Erica is graduating from MA Fashion Design Management and working freelance as consultant and stylist specialising in sustainable and ethical fashion.
Could you introduce yourself?
I have a Bachelor of Science degree from FIT in International Fashion Merchandising Management, specialising in textiles, sourcing and product development—working at Calvin Klein Home as a Design Manager. I am also a freelance stylist, consultant and writer.
How have you found the MA Fashion Design Management course at LCF?
Very interesting! Coming from the States, I expected a very independent/self-directed approach to learning and I haven’t been disappointed! But, my programme, as I have learned like most things, is what you make of it. For one of our recent units, Managing Fashion Projects, I collaborated with a friend/eco-friendly knitwear designer and flew to Moscow recently to do the creative direction for her lookbook and campaign for her collection. We partnered with Anka Tsitsishvili—a Moscow “It Girl” from Georgia and her gorgeous boutique/concept store, INDEXflat, for shoes and accessories. (I am now planning to use a jewellery brand she carries from Tbilisi for another project.) The course really allows the flexibility to take your projects as far as you like (pending you have the time). Ultimately, this results in convenient crossover between units with many new contacts and networking opportunities within the industry, not to mention building up job possibilities and preparation/practice for your final Masters thesis. I cannot lie and say there haven’t been moments of utter confusion and total chaos, but it always ended up working out! I am on disability with LCF due a rare, chronic illness and have had support from staff, my disability advisor and have been accomodated more than I could ever even fathom.
Why did you choose to study at LCF?
Coming from FIT, I knew I wanted to study abroad. LCF had a great reputation, a wide selection of MA programs to choose from and a wonderful involvement in sustainability (Centre for Sustainable Fashion). Design Management was a perfect fit for me.
What skills have you learnt?
Through the several projects on this course, along with my Master’s Project, my writing skills have improved greatly. My MA has taught me to think and write critically and with clarity, implementing theory with original concept. Within each unit, my project management, independent thinking and research skills have grown stronger. Through the Collaborative Unit and networking opportunities, I have gained an in-depth knowledge into my chosen specialisation of sustainability.
How have you found the teaching?
With all the different Masters programs, we have professors and tutors from all different backgrounds and experience, whether they are industry based, academic or both. In my case, the support from my professors has been so helpful. In relation to my health issues, they have gone above and beyond expectations to help me when I have had to miss classes and need extra help or time, etc.
What have been the challenges along the way?
For me, personally, it has been coming from industry, to medical leave for two years and back to school. Now, I am working on managing my time as I have to work at a different pace than I am used to when I am able, but the opportunity to work on my Masters for a year has been a great transition back to work and I am very grateful for that.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I am finalising all of my term projects and just presented my MA thesis proposal. I recently finished shooting the lookbook in Moscow for my friend’s brand, a business proposal to be a freelance consultant for the SEED program, my MA thesis proposal, my collaborative project with So Just Shop and all of my term projects! So Just Shop has been particularly interesting and fun as I just did some sourcing in Istanbul over spring break, finished their lookbook and am working on a project in Uganda to make a women’s cooperative of beaded jewellery/accessories more “Western” friendly and trendy so their product is able to sell successfully within the European and American markets—very fun stuff! I am also beginning to freelance as a consultant with an ethical and transparent consulting firm after my term projects end.
You took part in a collaborative unit project. Can you tell us a bit about this?
The Collaborative Unit, although it has been a lot of work, has been a wonderful experience. Frances Odell, who works in Postgraduate Careers, had suggested doing an industry project with So Just Shop, taking my interests into consideration, and she was spot on. With So Just Shop (an ethical online marketplace that sources from women artisans in marginalised countries) I was responsible for bringing a certain number of vendors in, choosing the products, benchmarking with a trend analysis and the creative direction for her lookbook and campaign. The founder/CEO and I got along great and she gave me full reign to choose products, vendors and many more opportunities (i.e. the Uganda project, sourcing in Istanbul)—eventually offering me a job as So Just Shop’s Creative Director (work visa pending) at the end of the project. I am still over the moon about it—this job is my absolute dream! What is great about the unit is that it is a quick glance into the industry, working with all different groups of people. Your group is paired with a consultant/tutor to give feedback and insight. My consultant was a great deal of help in regards to advice—both professional and personal.
Congratulations on being offered a job with So Just Shop – the company you did the project with! How does that feel?
Thank you! I am absolutely thrilled. I love London and had wanted to stay since I moved here. Many of my friends told me it would be nearly impossible to get a work visa and stay, but I worked tremendously hard on this project and put everything I had into it. I am so passionate about what So Just Shop is doing. It’s hard to believe I get to do this work as my actual job and I am genuinely so grateful.
You’ve talked in the past about climate change and fashion for the LCF news blog. How could the fashion industry positively impact (or help reverse) climate change?
Yes, for Helen Storey’s Dress for Our Time Installation for Centre for Sustainable Fashion! The fashion industry has a long way to go in positively impacting climate change. Textiles are a huge pollutant, waste a lot of water and use an excessive amount of toxic chemicals, usually at the expense of the people making them. I think when large companies start to become pressured by public demand for “cleaner” clothing from advocacy campaigns like Helen’s or Safia Minney’s Slave to Fashion project, the industry will hopefully start to turn itself around, but it will take time. I am optimistic we are going in the right direction, but we can learn from other industries like the organic food industry to implement new tactics and follow its success (which is ironically what my thesis is about).
Where do you hope to be in five years’ time?
In five years, I hope to continue be healthy and happy, working, traveling and developing So Just Shop from a creative standpoint.
What advice would you give to people considering studying a postgraduate course?
My advice would be to know what you want your end goals to be, whether it’s where you want to work/what kind of work you want to do, what you want to study and research-- and work backwards from that. Every single project you do on your Masters can help towards your thesis and future career, so know what you want coming out of your MA and strategically plan for it. Networking to me, is always as important as the academic and it is so important to be confident in your work. Your MA is there as a stepping stone either to a career or PhD and no one is there is to do your work for you, but there are so many people to help propel you in the right direction. Also, be prepared to do a lot of reading and reflecting!