Olivia's experience spans education, industry and academia. Following her undergraduate degree in History of Art and Philosophy at University of Dublin, Trinity College, she trained in fashion design and patterncutting in Ireland before moving to London. After building experience in design and production she co-founded menswear label Percival which champions local production and heritage textiles. Olivia is evangelistic about the impact that designers can have on society. In her first year of teaching at LCF she was presented with a UAL Teaching Award, nominated by students. Her pedagogic approaches include the importance of thinking through making, and as a practice-researcher she explores tacit knowledge and ways of knowing about fit in Clothing. She has presented research in conferences globally.
Tell us about yourself – how has your career path led you to become a Senior Lecturer on the MA Womenswear at LCF?
I studied in Dublin and won an Irish design competition before moving to London in the 00's. I interned and worked for a variety of studios including Pauric Sweeney, Hussein Chalayan, Meadham Kirchhoff, Passarella Death Squad and an Italian denim consultancy Double M, which took me all over Europe, before co-founding menswear label Percival. In more recent times I was the mens's creative patterncutter at Studio Nicholson. Over the years I worked on exciting small projects in the arts and studio commissions. I love collaborating creatively and realised around 8 years ago that my tendency to invite friends to my studio to make things together could informally be defined as 'teaching'. I lectured on short courses at CSM before joining LCF on the BA FDT Womenswear team in 2018, until moving to the MA .
What do you find the most rewarding aspect of your job?
It is a treat to find work in the Design field that allows you to engage entirely with future possibilities. I love that I can support young designers in being critical and radical in their definitions and active re-definitions of Fashion. Working to help people realise their ideas in tangible form is also incredbily rewarding - I love to work with the craft aspect of clothing, handle fabric, understand and assist students through a thinking-through-making process.
What has been your career highlight to date?
Working at UAL has allowed me to develop as a practice-based researcher. I am currently enjoying interrogating the concept of Fit in clothing through a decolonising lens. Our collaborative research project is called Fit But You Know It.
In your experience, how has the fashion industry changed in recent years and how do you predict it will change in the future?
Sourcing fabric with more traceability and better environmental impact-levels has become drastically easier since I first asked these questions to mills twenty years ago. There's a long way to go but there is momentum for change now. I predict we will see huge changes in retail / how we access clothing. Resource/raw material scarcity will eventually impact supply chains and encourage a shift to circular models.
What are the most important things that students should consider to ensure that they succeed on the course?
For students to excel on the MA WW course they should first arrive at a critical understanding of their own value-set: what links you, as an individual, to society? A design manifesto, as long as it is well-considered, ambitious and rigorously adhered to, is the best recipe for innovative, impactful and meaningful work.
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