Young designer is a model talent

THE fashion world is a dangerous and cruel place but KAREN HINDLE talks to one student who has received a great boost to her career after she was chosen to show her collection at Graduate Fashion Week.

THE fashion world is a dangerous and cruel place but KAREN HINDLE talks to one student who has received a great boost to her career after she was chosen to show her collection at Graduate Fashion Week.

Suffolk girl Amy Sidgwick is hoping her exposure at Graduate Fashion Week will do for her what it did for Stella McCartney and launch her into the big time.

At 23, Amy, originally from Bildeston, near Hadleigh, has had a dream come true with her collection being modelled on the catwalk of the highly prestigious show.

“It is what we all dream of. To have your own collection up on the catwalk is just fantastic.

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“At the end of the catwalk there are all the photographers and you just want as much exposure as you can get.”

Behind the scenes at their stand all the students contact details are available to any potential employers or designers willing and able to snatch up the talent of tomorrow.

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Amy, who is about to graduate from De Montfort University in Leicester, hopes that a top designer will indeed be captivated by her work and maybe offer her a job or work experience.

Hers is a collection which mixes strong, chunky knitwear with soft and hard fabrics.

“My collection was all about mixing fabrics rather than going for a set theme,” she said.

“I allowed my collection to evolve over a period of time rather than having a set idea and working towards creating a number of designs to fit into that.

Graduate Fashion Week is a showcase of all the up and coming talent across the country and this year high street designer Karen Millen chose the designs.

Amy said: “It was great having someone like her. It was Karen Millen herself and not just anyone from the fashion house.

“We take on board all she had to say, but we also have a huge amount of respect for our mentors who also helped guide us through the process of which designs to choose.”

To create her collection Amy, a former pupil of Hadleigh and Northgate High Schools, had to pay for her own materials with her student loan.

It is an insight to just how hard the industry is.

Amy said: “It is hard, but everyone is in the same boat. You could see it as a test of how much we want this because every one of us scraped together the money.

“We are very busy so few of us had time for part time jobs so we did things like make things to sell to raise money.

“It costs a lot of money to produce eight to 10 outfits, it does break the bank and some people have more money than others, but you have to have a thick skin and find a way to achieve the impossible.

“It is extremely high pressure and everyone feels very stressed all the time. People who think this is easy are deluded. We are not a bunch of students sitting around, getting up late and doing just enough. We work very hard for this 24/7.”

Amy has come to do her degree slightly later than some of her contemporaries. At 23 she is one of the older ones on her course.

Most come through the system having completed a foundation course in art where they are able to explore more of their artistic bent.

Fashion only really becomes an option at that point.

But Amy believes that extra year gives her the edge to cope with the knocks the rag trade will throw at her and this early training is character building.

I think it helps because you have slightly tougher skin. If you came straight from A' Levels I think you might struggle, whereas being older you are a bit more focussed on what you want and what you have to do to get it.

“When you are older you are more focussed on what you want to be doing and you know your craft. You know you are not going to go off in another direction; at that point you have made the decision and you have to stick with it.

However, for Amy there has been little question that she would follow a career in the fashion world.

As a little girl she had an eye for fashion.

“I would always wore bangles and would make things to put on my arms when I was a little girl. I always wanted to do something creative. I am not the sort of person to bury her head in books all the time, that is not the way I like to learn. I always enjoyed doing practical things and I have always been passionate about.

“There has never been a time when I have thought this is not what I want to do. I don't think I could ever do anything else.”

As Amy got older, her mother taught her to knit and sew and she eventually had her own sewing machine.

“I suppose my mum must have taught me to sew, I can't really remember, it just seems like something I have always done. It was good to know the basics and learn things the old fashioned way because it is still the best way of doing things. Once you have mastered that you can do anything really.

“I loved making things and used to make things for myself and for friends and family for presents; it was just something I always did.”

Fashion is not an option at school, so Amy had to content herself with doing art subjects and touching on textiles which she did as an A/S Level.

That was still not quite what Amy wanted to do so the foundation course followed.

“We did a little fashion but it was still quite crafty, so really the first time I got to do fashion properly was when I started the degree.”

On completion of the foundation course she took a year out to go travelling and spend time in South Africa where her partner lives.

“I spend a lot of time there and I find it a very interesting place. I have not used it as my inspiration for this collection but I expect I will in the future.

“What I do like is being somewhere different, just being in a different place is inspirational and creative for me. I love the environment.”

Amy hopes that after her degree she will be able to travel the world and gain experience before creating her own label - her ultimate dream.

“I would love to have my own collections but that takes time. You can't put a time on it as you never know when the opportunities arise.”

Amy also hopes that she will be able to think ethically when it comes to creating her designs.

One of her course papers was on the link between fashion houses and charity and if they are really helping or merely exacerbating the situation.

“Producing collections ethically is not as easy as it sounds. The high street wants them cheaply as possible but to get them cheaply you are going to have to use cheap labour.

“The problem with using labour in the Far East is that they are very good at what they do and also they are very cheap as well. That is the ultimate combination.

“This is something I feel strongly about, but if it was a ship that needed turning it would take a long time to turn as there are so many factors involved.

“If you want to produce ethical clothing you have to do a great deal of research. It is not something you can just do. You have to look at the economics and the affordability and you have to find a company which is reliable which you know treats its staff well.

“I don't know I am still inexperienced and have a lot of work to do to gain experience as yet.

“I am hoping Graduate Fashion Week will help launch me and get me as much exposure as possible.”

She added: “Yes, if I am very lucky this could be the start of something fantastic.”

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