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Graduate Spotlight: MA Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation student and Kering Winner Neliana Fuenmayor

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Written by
Josh De Souza Crook
Published date
29 January 2016

LCFMA16 continues showcasing the wealth of talent and diversity from our postgraduate students with MA Fashion Entrepreneruship and Innovation student and Kering Award winner Neliana Fuenmayor. She moved to London in 2006 to study BA (Hons) Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear at London College of Fashion before working in the industry. After a few years working, she wanted to explore another area of fashion and enrolled back at LCF to study an MA. LCF News caught up with Neliana to talk about her journey and working at Stella McCartney after winning Kering. 

Why did you want to study at LCF before you moved over form Venezuela?

When I was 15 years old I knew I wanted to pursue a career in fashion, but I also knew that I wasn’t able to do it back home in Venezuela. It’s not easy for international students who want to study a course in fashion abroad. To get home schollarship from countries that are only looking for oil engineering or medicine paths is pretty much impossible. So I managed to find a way to get a student loan via the US, which was very complicated at the time but when you are young and passionate, you move mountains to make things happen!

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MA Fashion Entrepreneruship and Innovation student and Kering Award Winner Neliana Fuenmayor discussing sustainable fashion at LCF.

You previously studied BA (Hons) Fashion Design Technology at LCF. What made you want to come back to study MA Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation?

My focus has always been fashion design, I enjoy the process of creating a collection from concept to realisation. However, I’ve always had a business and entrepreneur side to my creative personality. If you are a fashion designer who wants to create a label, one needs to have business knowledge, at least the basics. That does not mean you kill creativity, it means you transform your creative thinking and apply it to another field. MA Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation was the perfect fit for my fashion interests, sustainability and new technologies. What I enjoyed most about my MA was having the freedom to tailor the course to my needs and interest. I had the support from my course leader Chitra Buckley and tutors. As long as you ask questions and make them aware of what you are researching, and what makes you feel passionate, then you can make the most out of it.

You co-founded and led creative direction for AETHER STUDIOS, what were some of the highlights and difficulties of creating an independent sustainable fashion brand?

As part of my fashion designer journey, I co-founded AETHER STUDIOS with another LCF alumna with a background in graphics and fashion photography. We both had a vision of how the fashion industry could change and work, so we decided to venture ourselves to do it instead of talking about it. This is when my interest for transparency at the core of communications began. Seeing first hand the challenges of wanting to know more, asking questions to suppliers who had no idea where their materials or labour came from made me want to ask more questions. This was the reason I applied to MA Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Has studying a BA and MA at LCF helped you understand how to get into the industry and where exactly you’d like to be working?

Thanks to LCF and their visionary partnership with the Kering group, I have been able to take my vision for transparency in the fashion industry further. My interest in sustainability is from the education and guidance I have received since my BA. My tutors at LCF and the Centre of Sustainable Fashion (CSF) staff have played a key role in creating awareness about the sustainable issues in our industry, both at education and industry levels.

Sustainability in fashion has been one of the key issues and themes addressed in the industry and press over the last few years. Why do you think people are discussing sustainability more?

I am delighted to see more in the press about the issues the fashion industry is facing. We have seen the Business of Fashion for instance, who launched #bofvoices, and Stella McCartney being at the forefront of this movement, proving that fashion and sustainability can co-extist. Sustainability is really challenging and is part of why I have changed my career path away from being a designer. I don’t want to create more garments if they are not made in the best possible way!

Kering and LCF are working together on a five year partnership to address sustainable fashion. Is this kind of partnership refreshing for the fashion industry?

Absolutely! This partnership is pretty unique when it comes to the fashion industry and academia collaborating to bring out the best of students and future influencers in the fashion industry to consider sustainability at the core of the industry’s values.

You’ve already started working for Stella McCartney since winning the Kering Award, do you know what department and projects you’ll be working on, what will be your primary focus?   

I have been at Stella for a month now, time flies by when you are having a great time. I’m working in the sustainable department with Claire Bergkamp who is the Head of Sustainability and a LCF alumna. I am mainly working on the transparency and traceability project I proposed to the brand, I’m also working on other projects with the Ethical Trade Coordinator and Claire. I have a limited time here but I do hope I can stay as I am enjoying being part of the SMC team.

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MA Fashion Entrepreneruship and Innovation student Neliana Fuenmayor at this years Kering Awards.

What advice would you give to anyone pursuing a career in fashion?

Fashion isn’t the glamorous thing you see in magazines and catwalks, there is so much work that happens behind closed doors, especially if you want to create sustainable fashion. If you have a passion for fashion, then you can really love and breath this industry. Make sure you are honest with your skills and open for them to evolve with time. There are hundreds of areas to work within the fashion industry, designers aren’t the only ones that determine whether a collection is successful or not.

What are your plans for the future, and where would you like to be in five years’ time?

In five years time, I’d like to look back and see how my contribution has helped the fashion industry change for the better, seeing a shift in the way fashion is produced and consumed, no matter where I work or live. This is the reason why I’m in the industry, I want to see sustainability embedded in all aspects of the fashion chain, and of course a house by the beach would be nice too!