LCF MA17 continues with a Graduate Spotlight interview featuring MA Fashion Futures graduate Elise Comrie, a Canadian native who explored society’s obsession with clothing and fast fashion. She was also one of the 2016 Kering Award winners and recently started an internship at Brioni in Rome.
Tell us about your Final Major Project?
There is a problem and that problem has manifested itself across numerous disciplines and sectors, from the developed to the developing world alike. Whilst it attacks each sector uniquely, it might be seen to have a unifying characteristic. Ever expansive, rapacious even, the problem is built on a system which demands continuous market acquisition. Growth is the problem. Or, put more formally: continuous consumer demand. For the current level of consumption to be sustained a system of consumer behaviours has had to be created, one which fuels the kinds of growth needed to meet internal shareholder profitability targets.
Modern globalised fashion is a corporate entity that is in some cases bloated and exploitative. Some of the fashion industry’s more exploitative or predatory production cycles are largely hidden from plain sight. With the exception due to landfills and hidden “low-cost” labour offshoring, the true costs to both environment and working people is successfully hidden.
But there is evidence of what we could choose to term clothing obesity, where surplus production and wastefulness mirrors the waste in food chains. High street chains produce, distribute, sell and then process or waste vast quantities of cheap clothing. The concern is that this cycle of consumption has felt its way down to the very consumer even.
Food choices presage other consumer behaviour. After food consumption, the next significant retail behaviour would be retail purchasing. There are many similarities: the medical health industry has outlined four key factors which influence consumer expenditure: behavioural, cultural, environmental and socioeconomic influences and pressures.
These same four factors concerning obesity are to be found at the heart of the retail problem. As the saying goes, you are what you eat, equally you are the clothes you buy. A retail industry that exacerbates the twin axes of environmental degradation and consumer narcissism is a system which cannot sustain itself in the longer term.
Where did you study prior to London College of Fashion?
I have a Bachelor of Design from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Prior to my MA Fashion Futures, I also completed the Graduate Diploma Fashion Design Technology at LCF.
What would be your top three tips for prospective students?
Work like it’s due tomorrow! Ask plenty of questions and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be creative and share your creativity. We all think and approach the creative process differently and we can learn so much from sharing from one another. It sounds very basic but I learned a lot from reaching out and speaking from former students that I felt were strong examples. Education is what you make of it, be engaged in your education you will get so much more from the experience.
Why did you choose LCF and MA Fashion Futures?
MA Fashion Futures is one of a kind. My GradDip tutor told me about Fashion Futures so I went to the open evening, spoke with the then current students, and was able to speak with the course director. Fashion Futures is a rare breed, while on the MAFF other LCF students would approach me and other students on the course asking us questions about the program, everyone was very curious about this mysterious course where the students are from a broad spectrum of backgrounds but have a goal of bettering the fashion industry and therefore the environment.
What did you enjoy most about the course, and what did you find most challenging?
After our final hand-in before Christmas I was speaking with our Course Leader Alex McIntosh and was describing to him how this course has defined me as the person and this is how I want to be for the rest of my life. MAFF, for me anyway, was much more than just an MA, it was a personal exploration into my own values, of what and how I plan on giving back to this world and in return being successful in my passion. Over the past 15 months I thoroughly engaged in sustainable practices in every aspect of my life, learning ways to which I can be a better ‘human’ outside of the fashion industry, being vegetarian or vegan and really coming to terms with the decisions I make everyday to be better. I think as humans we can do better, and this MA gave me a platform of information to explore and take into my professional world.
What is your favourite thing about studying in London?
London is a magical city and it can make your dreams come true. But it can bite! I was very blessed to live with flatmates that I really cared for, where I looked forward to coming home at the end of the day. Studying abroad can be lonely, but I was lucky to develop strong friendships on this course as well as meeting the crazy cool cats in the city. London is a city of opportunity, and if you take every chance you can to make the most of your experience you will walk away so grateful. Or maybe not walk away and just stay in London!
Have you undertaken any work experience or placements whilst at LCF?
Between my Grad Dip and beginning MAFF, I did a 3-month internship with Fannie Schiavoni, who is also a former LCF graduate. Her work is inspiring and she works incredibly hard, she deserves a lot of success!
Have you previously ever won any awards…
As one of the 2016 Kering Award winners, I received an internship with Brioni at their design headquarters in Rome for 3 months. So I’ve just arrived at the ancient city and look forward to beginning my internship next week! I was also awarded a Procter & Gamble financial bursary this past year, which was helpful!
Describe your work in five words…
Clothing Obesity = work at the source of the issue.
Who is your biggest inspiration or muse?
As I mentioned earlier, my thesis explored consumer behaviours and to do this I decided to work with the most extreme cases: consumer addicts/shopaholics. The stories they shared with me gave me a sense of understanding of how beautiful human growth can be, as well as how we’ve created today’s consumer to be born an addict. I was honoured to have received their honesty, and through this I felt inspired to make a difference and bring awareness to our consumer behaviours as a society.
What are your future plans and how do you think the course has helped you realise this?
There is no doubt I would not be where I am today without this course. MAFF, and more importantly the staff and guest lectures we received guided my journey throughout this course. The Centre for Sustainable Fashion is a great support for MAFF students and the nest of comfort and understanding was a privilege.
LCF moving to Stratford: What do you think about the university moving east?
I am conflicted but ultimately I feel it’s important for LCF to feel united. In my experience, there seems to be a somewhat untold ‘hierarchy’ of campus. However, I am sorry to see the Mare St campus go as it’s such a magical secret of LCF. They have their own community of food and natural dye garden in addition to beekeeping!
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