I’ve decided to dedicate a section of my blog to interviews with fashion insiders for those who want a career in this industry. As well as including fashion’s most common careers, I’ll also include roles that are harder to get information on. Hence why my first interview is with Caroline Gilbey – the Associate Dean of fashion at Ravensbourne University. I first encountered Caroline at Graduate Fashion Week where I watched the Ravensbourne show. You can find my favourite collections dotted throughout this exclusive interview…
Describe your role as the Associate Dean in the department of fashion at Ravensbourne
The responsibilities that come with the job include a lot of reading in preparation for boards, working groups and other academic responsibilities. Another aspect of my job is related to building partnerships and international opportunities. This can involve meeting with potential exchange partners, visiting appropriate feeder schools and promoting Ravensbourne as a great place to study fashion.
A large part of the job involves ensuring that we secure great opportunities for our students so time is devoted to organising special projects such as Graduate Fashion Week, an annual event which requires a lot of teamwork.
How do platforms like Graduate Fashion Week help young designers?
Graduate Fashion Week allows students from across a range of different courses to show their work in an exhibition that is attended by potential employers. The opportunity to get portfolios and other media up to exhibition standard is key to students being ready for employment. The catwalk show is the perfect opportunity for emerging designers to show their personal design ethos and creativity to a professional industry audience as well as their peers.
What skills do you need to succeed as an Associate Dean of Fashion?
Both hard and soft skills are needed. You should be experienced within the higher education sector and course design is key. Analytical skills, presentation skills, marketing skills and PR skills all come into play. Creativity will always be important, even if it’s just in relation to the selection of content and preparation of presentations. However, communication is probably the most important skill of all. If you can’t communicate effectively, this will impact negatively on every element of the role.
Is it getting easier for students to break into the fashion industry after high education?
The fashion industry is a thriving and growing industry offering a wide range of employment opportunities. It is also a fast changing market, with continuous injection of fresh looks and speed to market increasingly important. The industry is offering more opportunities than ever especially in certain growth areas such as menswear and online retailing.
The growth of global markets has also opened new opportunities for employment. Despite this, design companies, retailers and brands can afford to be very selective. The market demands a broader range of skills and we’ve had to step up in terms of the skill base. Graduates need to be well rounded and have a good grasp of both hard and soft skills to get the most out of this increasingly competitive market place.
What do you look for when students apply to study at Ravensbourne?
We look for a real passion and drive for fashion, great conceptual vision, sound observation and hand drawing skills, the ability to develop ideas from 2D into 3D, colour sensitivity and market awareness.
If you could give one piece of advice to young designers, what would it be?
Be prepared to work hard and be open-minded about career opportunities in fashion; if you do, so many doors will open. Often, they’re doors that you don’t expect, but doors that can lead to amazing career fulfilment, challenge and achievement.
If there’s a particular sector in the fashion industry that you’d like me to shed some light on, let me know in the comments!
Photography: Frankie Pike