Richard Bruce’s career began in the 70s when, after educating at Kingston University, he landed a job as assistant designer for Valentino in Rome. Since then he’s gone on to work for Christian Dior in Paris, Moschino in Milan and Marks & Spencer in London.
Today Richard is retired, but spends a lot of time volunteering as a mentor for FAD’s INTOFashion programme. “I was asked to go and judge one of the FAD competitions,” Richard says, looking back on how he first met FAD. “When I decided to retire from Marks & Spencer I contacted Maria to see if they needed any volunteers and joined the mentoring scheme. Having worked so long in fashion, I wanted to give something back.”
Since then, he’s mentored four graduates, helping them with their CVs, portfolios, and confidence so they are able to realise their full potential. He’s seen them progress from fashion interns to full-time employees, and enjoys the process of getting to know their work, and seeing which skills they can harness and develop within their careers. “One of the first things I do is look at their portfolio and work with them on editing it down, or expanding it,” he says, describing his mentoring process. “After that, I start talking with them about what interests them, what they like, and try to discover what other abilities they have.”
One specific way Richard did this was by asking one mentee to work on an independent project, looking at their favourite fashion lines, before referring it back to the catwalk. “The report was amazing. Very thorough, well-written and well-researched,” he says. “That made me think, perhaps she could go into journalism, PR, or something where the written word is more important. It gave her choices she might not have appreciated before.”
Though Richard has had an impressive, international career within the fashion industry, he also explains that the INTOFashion programme has taught him something new. “It’s given me a new, and slightly different insight into what students are facing today,” he says. “I think it’s far more competitive and immediate. When I was training there was no internet, so I would research via museums. Today, you have all of that available to you, any epoch, era, person, immediately. It is so much quicker and faster but at the same time, more confusing because you have to sift through it. We also didn’t have social media, and the pressure graduates have to go through is something I never experienced.”
Looking back over his long-standing career and work with FAD, he advises new graduates and fashion hopefuls to use their initiative and ask questions. “When they go into the business it can be quite daunting,” he continues. “First of all it’s quite a lot faster than what they’re used to when they’re at college, which is why they have to use their initiative. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You need to ask because you can’t do a good job unless you understand exactly what it is you’re meant to do.”