FAD INTOFashion supports graduates to progress from the shopfloor into careers which use their skills, talent + experience. Mentoring is a key way for participants to identify and hone their strengths, develop their CV and portfolio and gain vital industry insights. We asked INTOFashion mentors and mentees how the mentoring process is going.
CAMILLA JESSEN, MENTOR
Currently working as Women’s Design Director at James Perse in sun-soaked Los Angeles, Camilla Jessen is also a mentor for the FAD INTOFashion programme. ‘This is my first time mentoring,’ Camilla says. ‘It feels really good to be sharing my experience and giving advice to someone about to launch their career. I believe it can be really helpful to know that other people have been in the same situation, in the beginning of a career, insecure about the business and the future and how to make the first breakthrough. It’s important to support the next generation, for them to believe in themselves and if they’re passionate about something they have to hold onto that passion, keep going, be patient and never give up.’
Structuring the conversations she’s had with her mentee around the reading material provided by FAD, which she says has been ‘a good support when in doubt’, she takes the time to explain that in the fashion industry, the world of work is different to the world of education. ‘It’s a completely different beast to be in a creative workplace,’ Camilla continues. ‘From school we learn to just concentrate on our own vision but in real life, most of the time, there are lots of compromises to be made and it’s a balancing act between your ideas, other creative minds and lots of pressure.’
As a result of this pressure and often difficult balancing act, Camilla advises those looking to enter the fashion industry that ‘it’s not as glamorous as it’s made out to be. If you have the passion and can be on board with getting your hands dirty, welcome. If not, don’t bother!’
EZOE ROBINSON, MENTEE
After finishing a foundation design year at Kingston and a BA degree in Womenswear at CSM, Ezoe Robinson graduated last summer. ‘For the first few months I was relaxing and recovering from university and after that I started applying everywhere,’ she explains. ‘I called all the places I’d previously interned at (such as Dior and Alexander McQueen) to tell them I’d graduated and ask if there were any available jobs. I kept applying and had quite a few interviews and, after that, started applying for a wider range of design roles.’
After stumbling into London Tech Week by accident in her second year of university, from which she designed a fashion events discovery app with a team of engineers, she decided to also apply to UX design, digital design and graphic design jobs as well as those within fashion. Fast forward a few months and not only did she manage to land a job in UX design, but has just been offered an internship at COS.
‘FAD paired me with Camilla, who also studied at CSM and started off working in London before relocating to Los Angeles,’ Ezoe continues, talking about her experience taking part in FAD’s INTOFashion programme. ‘She’s been really helpful, motivating and very open with sharing podcasts, resources online and other advice on how people have launched their own labels.’
Alongside sharing industry advice, she also feels that working with Camilla has helped bridge the gap between university and the world of work. ‘Because Camilla is in LA, she’ll talk to me about new companies like Everlane, who balance creativity with products that sell, and hearing her talk about that gives me a better understanding of what I need,’ she continues.
‘Camilla’s always telling me stories about start-ups from a business perspective and because I’ve got the tech experience, it gives me ideas and is really motivational. And also with moving abroad, hearing that Camilla has gone to America and how much she’s enjoying it, it’s also given me that confidence to consider working abroad too.’
AOIFE NI CHOFAIGH, MENTOR
After working for Ted Baker as a Senior Designer on Womenswear Accessories for three and a half years, Aoife Ni Chofaigh decided to pursue a new challenge, and has just started working as a freelance accessories design consultant.
‘This is actually my first week of being self-employed, so I don’t quite know what a typical day for me will look like yet!’ she says. At Ted Baker however, a typical day for Aoife would involve anything from answering emails from factories in China to reviewing pre-production samples and working on sketches for new designs.
Alongside her work at Ted Baker, Aoife has been an FAD INTOFashion mentor since January, and also volunteered on one of FAD’s Fashion Futures workshops a few years back. As part of that mentoring, she has been meeting a textiles graduate once a month to help with portfolio preparation, feedback on work and general industry advice. ‘I’m really enjoying working with her,’ she explains. ’It’s great to be able to work with someone who is really motivated and very talented. The great news is, she has just got her first design role. I’m so happy for her!
‘I think FAD’s INTOFashion programme is great,’ Aoife continues. ‘When I finished my MA, I took a job in retail, thinking that I would be there for a couple of months before I found a design job. I was there for about 9 months in total, applying for jobs and getting really disheartened. It would really have helped to have had someone to talk to that was working in the industry – someone I could ask advice about my portfolio, how to approach applying for jobs, and to actually just have someone to tell me that they have been there, done that and got through it.’
While it might be Aoife’s first time mentoring she’s clearly made an impact and, with her industry experience, has a good grasp on what it’s like to work in fashion. ‘Even though you love fashion and want to succeed, you need to make sure you don’t work late every night,’ she says, imparting some advice to those wanting to break into the industry. ‘Make sure you take time for yourself and mind your mental health. This will mean you don’t get burned out and you will actually be more creative and productive in the long run.’
SAMRIDDI GURUNG, MENTEE
‘My mentor gives me great insight into the industry and has helped me focus on my work,’ says Samriddi Gurung, a London College of Fashion, Fashion Textiles graduate who has been making the most of FAD’s INTOFashion Program. ‘Working full time can get quite difficult to focus on personal projects and having a mentor to keep updated and get honest feedback from has really helped me gain my confidence and passion back.’
After specialising in print design at university, Samriddi moved home after graduation to work on her CV and online portfolio and, after that, began applying for various internships and graduate schemes.
‘The biggest challenge was the reality of how hard it really is to break into the industry,’ she continues. ‘There wasn’t a lot of paid job opportunities within fashion design, let alone print. Another challenge was having a portfolio which was conceptual but didn’t have the commercial work balance for the industry.’
But while carving a niche in the fashion industry is tough, she feels FAD’s INTOFashion programme has helped her along the way. ‘INTOFashion has been a great programme to be a part of,’ she says. ‘It has helped me a lot in connecting with other graduates and realising that there are other fashion graduates who are in the same boat as me.
‘The masterclasses are also a great way of connecting and learning from other professionals,’ she adds. ‘In a way, it’s like being part of a positive community who want to help you find your path.’
HANNAH ZAHRAN, MENTEE
Having graduated with a degree in Fashion and Textiles from the London College of Fashion in July 2017, Hannah Zahran is one of the designers taking part in FAD’s INTOFashion programme. Taking a particular interest in print design, she started the job hunt straight after university.
‘The biggest challenge was the competition you’re up against,’ Hannah explains. ‘Working in such a competitive industry, there are more textile graduates than jobs.’
But while taking the leap from education to the world of work is indeed a challenge, she’s found the regular meetings with her mentor useful. ‘We meet up once a month to discuss job options and how to develop my career,’ Hannah continues. ‘Initially, I worked on a mini online 10-page portfolio to send with job applications. I have now secured an internship, so we currently discuss how I can develop my portfolio further.’
As well as making the most out of INTOFashion, she also loves the career talks hosted by FAD. ‘The career talks that are on quite regularly and hosted at the FAD office are really good: insightful and inspiring!’
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