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I graduated in 2020, part of the first year group to have their studies affected by Covid-19. At present I am a Couture Development Assistant & Designer at Luna Mae London, a Couture House producing creations across lingerie, loungewear, maternity and baby couture. The brand operates from its Atelier in West London.
Originally, I am from Leicester and moved to London straight after my A Levels to join the UAL contour course. I had no real prior experience in textiles when joining this course, I had never even used a sewing machine. My school background was highly academic, but I had a keen interest in fine art and had originally planned to continue studying painting. This attention to fine detail and colour is what I believe gained me my place on the contour course without having to first take a foundation degree. Since graduating, Luna Mae is my first job out of university and plays to my key design strengths within a luxury market. I also am able to utilise my fine art knowledge.
During my time at university, I ensured I had a huge amount of industry knowledge, a key requirement when applying for jobs post-graduation. I interned during every school holiday at various different companies within the lingerie sector, high street to luxury, in design buying and merchandising roles. To name a few, Topshop, Next, Tesco, Fleur of England, Edge o’ Beyond. I also took part in the Diploma in Professional Studies (DIPS) and moved to Australia for a year to work as a Designer and Buyer for Bras n’ Things. By the time I graduated I had close to three years of industry experience in different sectors and job roles. In all honesty I learnt more from being in industry than university could teach, there is nothing greater than lived experience.
In summary my role is split across two key areas - design and production. I am responsible for the design of seasonal couture collections as well as private client commissions. I create illustrations for client commissions and technical sketches as required and to help build the internal portfolio of bespoke designs. I am also responsible for traveling to meet clients, presenting bespoke embellishment books at private appointments.
I source silks, laces, embroideries, beading and other embellishments as required. Often working alongside suppliers designing bespoke embroideries for Luna Mae. I also do a large amount of fine hand-painting and hand sewing. All our garments are made in house. I am responsible for managing the production of Luna Mae commissions from consultation to final delivery.
Day to day can vary massively as we have continuous changing priorities. Our clients always come first so I could be designing for a new commission or assisting our team of couturiers to finalise garments with hand embellishments/painting or QC’ing (Quality Control) to meet deadlines. At the moment I have some time to be able to work on hand painting our new couture collections that should be launching in the coming months.
Not at all. I originally wanted to go into fine art and specifically portraiture painting. However, I felt this was something that I didn’t want to study and something I would continue to peruse and practice in my own time. As mentioned, my school was highly academic, I studied mathematics, physics and chemistry alongside fine art at A-Level. The degrees I applied for were within finance and engineering. My art teacher persuaded me to apply for at least one fashion degree, I didn’t believe I would get in without a foundation, so it was my last choice. I chose contour mainly based on my personal love of underwear as well as a love of attention to detail. Something about the complicated nature of construction within lingerie appealed to me.
I am planning on working in industry for two more years. As a side project I have been developing a business plan with another LCF alumni and we are hoping to build a lingerie brand together that launches within 1-2 years. We believe there is a huge gap in the lingerie market that we want to drop into. She is based in the US and I in the UK so it has been fun being able to experience two very different lingerie markets.
Being associated with UAL alone was a huge driving factor, it is an arts university that is globally recognised within the fashion industry. I did look at the DMU contour course based in Leicester but as this is the city where I am from, I felt like I needed to leave home. I needed to grow as my own person, and I felt London would be the best place for this. It also enabled me to partake in a lot of internships as a large number of companies are based here.
I looked at womenswear to begin with and believed this was too broad a field for me, I needed something specific to focus on. I have a keen eye for small detail. Personally, I have a love for lingerie, so it seemed like a natural step for me to study Contour.
The highlight for me was being able to take a year out for DIPS and getting the opportunity to travel to Australia for work. This was perhaps the greatest year of my life both personally and professionally. I learnt a huge amount from the team that I worked with not only in design but in a lingerie buying role also. I grew so much as a person and felt I was able to come back into my final year studies with a confidence and true understanding of the industry in order to generate an accurate business proposal.
I loved being able to build my own brand in my final year. I think my top highlight would have been curating my final collection, from design to realised garments, but due to Covid our degree year was cut short. It’s a shame I never got to complete a final collection.
As I was unable to complete my final year project, the one I really enjoyed was our second year Agent Provocateur Industry Project. The body of work I produced for this I am still incredibly proud of. Having the opportunity to present my work to an industry leading brand for design and receive feedback was incredible. I am beyond grateful I was able to be on a course that provided me with exposure to industry whilst I was still studying. The contacts I made during these three terms have been invaluable. Thank you, Nicola.
From Nicola: It is a very small industry, everyone knows everyone so make sure you make a good impression.
Before I enrolled onto the course, I didn’t believe I would get in due to my lack of textiles knowledge. I was very shy and not at all confident during my first year. As long as you are willing to work hard and love what you study you will be able to leave your final year with an incredible final major project and collection.
Any opportunity you have to learn or gain experience, take it. Internships and industry experience are incredible but if you do not have access to this, ask Linda Wing, Jaz, Nicola, Linda Taylor as many questions as you can think of when you have the opportunity. They have so much experience and knowledge between them. To this day I still want to learn more from them.