The fashion industry is notoriously competitive, with thousands of people all over the country wanting to work with some of the biggest names and designers in the industry.
Melanie Lester has worked in a variety of roles in fashion and now has her own business, TM Design Studio Ltd. In this interview she tells Jobulo about her experience and shares some advice for anyone wanting to work in the industry.
Tell Us About Your Career Background – Did You Always Want to Study Fashion?
From a very early age I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer but it was always a bit of a pipe dream. But then when I came to leaving School at 16 I decided to study a BTEC ND in Fashion Design (Clothing) as I had always loved art and textiles it felt like it was the obvious choice. At College I learned a great deal about the construction of clothing and pattern making as well as design and fashion history. I discovered at college pretty early on that I loved designing and illustrating fashion rather than actually making clothing so when choosing a university course I chose to study fashion & promotions which included fashion photography, designing, illustrating and magazine spreads. After leaving university I managed to secure a job within a company called Mudpie Designs which was a trend forecasting fashion and design company. I began my career as a graduate garment designer designing within the trend forecasting team and gradually worked my way up to consultancy manager which involved liaising with big brands such as MTV, Primark, M&S and Tescos and designing garment ranges for their stores. I worked at Mudpie for 5 years and then left to concentrate on my own company TM Design Studio Ltd where I still continue to work with big brands as well as other design projects.
How Did You Find the Right Course?
Luckily at school I had a good careers advisor and we sat down and discussed which colleges/6th form schools could offer a course to suit me. I then applied to all colleges and made my decision to go to Oxford College of FE.
What Is It Like Working in the Fashion Industry?
Extremely challenging and a lot of hard work! It is a very competitive industry as you can imagine with many young/headstrong women and men who want to work their way to the top. The hours are long but it is rewarding and the atmosphere is vibrant and fun as you get lots of interesting characters who work in fashion. The best advice I could ever give is to stay grounded and not forget who you are.
Tell Us About Your Job Roles and Positions You Have Held?
I worked in many retail stores when at college which helped me understand the retail area of fashion and what sells on the shop front. My other role was as a garment designer for a trend forecasting company. I also worked as a Graphic Designer for the same company and then progressed onto Consultancy Manager which involved me managing a small team of designers and attending meetings/briefings with large retailers. This job also involved a lot of travelling to trade fairs in Europe and writing reports to help with trend forecasting. I now work as a Freelancer where I continue to work on design briefs for high street labels, assist companies with marketing work, design and produce brochures, fliers, posters, business cards etc. as well as other stationary for weddings and anniversaries.
What’s The Most Exciting Thing That’s Happened to You at Work?
Probably going to Barcelona to Bread & Butter Trade Fair where I met lots of interesting and exciting characters and also went to quite a few parties, the Spanish know how to party!
What’s The Best Thing About Working in this Industry?
Doing what I love and getting paid for it! It’s also quite exciting seeing designs I’ve done for sale in the high street and being able to buy them.
What’s The Hardest Thing About Working in this Industry?
The hours are very long and often it is exhausting. The travelling was great although I often travelled alone which was quite lonely especially when you don’t speak the language.
What CV and Career Advice Would You Give to Someone Wanting to Work in Fashion?
Don’t be afraid to big yourself up on your CV. There will be hundreds of people applying for the same job so you need to make sure you get noticed. I got my job the second time I applied out of 250 people. I did a project which I sent in with my CV based on their company which impressed them enough to ask me in for an interview. The best bit of advice I would give is do as much work experience as you can in all aspects of fashion to see which area suits you best. Once you work as a Designer it is then hard to get a job as, say a Buyer or Journalist at the same pay level, so often you will find if you want a change of job role you will have to take a pay cut. So sometimes it’s best to know from the start exactly what path you want to follow.