Serife Niyazi’s first introduction to FAD was in 2012, when she was put forward for Fashion Futures by her A-level textiles tutor because she was falling behind the rest of her class at school. Serife didn’t just end up taking part, but won the annual competition with her standout designs.
With an FAD win under her belt and her A-levels completed, Serife went on to study textiles at Brighton University, specialising in knitwear. After graduating, she was offered a job at a menswear knitwear company she’d been working with during her studies. “When I left university I’d completed a placement year and was offered a role there straight after my placement,” Serife says. “But, after three months they decided to relocate, so I was let go.”
This was where she reconnected with FAD, and, after securing a job working in the stockroom at Topshop, decided to take advantage of its INTOFashion programme. “I was in this in-between, and really struggling to find a job,” Serife continues. “My friend was doing INTOFashion and she suggested I sign up, so I did. I went to the first workshop on CVs, which covered what’s expected on a CV and how to narrow a CV down to what’s important. They also discussed LinkedIn and creative roles before actually looking at how we could improve our own CVs. At first I thought it would just cover what I’d heard at university, but it was a lot more helpful.”
Soon after Serife started the INTOFashion program, FAD sent her CV to textiles supplier Wagland, a brand that’s been in business for 100 years. She landed a job in production within a matter of weeks. “It wasn’t ever somewhere I expected to work,” Serife says. “You always think you’re going to be working on creative or product for a brand but I love it… At the interview you’ve got to be confident but what helped me was languages. I speak Turkish and that really stood out. It’s about knowing what they want and using that to your advantage.”
While the company might not be somewhere she expected to work, it’s given Serife an insightful, behind-the-scenes look at the fashion business. “I deal with a lot of fabrics coming in from China, Korea and Turkey. It’s making sure everything gets to high street stores on time so we’re a part of their process,” she explains. “We see all the prints before they get taken. So, instead of just working at Topshop, we work with most of Arcadia, Debenhams, Sainsbury’s, most of the high street stores. Seeing those prints is exciting.”
Mentorship is also a big part of the INTOFashion experience and Serife was paired with Hannah Glick, a fabric developer at Reiss. Given that FAD’s mentors usually assist in finding a job and Serife was hired so quickly, her mentorship revolved more around technical help that would assist her career. “Because I’d found a job before the mentoring, Hannah helped me with how I could improve what I’m doing at work,” Serife says. “She helped me navigate the quality of fabrics, what kind of prints are what. I was new to all of that so we went to Liberty to look at their prints, and discussed designers and what prints are on trend.”
Having worked in Topshop in between roles, Serife advises other fashion graduates currently stuck on the shop floor to “speak up and look for opportunities. I know at my store, if you showed that you wanted to do more than just be on the shop floor they would offer you that. I had friends who were into graphics and media, and they were allowed to design the graphics in the stockroom, or work on media projects. Make it known. They’re there to support you.”
For now, Serife is “super happy” with the role she’s in. As well as plans to continue growing and expanding her expertise within the company, she has started work on a business plan, and hopes to launch her own brand at some point in the future.