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London College of Fashion

Paige Mckenzie

Profession
Assistant Project Manager
College
London College of Fashion
Person Type
Alumni
Paige  Mckenzie

Biography

After working her way up to retail management since the age of 18, Paige discovered a love for visual merchandising whilst working at Selfridges. After deciding on her career path, she signed up for BA Visual Merchandising and Branding at LCF whilst working part time as a visual merchandiser for Reiss for three years. Finishing the course this year, Paige is now working for Karmer Ltd, a company specialising in delivering global campaigns, window displays, installations, exhibitions, PR events and fashion shows around the world for brands including Chanel, Burberry and Cartier.

Interview

You've only just finished your course, what have you been working on since?

Karmer Ltd has had lots of projects since finishing the course, as well as during, as I worked part time for the last two months of my degree with the company, after I finished working part time at Reiss for 3 years in visual merchandising. Most recently we supplied and installed all sets for a large jewellery event for Cartier.

Did you always know you wanted to pursue a career in fashion and visual merchandising?

Since leaving college when I was 18 I have worked within retail. I worked my way up from sales assistant to be the assistant floor manager of menswear at a department store. By the time I was 20 I was the assistant manager of a popular premium high street brand in Selfridges London. Whilst I was there I really enjoyed working with the VM teams, as not only did we make the floor look great, but I could combine my commercial knowledge with creative flare.

I took some time out when I was 21 to make sure it was really what I wanted to do, and tried new things including a ski season in France for 6 months. When I returned to England, I did a few different jobs, but I knew that fashion and visual merchandising and management was where I wanted to be. I managed to get back into retail management, but missed the creativity visual merchandising had given me. I applied for a lot of VM roles, but as my experience was shop floor based, I was finding it hard to prove to potential employers that I was capable of doing the role. This was when I took the plunge at the age of 24, and decided to go to university and get the degree needed to pursue the career I wanted.

Why did you choose to study at LCF? 

Going to university a lot later than most meant that I wanted to make sure I went to the best. I am very hard on myself, so when it comes to my work and what I do in terms of career, I want to be the best and get bigger and better as I go. For me, this meant that I needed to go to one of best universities in the world for fashion.

Why did you decide to study BA Fashion Visual Merchandising and Branding?

I have always loved visual merchandising, and this course was a mixture of all my favourite things and skills, with the creative side, as well as commercial and management elements.

The course allowed me to take something from paper and CAD drawings to real life, I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty and build things as well as have commercial meetings with brands in fancy offices. This course suited me perfectly.

What did you enjoy most about your course?

Using the software available such as SketchUp to visualise ideas. I currently use Rhino, which is slightly more advanced than SketchUp, but it has given me the basics to take with me and helped me to understand the difference between plans and elevations etc. which I now use daily.

Which topic did you explore for your final project?

I chose the topic of feminism - this is a subject I am very passionate about, as a young woman who is career driven and trying to make a life for herself, I have battled throughout my career with my age and my gender 'holding me back'. I want all women to feel like they can do anything with their lives and career and I want to educate people on feminism and how it is still relevant in todays world. Women are constantly made to believe that they need to put their education and career on hold for men and a family, but I want to educate women that this is not the case and that you can have it all if you want it, and work hard enough.

I found the process stressful but enjoyable as I chose a subject I genuinely wanted to know more about. I love talking to people and getting their points of view, especially from people who don't work in London or in fashion, as this almost blinds me sometimes in believing that everyone has a wider knowledge of the issues women face.

What is the best piece of advice you received from a lecturer during your time at LCF?

Not to be so literal. I am very literal and straight to the point person in and out of work, but for a creative course this held me back. It was helpful to have it pointed out to me within the 3 years of my course, as now I know it is something to work on for the future.

Now you are working, what is the best thing about your job?

Seeing the creative concepts put together by brands and companies, I love seeing the mood boards and visuals behind what they want and making that come to life. I get to see the sketches come to life and be a part of managing all aspects of the job from the first meeting with the client about their ideas, to sourcing materials from suppliers and managing the team installing the sets for the launch.

Have you got any exciting upcoming projects you can tell us about?

We are in discussions with Liberty London for their Christmas windows, which as a huge Christmas window fan, this would be a dream come true to be part of.

What are your plans for the next few years?

I am very happy in my current role, I have an amazing manager, team and position and feel for the first time in my career that I would be happy to stay here for a long time and learn as much as possible. Eventually, it would be great to be a part of the creative team who design the concepts we put together, but without fully understanding how these are made (which is what I do now) I don't feel I could do this as well as I would in say 3-5 years time.

What advice would you give to potential students?

Don't be held back by your age or other people and learn to motivate yourself. I went to university later than all my friends, which seemed like it would be hard at first, but I chose something I am genuinely passionate about, which helped me in getting everything I could out of the course.

Don't just go to university because it's the done thing at your age or everyone else is doing it, do it because you genuinely want to study and have a career in the subject. Its a lot of money to waste on something you don't love and you will need that passion and love for the subject to yet you through to the end and get the best results.

Learn to motivate yourself with your own passion to do well and believe me when I say, if you work hard and gain all the skills you can whilst at university it will help you for after your studies.

Work whilst you're at university, I had to work due to not having help from parents, but even if you have help, still try to work. I worked as a visual merchandiser for a company I had previously been working full time as a manager for, so the transition made sense for my career and the company, but you can too if you work on the shopfloor and show an interest in the area you like the most. Not only for the experience this can give you, but it will look great on your cv and enables you to learn the skills of balancing your life with work, social and study which will only get harder when you finish.

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