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Placement Year: BA Cordwainers Footwear student Rosamund Saul’s experience at Beyond Skin

Beyond Skin Pattern Workshop
Beyond Skin Pattern Workshop
Photograph by Rosamund Saul, BA Cordwainers Footwear, Designer creating a footwear pattern in the Beyond Skin Pattern Workshop
Written by
Michelle Ashton
Published date
07 August 2019

Driven by a desire for technical knowledge, BA Cordwainers Footwear student, Rosamund Saul, began her Diploma in Professional Studies (DiPS) placement year with the aim to observe the design process from the perspective of an ethical retail brand. A year later and Rosamund’s placement experience has not only taught her the design process, but given her the chance to help design Beyond Skin’s SS19 and AW19 collections.

Ethical and sustainable brand Beyond Skin produces handmade, cruelty-free shoes and accessories. They pride themselves on their luxury vegan shoes created with innovative materials, which are environmentally friendly and 100% recycled. They are also the first footwear label to use 'dinamica', a faux suede material made from 100% recycled PET plastic, currently used by Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz for car interiors. We caught up with Rosamund to find out about her DiPS experience and how working with Beyond Skin has built her design development skills.

RS Lifestyle Campaign Photoshoot
BA Cordwainers Footwear student, Rosamund Saul, lifestyle campaign photoshoot for Beyond Skin.

Hi Rosamund, it’s great to hear you had such impressive opportunities on your placement year! What originally interested you about footwear design and creation?

Before studying at LCF I was exploring 3-dimensional design and learning about visual communication through photography. However, I always I was always keen to explore how fashion design could reflect current societal narratives. Especially through footwear and accessories, they can instantly elevate an outfit with very minimal effort. Footwear can be very emotive and reveals elements of the wearer’s identity, which I find fascinating.

Why did you want to work with Beyond Skin?

I applied to Beyond Skin because I was curious about how an ethically and sustainability focused brand approaches all facets of the design process and their marketing strategies. Before working at Beyond Skin I was set on exclusively using leather for my projects.

Since working with a vegan luxury brand I have now discovered an alternative perspective to design, which uses more sustainable materials and production practices.

Beyond Skin SS19 footwear prototypes
BA Cordwainers Footwear student, Rosamund Saul, visiting the Beyond Skin factory to see SS19 footwear prototypes.

You were clearly given a lot of responsibility while you were on placement, what were some of your other duties?

Initially, I started off packaging and shipping outgoing orders, but very quickly my responsibilities escalated and I was offered a salary increase. My day-to-day duties included maintaining the stock room, merchandising for the website and liaising with brand collaborators for press shoots.

On the more creative side, I became heavily involved in creation of content for Instagram, from styling shoots to post production editing. I was even able to use my photography skills and shot several images which were used in the website and social media campaigns. I also got to visit Beyond Skin factory’s in Elché Spain, to observe the production process – which was an invaluable experience. I learned the importance of designer/factory relationships and saw the reality of designing products for manufacture using particular facilities and components.

So, what would you say has been your favourite experience from your placement year?

My most treasured experience is definitely being involved in the design of SS19 and AW19 collections. At first I offered to produce a trend forecast for the upcoming SS19 collection, and then I was invited to help design the collection!

It is such an exciting process seeing initial design concepts and developments come to fruition.

Beyond skin campaign lifestyle image
BA Cordwainers Footwear student, Rosamund Saul's lifestyle photoshoot for Beyond Skin campaign

What you have found out about yourself through this process, has it changed your approach to studies in your final year?

The DiPS placement year has really built my confidence, having my opinions and suggestions valued by colleagues on the professional design team is incredible.

Prior to placement I struggled with having the confidence to share my thoughts, but designing SS19 and AW19 has developed my ability to healthily critique my own work. I think the overall experience has taught me how to collaborate effectively with others and adapt to any situation.

Working in a professional setting I have not only improved my time management, but learnt to strategise priority tasks, completing them without compromising on the quality of execution. This method of approaching tasks head-on is a mentality that I will carry through into my final year of study and my professional life.

What advice would you give to other students looking to complete the placement year?

I truly would urge anyone considering the placement year to take it! The time spent working with a brand and its designers, gives invaluable context to our studies of the fashion industry. The experience and knowledge gained while on placement will also make you much more employable as a graduate. It may just set you apart from other competitive applicants when applying to your ideal design job!