Despite the easing of restrictions, many students’ lives continue to be bridled with uncertainty. Fashion design students are no exception.
Having to navigate the obvious issues presented by lockdown, lacking the necessary tools to continue working on their collections, and engaging with lectures are real challenges for fashion design students, as the subject is inherently tactile.
Forcefully parted from their cluttered classrooms and the usual incessant humming of sewing machines, these students have been thrust into an unfamiliar work environment – their homes. Dublin-based student designers like Louise Cleary and Twiggy Moore, who are already making an impact on young fashion enthusiasts, are discovering new ways to unleash their creativity while dealing with the impacts of the imposed lockdown.
These design students have made swift adaptations from classrooms and internships to their homes. Louise Cleary is a third-year student who had been on an internship as part of her degree. Speaking to The University Times, she explains how lockdown has impacted her internship: “When restrictions began we were working alternate shifts only in a few days a week as opposed to the usual full time hours. We hadn’t got much work to do because most companies no longer needed their SS20 orders and, eventually, when the lockdown was put in place we stopped working all together.”
Being in quarantine whilst finishing a degree has been rocky in terms of creating my own home studio and acquiring the correct equipment to continue my collection
The adaptations were difficult, according to Moore, a final-year student: “Being in quarantine whilst finishing a degree has been rocky in terms of creating my own home studio and acquiring the correct equipment to continue my collection.” For Moore, these challenging times have actually given her an insight into her own resilience. “I have progressed with my confidence in being self-directed and self-motivated – it has given me the push and reassurance.”
In practical terms, however, basic necessities like materials, fabrics and tools have become rare commodities. Given the lack of demand and delivery restrictions, design students have difficulties sourcing the fabrics that they need for their final collections. Moore was lucky enough to have sourced her materials before the final lockdowns occurred. “Luckily enough, I had bought all my final fabrics when I was in London the week before actual lockdown, but some materials I have ordered off of eBay. It’s actually quite handy for the basics.”
Cleary has also had to become more resourceful when it comes to materials. Some shops are still open, although with limited stock and employees. She says it’s “extremely difficult to get fabric at the moment. You could be waiting up to two weeks for the fabric to be delivered, which is not ideal, but it’s just something you have to adapt to”.
It’s not only practical restrictions that students are facing, though – they’re also contending with the creative limitations of lockdown. Unable to venture out and seek inspiration or physically feel and choose fabrics, they’re forced to do their best with the bare minimum.
But Cleary and Moore aren’t dwelling on the negatives, I find out, when I ask both if their work has evolved. Cleary has adapted to the relative lack of resources available to her at this time, and is trying to make a positive environmental impact: “On the plus side, it has made me look to fabrics I already own, and figure out ways to use them for the pieces I want to make instead of buying new fabric.”
“As a fashion design student”, she elaborates, “you tend to buy fabrics on impulse with the intention of using them for something but never using them, so this has definitely made me more aware of that”.
Basic necessities like materials, fabrics and tools have become rare commodities
While some designers have become more resourceful, other designers have found themselves personally evolving and creating even better bodies of work than they would have without the restrictions in place. Moore notes: “I have definitely evolved with my environment and work. I have had some more time to think about my concept within my collection.”
Cleary’s final year of college, which should begin in September, is uncertain. “As of now, everything regarding college next year is all up in the air. Fashion students have not yet been told anything.” She notes the importance of college as a physical space: “The studio in college is a creative space where we all bounce ideas off each other and feed off of each other’s creativity, so working from home just would not be the same.”
Worse, for final-year students working on collections, lack of access to college work rooms could be disastrous: “Not to mention most students do not have the quality of sewing machines or the space at home to comfortably do a final collection.”
For students finishing their degrees in lockdown, like Moore, personal initiative will be essential in spearheading a fashion career. “I have been working on my own line and independent brand, something I wouldn’t have had the energy to put work into”, she tells me. “Using my spare time to work on personal projects has really spurred ideas for the blueprints for my future plans.”
With limited resources and a lack of in-person guidance from their lecturers, fashion design students have been forced to be even more creative than usual, and manoeuvre their way through an already challenging degree.