Fashion Design Graduate, Charlotte Illidge, had a fantastic final year at University, culminating with her Final Collection being shown at Graduate Fashion Week. We caught up with Charlotte to find out more about her journey after graduation, her graduate design role and how she stays motivated and inspired to create fresh content for her fashion blog The Style Archive.
What have you been up to since graduating and showing at Graduate Fashion Week?
I’ve done few interviews about my Final Collection at University, but it’s mainly been editorial shoots with photographers and stylists who’ve wanted to use my pieces. Seeing my designs in editorial work has been really cool! Alongside this, I worked in retail whilst searching for a graduate design job.
How did you keep your portfolio up to date after graduating?
To be totally honest, this was hard! Working in retail you’re required to work all kinds of hours with no routine or set days. I just tried to set myself little briefs or work on my portfolio of an evening where I could. Even if I just came up with a concept idea and didn’t take it through to the design stage, it was good to keep the ideas coming through!
How has it been starting your first graduate design job – what did you have to do to get it?
In itself – a relief. That may sound like a really odd thing to say but it took me a while to figure out my path outside of a sales role in retail.
Whilst working for Louis Vuitton, the opportunity for ‘Assistant Designer’ at New Era was posted online. After studying BA (Hons) Fashion Design at BCU, I knew I wanted to apply for this job role, so I got in touch and went for an interview. The first interview went really well, it was mainly ‘get to know me’ questions with the addition of me showing my portfolio. After the success of the first interview, I was invited back for a second one. For my second interview, I was asked to complete a small brief to show them how my design and creative style could be transferred to represent their brand. New Era is famous for their caps but apparel is quite new to the brand, so showing them how my design and skill fitted into the brand was what got me the position.
How are you finding it?
I’ve been in this role for a few months now and feel more settled – it’s so nice to be surrounded by people who love the same thing I do, who can share, explore and put ideas into practice. That may sound cliché, but it’s so true.
It’s been a really good experience so far considering I’ve only been there five months. I commute from Birmingham to Milton Keynes every day, so it was a bit of a shock getting used to the early mornings but it’s worth it. In the short time I’ve been with New Era I’ve learnt an awful lot already – i.e. how far in advance brands have to work to prepare for upcoming seasons, print techniques and I’ve also really built on my Adobe Illustrator knowledge.
Does it differ much from designing at University?
I think it differs from being at university in a few ways really. You’re a lot more independent when doing certain tasks but also, you work a lot more as a team too. We really try to communicate our ideas and feedback so that the collection comes together and looks consistent. Also, I think whilst you’re studying you’re encouraged to do a wide range of things; from pattern cutting to toiling and making final products. My role now requires me to design and reference items but, I won’t necessarily pattern cut and go through to making toiles. There are multiple departments working on different aspects of work is outsourced – for example, products are sampled by the factories who manufacture for us. It’s definitely an advantage having knowledge and understanding of all the processes involved in fashion design as it gives me a greater understanding of my work as a whole.
I know that you write your own lifestyle and fashion blog – what were your motivations for starting your blog?
I first started writing my blog whilst at university. It was around my second year of studying when I tried to really push it forward and dedicated a lot of time to blogging. I wanted another outlet, something a bit more personal than my degree, but also something still fashion related. During my third year, I struggled to balance my time so blogged when I could and at present I’m trying to blog regularly.
I’m actually currently on the lookout for a photographer to work with on a regular basis to shoot some looks, every week or every other week! If you’re interested drop me an email! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
My blog has had several names since I started it, but it now resides as ‘The Style Archive.’ It is exactly that really; it’s a way to see how my style has transformed over the years but also a place for me to write down my own musings and thoughts. I’ve shared everything from festivals I’ve been to, my university experience (I posted this back in 2015) and back around to some current inspiration.
How do you keep your content fresh and stay inspired?
I find inspiration in a lot of things. Whether it be music, architecture or just the people around me. Instagram is obviously another HUGE source of inspiration but, I always find myself going back to Pinterest. I like the fact boards can be separated as you wish, so if I’m feeling uninspired about what to wear, I’ll mostly look on there and search to see what catches my eye. Instagram is good for finding that inspiration, but I think you get kind of lost in this vortex of endlessly scrolling!
Do you have any tips for people hoping to start their own blog?
Blogging is a great outlet and it doesn’t have to always be fashion related. There are tons of amazing blogs focussed on food, mental health and beauty. I started my blog using ‘Blogger’ formally known as ‘Blogspot’ and it couldn’t be easier for you to do the same. All you need to do is set yourself up an account and get creating! You can tweak your layout to almost whatever you wish and it’s a really good creative outlet – even if it was something you kept private. It’s also really nice to look back on those experiences you’ve had or those words you took the time to write down years on!
Head to The Style Archive to read more about Charlotte’s fashion influences or follow her on Instagram and Twitter @c_illidge
See more of Katie Lester’s photography @katie_lester on Instagram or @katielesterphotography on Facebook
For more of Rachel Mason’s photography check out her Instagram @heyrachelmason or email her RachelMasonPhoto@yahoo.com