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Olivia studied MA Fashion Futures at London College of Fashion. She is a fashion designer who puts sustainability at the heart of her work, and has used this in her role as co-founder of sustainable brand JOA.
Did you always know you wanted to work in sustainability?
Growing up in a very hands-on family, I always knew I wanted to work in the creative industry. Fashion seemed to be the right fit for me. As well as that I have always been a critical thinker and have been observing the systems and processes of our society. I think it was in the first year of university when I started to look into sustainable practices and wanted to use design differently.
Why did you choose to study at LCF?
During my fashion design BA in Switzerland my interest and passion for sustainability grew, but I felt like I hadn't been in an environment that nurtures or even understands this interest. This is why I started looking into masters programs in Europe and found the MA Fashion Futures. During my first internship I learned to love London and all the creative possibilities it brings, and so I applied for the course.
What key skills did you learn during the course that you still use as a designer and workshop facilitator?
I absolutely loved my time at LCF, and especially all the discussions about fashion and society we had on my course. What I really learned was to see the future possibilities of what we could become and do as a society in a completely new way.
I felt like my mind was opened to new horizons, aims and goals, so essentially I was brought into a new level of creativity.
What really shaped the work I do today was volunteering for a Making For Change project in the Downview prison, it empowered me to work and connect with people from different backgrounds in different life situations. I now use my people skills in my workshops or to connect with my local community for JOA.
Since graduating, which of the projects you've worked on are you most proud of?
With my two co-founders Anna and Julie we are about to launch our brand JOA, this is something I would not have dared to dream of in the past. As JOA we take clothes that our local charity shops can't sell (so save all those clothes from going to landfill) and the remake the material into jackets. 30% of our profits go back to the charity shop. JOA is all about keeping it as local as possible and supporting your own community. Adding to this, I am also really happy to have worked with Forest Recycling Project, for each workshop we facilitated a free workshop for volunteers was run.
Between design and facilitating, where do you enjoy working the most?
While designing and setting up your own brand is just so exciting and it seems like I am eternally educating myself further, the workshops have a very different feel to them. I enjoy meeting new people, and getting to know their stories as well as sharing my skills at the same time.
You've only been working in the industry around a year, since graduating, but what is the biggest highlight of your career so far?
I am very proud of winning the SET challenge this year with my business idea, proof of how much the way I think changed since studying at LCF. It did really change the way I thought about myself and I started taking my ideas more seriously.
What do you love most about your profession?
I guess I love the variety of tasks I have to do. Sometimes I am just on my own sewing away like a mad woman, and other times I am in a room full of people and we chat and teach each other new ways of making things.
Any exciting upcoming projects you can tell us about?
In August JOA is launching our first kickstarter campaign! Other than that I will be working again with the Making for Change team on the Priory Coats projects. I will be teaching women from disadvantaged backgrounds about coat making.
Which plans do you have for your career?
At the moment I am working four different jobs, designer, workshop facilitator, seamstress for The Seam and in retail. In the first year after graduating it seems to be the right decision to get your fingers in as many pies as possible. But for the future I am hoping to grow JOA into a financially sustainable business and facilitate workshops through JOA itself.
What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in sustainability?
I would advice to just go to as many events and talks as possible, find your own niche in the sustainability realm and network network network.