Mia JaccariniComment

A Taste of the Fashion Industry

Mia JaccariniComment
A Taste of the Fashion Industry

Mia Jaccarini interviews Melanie Valenzia; a Textile Design & Business Studies student at Brighton University. Having carried out placements with the London-based textile and knitwear brand Kepler, as well as the iconic fashion house Burberry, Melanie gives us an insight into what it is truly like to be a cog in the fashion industry’s machine.

Run us through your course and what led up to the experiences you’ve been a part of.

I’m studying Textile design and Business studies at the University of Brighton; it focuses on business study as well as history of fashion, which gives you an understanding on the foundation of the industry as well as how it is run today. I’m interested in how knitted materials have been transformed from being hand knitted to using CAD (Computer Aided Design) and CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) systems, and so I’m specializing in knitted textile design. As I’ve progressed with my degree, I’ve become more interested in bringing back a handmade, genuine feeling to what is being produced in the fashion industry. I always knew that I wanted to be part of something that requires craftsmanship and wanted an insight into the luxury sector of fashion, which perfectly aligned with the way my course offered me a chance to complete a placement year in industry.

The companies you chose to work with differ significantly in size and history. What drove you to such contrasting environments?

The fashion industry has become such an accepting place where anyone is able to create and express themselves freely. However, with the fashion industry being one of the world’s leading polluters, the demand and process of designing and manufacturing has gotten out of hand. This is a major problem in the larger fashion houses. I wanted to make sure that I was able to experience an established, fast paced company as well as a smaller independent name to begin to understand both ends of the spectrum in terms of the way companies are run, the design process, and so on. Both allowed me to experience what it would be like to work in luxury fashion, rather than high street, but on different scales.

How did you contribute to the running of the brands on a daily basis?

The Kepler team is close-knit (pardon the pun) so I was given very hands on tasks. Most garments are knitted in-house so I was able to assist in making pieces for the collections, which really allowed me to improve my technical skills. Burberry is run on a much larger scale, so I mainly helped my team in research development and sourcing materials. This was really useful for me as I began to understand what it is like to communicate within such a large team and how important it is to meet your deadlines.

Burberry has been around since the 1850’s. Did you feel the weight of its history whilst working there?

From what I experienced at Burberry, a lot of the research and design development begins with referring to the archives. Because of its extensive history and established values it was definitely important to always keep the brand’s history in mind. Although I didn’t work with the Burberry knit team per se, being in that environment taught me a lot about the runnings of a large company and I felt very lucky to have that insight.

This was truly different to Kepler, as it is still so new. This meant that I felt that there was definitely a lot of a freedom during the design process, as they are still mapping out their client and personal creativity. I definitely learnt more about craftsmanship during my time at Kepler.

Did your work experience expose facets of the fashion industry that you couldn’t have foreseen from the outside?

Whether you’re building your own fashion label from scratch or working at a brand that is a household name, the fashion industry demands your attention almost 24/7. I learnt that clear and efficient communication is also key when it comes to the smooth running of creating a collection, as so many people get involved and so, it is easy to let information slip. It also made me realise that what the fashion industry produces really is a reflection of our time, as everyone in the industry is so engaged with the current zeitgeist.

It’s a well-known fact that the fashion industry produces a lot of waste. Fashion companies also have a large carbon footprint due to their outsourcing and shipments across the globe. However, I think there’s definitely more awareness about this problem within most companies and steps are starting to be taken to improve this.

Society is demanding more responsible fashion. Did you see the fashion industry reacting to such societal demands in any way?

Luxury fashion brands have always been able to use their skills and creative eye to tell a story throughout their collections. That is something that still applies today and is what I’ve always believed to be the beauty about luxury fashion. However, our society has grown to have less patience and industries are working harder to meet demands. Some fashion houses are creating collections for six shows a year and this has no positive effect on our continuous battle with global warming. This also causes a strain on companies trying to keep up with this trillion dollar industry.

It’s a well-known fact that the fashion industry produces a lot of waste. Fashion companies also have a large carbon footprint due to their outsourcing and shipments across the globe. However, I think there’s definitely more awareness about this problem within most companies and steps are starting to be taken to improve this.

How did your placements influence your future plans, if at all?

In terms of me completing my degree to my full potential, I developed so many new skills during my time at Kepler and it’s given me a lot of inspiration for my final major project. Both placements opened my eyes to the opportunities that lie ahead of my degree, and have started to get me thinking about what I have to offer to this industry.

As with any creative career, this year has definitely made me aware of the obstacles one faces when finding employment after university. I’m more willing to be open minded in my career path as there are so many jobs to fill within the fashion industry. Ideally, I would love to create or be part of a company with ethical and environmental values, but one that still holds a sense of romanticism.

Any words of wisdom for someone looking to delve into the fashion industry?

I think that the best thing you can do is start by being proactive. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and get in touch with brands you would like to work with. I only began to understand the workings of the fashion industry once I started to complete lots of work experience. It is also a great way to make connections. Always make sure to keep creating and have your own projects going on, as it will allow you to keep growing as a creative and help you to discover what you’re truly interested in.



Photographs by Mia Jaccarini