We spoke with London College of Fashion Graduate Diploma Fashion Design Technology alumni Alexandra Armata about her work, the inspiration behind it, and what she’s been up to since graduating from the course.
Hi Alexandra. Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do?
My name is Alexandra Armata and I’m a womenswear designer. I graduated from the LCF Graduate Diploma in 2018, and then I moved on to the MA Fashion Womenswear course at Central Saint Martins.
Do you work in womenswear now?
Yeah, I'm still designing womenswear.
What was your experience before you joined the Graduate Diploma FDT course?
I did my BA in Design at Ryerson University in Toronto and the approach was a lot more technical than somewhere like LCF or CSM. The focus was on preparing us to work in a manufacturing setting as technical designers and approaching things from a more mass-production perspective.
At UAL the approach to design was a lot more creative, artistic and conceptual. And I guess it emphasised becoming a more well-rounded designer, looking at the big picture aspects of development.
Is that what attracted you to the Graduate Diploma FDT?
Yeah, definitely. The course has always boasted itself as preparing students to move on to an MA afterwards, which was pretty much the big draw for me as that was something I really wanted to do.
As an international student coming from a really technical background, it just seemed like my best option was to do the Graduate Diploma, prepare myself for an MA, and then go from there.
How did the Graduate Diploma FDT course help your fashion practice?
I really loved my tutors. I think they were the first ones to encourage me to look at design less superficially, and help me realise that I've got to think about more than just ‘how’ to construct something, but ‘why’, and all those other aspects.
Could you describe your final project on the Graduate Diploma FDT course?
At the time I really wanted to do something avant-garde as I thought that would be best to get into an MA. My final project was very structural and bizarre, I don't think it really reflects me as a designer anymore, but it was a fun exercise to meld together some sculptural and artistic references. I was looking at a sculptor, John Chamberlain, and fusing that with really ‘tacky’ references. I'm from a working-class background so a lot of my work references that in some way. The project included elements of NASCAR, which is a working-class interest or hobby, put together with art which is kind of an upper-class interest I guess you could say. So it was melding those two together in a weird, very structural garment that I then painted with latex to get this chipping effect that you would have on a crashed car.
So how does this differ from your current style and interests as a designer?
I think the core of the working-class perspective is still there. My MA collection focused on my own upbringing and I went through my family archive photos to look at how fashion had changed. My parents immigrated to Canada from Poland and they lived in Poland during the Soviet era. It was interesting to see how the authoritarian government influenced the way that people dressed. The censorship and the limitations on imports also limited the options of what they could wear. I guess the working-class background is always in my work, and that's something that the Graduate Diploma helped me discover was a more interesting perspective than whatever I was focusing on before.
What advice would you give to any students who are thinking of doing the Graduate Diploma FDT?
I suppose to keep perspective of what you want to do afterwards. If you want to go straight into work, then I think you would approach the projects differently than if you were going to do an MA. I suppose that's kind of the most important question to ask yourself before you start the course.
I think I would just allow myself to explore a lot and let go of any ideas I had before of what I was supposed to do. In the design process especially, you have to allow yourself to make mistakes. Coming from a technical background, anytime I made a mistake during the process my default reaction would be to try to fix it, whereas now I've learned sometimes you make a mistake and it actually lends itself really well to the final design, which is something that you can't plan at all.
You don't have to be technically perfect to come up with something creative.
Do you have any plans going forward?
I’m taking a break! But I definitely want to find a job. All my experience up until now has been working for startup fashion brands, and I'd really like to see what it's like to work in a more structured or corporate fashion environment. I think that would be a big learning experience for me. After that it would be lovely to start something for myself.