At present, Rachael McMurray is a design assistant at womenswear brand Nicole Farhi. Working with each collection from concept to completion, a typical day might include working on CAD sketches, creating print designs or styling for look books. ‘I have learnt about the entire process of creating a collection while working to seasonal deadlines,’ Rachael says. ‘At first it felt like I had been thrown in the deep end and there was so much I didn’t know. Through experiencing my first full season, however, I have learnt a lot.’
Before starting at Nicole Farhi, Rachael was interning at Roland Mouret during the week and working a retail job at Aesop over the weekends. She had also made the move down to London from Scotland before that to pursue her ambitions as an intern for womenswear designer Roberta Einer in the lead-up to her SS18 London Fashion Week presentation.
‘I felt extremely tired and frustrated, but also hopeful,’ says Rachael McCurray, thinking back to how she was feeling when she started FAD’s INTOFashion programme. ‘Surrounding myself with people who are established in the industry and who truly want to see you achieve your potential was very important. Meeting my mentor and attending the masterclasses were a very encouraging experience. It was difficult at times to keep the momentum in applying for jobs but consistently receiving lots of advice and attending masterclasses with graduates in the exact same position as me helped give me the drive to keep going!’
While it’s clear Rachael already has an impressive roster of names under her belt, she achieved a portion of it during her time on the INTOFashion programme. ‘My mentor was Holly Luckwell, who is a product developer for Burberry,’ she explains. ‘Meeting with her was such a great experience to have another person’s insight on what else I could be doing to further my applications. It really helped talking through my future aspirations with someone who has at some point been in the exact same position as a graduate. I had been quite conflicted and she helped talk through two goals I was working towards, either pattern-cutting and design. After a discussion about each, we made a plan to have two separate CVs and portfolios tailored to each role. This was extremely helpful.’
The masterclasses hosted by FAD were also a huge help and, early on in the program, Rachael attended a masterclass with fashion recruiter Carole Robb. ‘It was interesting to get her advice as she has also had a career as a senior designer for various brands, so there were two perspectives,’ Rachael explains. ‘I remember her making a few do and don’t points that were extremely useful to me when I was applying. In particular, I remember her saying how it was important to not sell yourself short on your CV and that a common mistake people make is condensing their CVs to only one page. If you have more experience and it’s relevant, it should be on there.’
Having gained a huge amount of valuable experience and advice across the course of the last year, she has some words of wisdom for those currently stuck on the shop floor, or feeling deflated by their situation. ‘Make the most out of the people you meet while working in retail,’ she advises. ‘I never realised how much I would value working face to face with the public. Building confidence and speaking to new people has really helped me with networking in my current role and liaising with our suppliers.’
Rachael also advises, especially during the application process, to ‘have patience’, ‘set aside a certain amount of time a week applying for roles’, and to weigh up the benefits of interning for specific brands. ‘Make sure each application is considered and think about what section of the industry you want to work in and what you’re going to benefit from interning or working at that brand. If you think it’s going to be a detour on your desired path then make sure it’s considered!’