company I was interacting with manufacturers and buyers on a daily basis. I was at the company long enough to see the whole development of a season and was involved in measuring samples, packing and distributing. The job had very intense periods when it became very busy around the photoshoots. I attended the Salon de Lingerie to represent Alöe Loungewear - it was an invaluable experience that I will never forget.

ASOS head office was a great environment to work in. I worked in design and had the opportunity to make jewellery for press day as well as hand-finishing garments and the preparation work for the shows. The womenswear head designer wanted to hone in on my lingerie background so I was set a project to design lingerie for Christmas and Valentine’s Day. It was a great professional project to work on and they were very pleased with the sketches they received. 

I really enjoyed the atmosphere at ASOS and I was able to do a lot of experimental work for the ASOS premium dresses and art works. Since leaving, I have been asked to do some freelance design work for them.

How do you feel the placement year went?

The placement year was very beneficial to me and I would recommend that everyone with the option take it. As a designer, I feel more fulfilled and have an even wider range of creativity and techniques now. I’ve got to see production, design and running of a label and that has put me in good a position to know and understand what I would like to do.

Supply and manufacture appeals to me as I enjoy sourcing and it still allows for creativity. I have been doing freelance design work and hope to continue this while setting up a small internet run label of limited edition pieces. 

Future aspirations are to design for big brands on the high street and luxury brands too. Having my own boutique, stocking my own label, and others such as Stella McCartney and Elle Macpherson is my ultimate goal.