By Maisie Abell
Catie is 19 years old and from Somerset. She is in her second year at Leeds Arts University studying Fashion Design.
Her room is a physical manifestation of her creative work, scattered with paints, fabrics and prints from indie artists, it’s a creative haven, a space to work and relax, ready for whenever inspiration may strike.
What made you choose fashion design?
It was quite a long and complicated process I guess. I didn’t actually know I wanted to do fashion until A Level - I’d always been creative, always sewn, always done textiles you know, I had made a few garments. It got to A Level and the textiles course was very fashion orientated and I just fell in love with it really, pattern cutting stole my heart, I really enjoyed it and then it just took off from there. I then came to uni and realised how much it actually meant to me. It never really occurred to me before because I’d never really been big on clothes and that kind of thing, I’ve always just done my own thing and not really cared, and I suppose I still don’t in that way but I realised how the design process is more than just the making, which obviously I really enjoy but with the whole the design process, I just really enjoyed it and that’s how I ended up here.
What or who are your main design inspirations?
Sonia Delaunay’s work - when I first found her I was like “oh my god this is amazing”. I looked at her at A Level and in my first year of uni. She was an artist during the 20s and 30s and she created these paintings and textile prints which are large geometric patterns but very natural in the same way - sometimes with geometric, you don’t think of organic shapes. She also designed these dresses, she called them ‘poem dresses’ because they say a story in them and she used to design her fabrics around the clothes and the clothes around the fabrics. So yeah, I always really admired her work. Design inspirations… it’s hard I guess because you’re always taking inspiration from everything and everyone. I wouldn't say I have any other big design inspirations. I mean I love Le Corbusier - I’ve always been really fascinated by his ‘Cité Radieuse’ in Marseille, I just think that was always a really cool place I’d always want to go to with the sort of brutalist architecture.
What’s your take on the fashion industry right now?
I mean it’s such a quick moving industry, but a quick moving industry that’s slow to change I think. We are making advancements - diversity, sustainability, but there’s always going to be barriers to that in terms of the way the entire fashion industry and world is set up. When you look at sustainability you end up with sustainability exclusion economically, you know not everyone can afford to invest in clothes in the same way that someone might when they’re trying to be more sustainable. It’s really swings and roundabouts I think. When you go to university and you study fashion design you look at sustainability, you look at this, you look at that and it’s important because obviously if it is going to change it’s because we’re going to change it when we get there. It’s a tough one because it’s always changing in that you’ve got new designers coming in but there will always be that classic vision. You do get new designers setting up their own labels with their own names, but the big houses, they’re just never going to go, and so it becomes more complex in the fashion world - who do you look to, what’s happening, who has the influence. And of course style had this big swap during the 60s when fashion wasn’t so much ‘trickle down’ anymore, it was ‘bubble up’ and so you just don’t know what’s going to happen next. I feel like it’s almost gone digital now and it’s both [‘trickle down’ and ‘bubble up’], but with the high street creating things almost a day after you’ve seen them on the catwalk due to the instantaneous nature of technology and trends, I think we really have to slow down because the whole industry is moving at such a pace that it’s going to implode if it doesn’t.
Who are your current favourite fashion designers?
Yesterday we had a talk from Nicholas Daley - he’s a Jamaican-Scottish designer who grew up in Leicestershire so all sorts of different takes there and it was really interesting to hear him talk about his work and the idea of authenticity, which gets lost a lot in the industry, so yeah that was really inspiring. I’m looking into all of the new gen designers - Bethany Williams and her sustainable take which is such a refreshing approach, but again she’s not losing her authenticity and I think new designers know that they’ve got to be themselves now. It’s time to take the fashion industry where you want to take it, not just following what’s going on and I think that’s really important.
Expectations vs. reality for a fashion design student
I think everyone has a really glorified image of fashion in their heads. When you do fashion design they say “ooo you’re going to do some drawing of some clothes” and it’s nothing like that at all. The expectation is “I’m going to make some clothes”, “I’m going to become a designer” and in reality it’s just blood, sweat and tears - a lot of tears. Everything you do is a competition, it’s a fight to get the opportunities, to get noticed and then you can really struggle with things like authenticity. That is so important. The expectation that a lot of people have when they go into fashion design isn't the same as what some others expect fashion design to be like. Fortunately, I had some idea of what was going to unfold. My uncle’s girlfriend works in the industry and she said “don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t put yourself through that”, and I think we all knew it was going to be tough, but people, they think fashion is such a frivolous thing to do. But, you’re wearing clothes, everyone is wearing clothes, we all need clothes and we need better clothes. It’s not like we’ve designed the T-shirt, we’ve designed the jeans, that’s it we’re done. We constantly need to look at how we can make this better for ourselves, better for other people, better for the environment.
How would you describe your personal design style in three words?
Growing - always trying to develop who I am and finding who I am in that respect, not in the cheesy gap year way though. Modern. And then I’d say commercial.
What do you want to do in the future?
I’ll go wherever the jobs will take me, I’d love to stay in the industry. It’s captured my imagination now and I think that’s where I want to go, but I understand that it’s all about the opportunities, it’s all about, almost, luck in many respects. You’ve got to make your own luck at times but it’s right place, right time, right person.
Photography by Sabrina Pawley
Special thanks to Catie Macgregor