Mehrunisa Zafar explores 'emotions as fuel for creativity' as a Doctoral Researcher
LCF alumna Mehrunisa Zafar from BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Development and MA Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation, has recently embarked on the next chapter of her life as PhD student with Brunel University London. Marking a significant milestone in her academic career, Mehrunisa has been selected to present her first Journal paper as a Doctoral Researcher at a conference in Vienna, Austria. Working towards her aspirations to work as an academic both in the UK and Pakistan, she hopes that she will be able to benefit future students from her vast array of knowledge and international education. We caught up with her to find out more about her current research and what it means to be an LCF alumna.
Hi Mehrunisa, thanks so much for speaking with us today, can you tell us more about your journey whilst studying with LCF?
I did a 1-year course called International Preparation for Fashion at the LCF Mare Street location, which was an amalgamation of fashion design, fashion business, and fashion styling and it was this preparatory course that sparked my passion for fashion design to the optimum level. I was fortunate enough to be selected for BA Fashion Design and Development whilst studying for IPF and being one of the candidates in a highly competitive environment was an achievement on its own. I believe my Course Leader at the time, James Hamilton Butler really helped me achieve my own sense of design direction and pushed me to explore my original aesthetic, which eventually gave me the confidence to pursue my own athletic leisure brand called M/7.
I was one of the three students who achieved a distinction in BA Fashion Design and Development and it was at this point that I made up my mind to continue learning and exploring the realm of entrepreneurship and innovation to launch my brand. MA Entrepreneurship and Innovation was one of the courses that I was instantly drawn towards; it taught me the principles of working in the fashion industry and refined the business side of design within me.
How did the work in your MA help to influence your career choice to stay within academia and study for a PhD?
MA Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation is an intense course enriched with industry led projects, collaborative units and team work which helped me expand my spectrum of knowledge and horizon to my maximum potential.
I developed a strong bond with my Collaborative unit course leader Francis Odell, which helped me explore the LCF Enterprise Challenge. It was during this time that I realised that I needed more training to understand the marketing side of my brand. The research side of MA Entrepreneurship and Innovation, especially the involvement of robust academic theory and ABS ranked journals for the dissertation, was an alien concept for me and this learning curve triggered the desire to specialise in the marketing side of fashion design.
I particularly enjoyed the concept of collaboration between two opposing concepts, the co-creation of contrasting subject areas and the opportunity to network in my MA. During the last three months of my MA Dissertation, I began to apply for MSc Marketing as I had a very strong mind-set towards my academic growth and learning, I felt there was a gap in my potential as a fashion designer and I set my intention to continue my academic journey. Based on my exceptional performance coupled with the distinction and a merit in MA at LCF, I was fortunate enough to achieve the International Excellence Scholarship at the Brunel University London and I enrolled onto the MSc Marketing course. My goal was always straight, I prepared for my PhD while studying for MSc Marketing as I was focused on creating a harmony and synergy between creativity, design thinking and emotions.
What does it mean to you to be an LCF Alumna?
Simply put being an LCF alumna is ‘prestigious’, I experienced my prime years of academic learning and growth at LCF and it not only shaped me as a fashion designer, as a creative individual stepping in the industry but it also helped me to explore my desire to conduct my PhD research on my fellow LCF alumna while studying at the Brunel University London. The graduate futures platform and the impeccable networking and support offered to LCF students is something that I always express gratitude for because LCF stays connected with the students like a family. The comfort and warmth I feel when visiting the LCF library brings back all the memories of my hustling days and I cherish the all-nighters I pulled at the library, the pressure of deadlines and the nerve wrecking submissions which have shaped me into an emotionally stable creative individual with an aptitude to take anything on board.
Now you're undertaking a PhD with Brunel University - What is your PhD thesis title?
I am currently enrolled onto year 2 of my PhD at the Brunel University and my thesis title is ‘Emotions as fuel for creativity or a barrier towards future creativity? An investigation into the emotions experienced by the emerging fashion industry in the UK at the team level.’ The driving force behind my research is to investigate the role of emotions experienced by the LCF alumni who are working in the industry and are thriving towards creating compelling brands. As creative individuals our intensity to experience emotions is always heightened and my research aims to explore this juxtaposition between two opposing forces emotions and creativity.
Are there any recent research stories that have inspired you?
I came across a quote from Theaster Gates who is a social practice installation artist living and working in Chicago, United States and I instantly felt a natural alignment of my PhD research with that of the artist. Gates said, “I have the willingness to think fully about where opportunities are and where they live. If we imagine that the only right that we have is to make commodifiable objects, then we limit our practice, and we limit the great potential for an understanding between collectors, curators and galleries”.
He proposes that his interest lies in exploring the ‘life within things” by going above and beyond the routinized processes of extracting innovative ideas. The mechanism to approach creativity in the beauty of imperfection is one of the most inspiring concepts for me, which I intend to explore in future through the publication of my first Journal article.
What would be your dream research project?
My dream research project will be to engage in hybrid concepts and develop coping practices for the creative individuals whose voice is supressed in the competitive UK fashion industry. A framework which allows my fellow LCF alumna to better cope with their emotional creativity is something that I will strive to master through my research.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I developed a profound love for exploring self-help books while studying MSc Marketing at the Brunel University and it was during this time that I came across one of the best pieces of advice.
‘Your mentality forms your reality. So the next time someone tells you you’re being unrealistic about your goal and come back to reality, realise that its only their reality that they are talking about, not yours.’ - Vex King