Edwina was first introduced to FAD through a friend and ex-colleague. After retiring from her role as senior designer and manager at Marks & Spencer, she was keen to carry on contributing to the fashion sector. After reaching out to FAD she quickly started as an INTOFashion mentor.
Today, that role has turned into INTOFashion programme co-ordinator, where she spends an hour with each graduate, covering their work, portfolio and interests before passing the information to FAD where a mentor can be assigned. “I see this role as providing a facility. A starting point in giving the graduate the best opportunity to be paired with the right industry mentor,” Edwina says. “It’s important to be as open and attentive as possible. In a relatively short span of time I need to put down a clear and solid summary of each graduate and offer any directives I see fit.”
With more than 40 years in the fashion industry, Edwina is incredibly familiar with the way it works. She has had a career that spans working with trends in Milan, developing seasonal collections for the Italy, UK and Hong Kong markets, moving to Paris to take up a role as a womenswear designer before coming back to the UK where she most recently worked for Marks and Spencers as a senior designer and manager. “Along the way I’ve had some great jobs and some tricky ones,” she says. “I learnt from them all and adapted to a markedly changing industry along the way. I found out what I was good at, and what gave me satisfaction and the energy to move onto the next thing.”
It’s this scope of experience and personal anecdotes (from having her pieces featured in a fashion magazine back in the mid 70s to fitting pieces on a young Jerry Hall) that’s made her impact at FAD so valuable and, for the graduates who come into contact with her, so insightful.
“There are far fewer opportunities now for young graduates to make industry connections and, subsequently, gain experience. Many of the industry graduate programs have been cut back, especially within design, and companies are bigger and more structured, often less flexible and open to taking on young learners,” says Edwina “There is also some disconnect between the quality and breadth of fashion course curriculums and what’s now required in industry. The FAD programme can help with making connections, and create a direct line with someone working in the industry who can offer advice and support.”
“It’s not a given anymore that a career in fashion will be direct and straightforward,” Edwina advises. “In itself this is a hard lesson to accept. Use whatever links and connections come your way and be as proactive as you can. Also, never feel like you have stopped learning. This is a fast changing and adapting industry so you have to constantly ask questions and explore possibilities. Whatever job you get, make the absolute best of it. Look for the positives, and the aspects you can use and grow from.”