As part of our Portfolio Workshop at the V&A, we were extremely lucky to be joined by All Saints for a two day garment construction class. Senior Garment Technologist Mel spoke to FAD beneficiaries about her role at All Saints, her career journey so far and advice for those who want to follow in her footsteps.
Tell us a bit about your role at All Saints.
What it means to be a garment technologist can change depending on who you work for. At All Saints, I deal directly with designers and work closely with our factories to get a prototype made for each garment, making sure sizing and fabric are fit for purpose.
How did you get into your job?
I did my degree at Nottingham Trent in Clothing Studies, which was a bit of everything really – buying, merchandising, pattern manipulation, etc. I then had a year out which I’d highly recommend, because university can only teach you so much. As soon as you get into industry it can be so different, on the job learning is so much quicker as well.
I managed to get my placement at Paul Smith as a fabric technologist in the warehouse. It wasn’t very glamorous but it gave me a really good knowledge base of fabrics and garments.
I then specialised in my last year of university in the manufacturing and testing side of things. When I graduated I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but a job came up at an outdoor clothing company so I took it. I was the only Junior Garment Tech there but I really enjoyed that my job included a bit of everything, I was constantly learning on the job.
I’ve worked as a garment tech ever since and last September I relocated to London to work for All Saints.
What advice would you give to those working towards a career in fashion?
Just get as much experience as you can. Start at the bottom, everybody has to. Work for different types of companies, be it retailers, suppliers, wholesalers and don’t just go to big brands because you think it’s the glory job, because you’ll end up working harder and longer hours there than with a smaller company. With a smaller company you’re more likely to gain experience because there’s less people, so you get more responsibility and more roles. And if something doesn’t fit and you aren’t happy after 6 months, just try something else!
What do you look for in an intern?
I look for enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn, I would take that over general experience because anyone who wants to learn and get their head down is a big plus for me.
Why do you think it’s important for organisations like FAD to provide workshops like this one?
It’s important for young people to have these opportunities so that they can see what’s available and speak to people in the industry. What they teach you in school is a blanket thing, but what you learn in industry is completely different. It’s quite nice to give honest feedback and say yes it’s hard, but you get through it and you learn.
Thank you to All Saints and the V&A for making this workshop possible!