Ana Duarte studied MA Fashion Design Technology Menswear at LCF, graduating in 2014. She is from Lisbon in Portugal and recently showed her collection at Lisbon Fashion Week after being selected for emerging designer showcase Sangue Novo (New Blood).
How did you get involved with Lisbon Fashion Week?
I applied to the 'Sangue Novo' competition, a platform for new designers to present their work, and was selected along with 9 other brands to present my MA collection in March 2015.
Tell us a little bit about your experience there...
It was a very good experience as we got a lot of press and got to work with such a big institution. It is a big honour to show in my country and get to do it in such a big event. I had to attend a few meetings just for them to see the work I had done, they did the model casting but gave us all the freedom to do everything else (such as choosing the song, the order of the models, the styling).
How did it feel to see your work on the runway?
Incredible. I found it rewarding to see everything coming together with the models and music. It was especially good to see that the models enjoyed wearing my clothes and felt comfortable in them. Fashion is nothing without people.
We heard you had excellent feedback after the show, can you tell us about that?
I have been contacted by many different people. Some of them are people that watched the show and came to me wondering how they could buy the pieces. I always thought my collected was destined for a specific public but it turns out that all kinds of men and even women enjoyed it and relate to it, which makes me very happy. They also recognised that it is destined for the luxury market and encourage me to continue moving forward. Also, some magazines, stylists and shops came to me to talk about future projects and partnerships. For a first collection, the feedback couldn't have been more positive.
Why did you choose to study MA Menswear?
I took my BA in womenswear back in Lisbon. However, I was always very interested in studying men's clothing. Men tend to take details more into consideration than women when purchasing a garment, which makes the whole process of creating much more profound and challenging for me.
When I finished my BA, I waited one year until I applied to the MA at LCF. During that time I had knitwear classes and developed my portfolio in menswear (as almost everything I had was womenswear). I worked as a stylist assistant for a year and a half and we used to create capsule collections to sell.
And why did you choose London College of Fashion?
I chose LCF because it is such a big institution, known all over the world and with a good reputation. Since I started studying fashion design, I looked at all the work that came from LCF students, and I always related to its quality.
Tell us about your experience of the course? What are your highlights?
Definitely the way they try to push us as independent designers. It is a self-directed course, but we were taught to overcome difficulties related to crating and producing a collection. I was forced to make contacts within the industry that I would have never done if I hadn't been on the course. I worked with three different sponsors during my MA collection: João Carvalho (leather); Acácio Pacheco Unipessoal, Lda (knitwear); TenToes (shoes), which made the whole process more interesting and professional.
What are the LCF staff like?
Very helpful; the collection wouldn't have been the same without them. Despite being a self-directed course, whenever I had problems or doubts, they would help me right away and sometimes suggest new solutions I hadn't thought of. I learned so much from them.
What is the balance of theoretical and practical work on the course?
I think the balance is quite perfect. We had to have a deep research on what our concept was so that we could come up with something original and different. At the same time we kept testing materials and making toiles to create the garments we had envisioned, so we were always balancing theory with construction.
How important do you feel project management skills are when designing?
Project management was something I learned due to (Course Leader) Darren Cabon. He motivated me to always look further and to make new contacts within the industry, in order to achieve what I had envisioned. In the end, I discovered how much I enjoyed coordinating so many different people to work well together. I sourced almost all the materials from Première Vision, and then contacted different factories and professionals – three of them ended up sponsoring me. In the shoes, for example, I established the contact between the shoemaker and my leather artist, so that the shoes have the same metallic leather I used throughout the collection. I think everyone that helped me felt happy with the final result and that is very important when working on a project.
How have you found living in London?
I moved to London just before the course started and I fell in love with the city right away. What shocked me at first was the movement as it is always so crowded everywhere. However, that is part of the city's charm and I wouldn't have changed it for the world. In a way, the city made me more independent.
Do you have any hobbies or passions outside of your course?
I am an Illustrator (with five published books and a few online publications), I practice judo and play the cello.
Do you have any tips for prospective students?
If you are indecisive, just do it. It is definitely expensive to live in London, but in the end no one can take the experience and knowledge you gain away from you. I made awesome friends and learned a lot in the course. Always keep your goals in mind, do your best to achieve them and keep true to yourself.
What are you plans for the future?
I definitely would like to have my own brand in the near future and I am working towards that goal. Meanwhile, I would like to work in a well-known company such as Tom Ford, Versace, Armani, Fendi (among others) in order to gain some experience.