Putting on an exhibition is no easy task. From venue hire to refreshments, to guest lists and crowds; there are many challenges that come with the vision of a producing a quality event. BA Cordwainers Footwear students Ella Porter, Emily Hill and Harriet Blacker chat with us about their successful self-funded Grad Showcase that took place at the Old Truman Brewery on 13-14 July 2019.
The showcase looks amazing. Well done for putting this together by yourselves.
Ella: It’s been a challenge, but it’s turned out really well. Everything’s come together in the final moment.
Harriet: I think we were all quite surprised that we managed to pull it off in the way that we did.
Emily: It all kind of came together in the final week. We had the venue for a while, but we didn’t have any tables, tablecloths etc.
How did you make it happen? I love the idea of putting on your own showcase but how do you practically do that?
Harriet: We were all really good friends which made it easier because we had lessons together, so we could discuss and say “have you thought about this”, “we need to get that”, “we need to do this”.
Ella: I think we’re all quite proactive people. I also think that from the perspective of being a student - because we’re doing it, we know what we want. We know what everyone’s work looks like, what works well together, how much space we’ll need, what our peers would enjoy. That made it easier – knowing exactly what we want.
Harriet: And we could ask other students “what would you like to be able to show”, “what do you want to do”, “how do you want it to look”, “what idea do you want to give to the person looking round”.
Emily: We had to find out how many of our cohort would be interested in doing it. Eventually, we managed to get twenty people.
Ella: Things fell into place once we actually decided the key details.
Was it easy to rally your course mates to get involved?
Harriet: Once we had an idea of what we wanted to show and the style. Everyone always wants to show their work and get exposure, so it was easy to get them on board, but the biggest challenge was if they were in another country etc.
Ella: One of the hardest things was picking a date to do it that fit everyone’s schedule as it’s such a busy time.
How are you guys feeling now that you’ve finished your degree?
Ella: it doesn’t really feel real because we didn’t have our final hand in that long ago. Then we were still organising this show and getting together a CV and portfolio, and then preparing for the LCF19 show at Here East, and then it’s graduation! It hasn’t really sunk in yet.
What has been one of the highlights from the past 4 years?
Emily: Placement was probably the highlight because you learn so much during that year. Ella and I were both in Spain with Zara and Harriet was in London working for Ralph & Russo.
Ella: You learn so much on placement year – things that they just can’t teach you in school because it’s different machines and ways of doing stuff. There are so many methods that I’ve learned that I would never have known until I had a job. I think it really puts you ahead in terms of CV, connections and understanding what you’ll be doing day-to-day.
Harriet: I’d say it’s final year. I think it was so much more exciting because you were doing exactly what you wanted to do. You made your own brand, you created whatever you wanted to create without someone setting a brief. You could fully embrace your creativity. Building your brand and deciding what you wanted it to look like – you had control of everything.
Could you tell me about your favourite piece of work you’re exhibiting and what inspired you to create it?
Emily: My favourite is my blue boot with embroidery. It was hard to make and very time-consuming. I really liked the sketchbooks and I do quite a lot of drawing. I really enjoyed that side of it and doing all the research. It’s all kind of inspired by English baroque with softer colours.
Harriet: My boot with the words all over it. Everyone says “if you knew this was gonna be your final project when you started would you believe it?" I definitely wouldn’t. My collection before was so commercial. With this one I thought I’m never going to be able to do this again so why not go all out? Covering everything in glitter, pink, gold and silver was a lot of fun!
Ella: My favourite piece is probably my boot with the concrete heel because it was really fun to work with different textures and materials, seeing how they came together, layering stuff up and just experimenting is what I really enjoy doing. There were a lot of failed attempts, but I really like the final outcome of that and how it worked with layering the mesh.
Would you have any practical tips or advice for the next lot of students if they wanted to put on their own showcase?
Harriet: Organisation is key. Obviously we’re all very creative and everyone wants to do their own thing which is great, but you want a show to look cohesive and work well together. I think also establishing the boundaries – this is what it’s gonna look like – is so important.
Emily: It’s worked well with the three of us because we’ve been in charge of it. If you try to do it in a massive group there will be too many opinions. We’re all designers so everyone has an opinion on how it should look. We wanted to keep it clean and white and getting that message across to a few people was a bit difficult.
Ella: Everyone’s got a different opinion and you’re never gonna get everyone to agree on something so it definitely works better to keep everything really clear to avoid confusion.
Harriet: It’s also about listening to the people that are taking part. You want them to have a good time and want to be there as much as you do! We’ve obviously put in all this work, and you want people to be motivated about it. So learn what they want and why they want to show their work.
Ella: You have to be confident in what you’re doing and asking for help. All the alcohol and water were sponsored, and the venue gave us a really good student discount. I also think the venue itself is a really important aspect. With this one the footfall on the weekend is fantastic so we’ve been getting people wandering in.
Harriet: location is definitely important!
How do you think you can stand out in the footwear industry?
Harriet: Being quite innovative. These days a lot of brands are very commercial, and they don’t want to push the boundaries too much at the risk of no one buying them. Depending on what area of the industry you want to go in – for example if you want to go into design, incredible drawing is what will make you stand out from the crowd. If you want to go into making then being able to make the ‘perfect’ pair of shoes is crucial. Pushing those boundaries and bringing something new to the industry.
Ella: Innovation is definitely key, and research into sustainable materials.
What are your thoughts on LCF’s move to East London?
Ella: I think it will be really good to have a purpose-built place. It will be quite sad because our campus is at Golden Lane, the old school house, which has a really nice vibe as it’s just us and accessories, so you get to know everyone there.
Harriet: It would be interesting to see what it looks like, and it would help with the collaboration aspect.
Emily: It’s nice for everyone to be under one roof and have access to all the machinery in the same place.
- Find out more about BA (Hons) Cordwainers Footwear: Design and Innovation
- Read about LCF's move to the Olympic Park in 2022