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Our blog aims to answer your questions on searching for a role in fashion/textiles/accessory design, marketing, promotion and PR. The Fashion Careers Clinic is a specialist careers advice service based in London. For more information on what we can do to assist you in your fashion job search, please visit our main site: www.fashioncareersclinic.com

If there is a subject you would like us to cover on this blog which is related to fashion job searching, please email: steph@fashioncareersclinic.com with your query, and we'll do our best to answer it here.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Interview with Poppy Koumis, Creative Director of Winchester Fashion Week

London, Paris, Milan, NY... and now Winchester! This summer saw the launch of the very first Winchester Fashion Week, which included talks with fashion insiders such as Wayne Hemingway and Mark Fast, practical masterclasses in sewing and garment construction, careers talks (including our own Fashion Careers Clinic seminars) and fashion shows.

What's amazing is that the whole event was run and organised by a team of very young students who are all still at 6th form or university. Organising an event of this magnitude can be daunting for even the most experienced fashion professional, never mind a group of students, and we were super impressed by how well they did.

We caught up with Creative Director, Poppy Koumis to find out more:

Poppy, this was a massive undertaking - what inspired you to do it?

1. In 2009 I took part in 'Triptych', a sixth-form art festival, organised by students from Peter Symonds College, Winchester College and St. Swithun's School. To celebrate Triptych's fifth anniversary we put on the very first fashion show, which was a huge success. Eloise Appleby, Winchester City Council’s Assistant Director (Economic Prosperity) saw the show, and asked if we would be interested in organising a fashion festival as part of the Winchester festival season, and it all began from there! I was taking a gap year as I was unsure of what to study after my foundation course, and so it seemed the perfect project to undertake during a year off.

How was the event funded?
2. Amazingly, the event was run on almost zero funding! We applied for funding from the arts council, and only realised after spending about 4 months on the application that they don't fund fashion... We then decided we had to just go ahead with no money, and make the most of it. Eventually we got a small but generous donation from Winchester BID, but the majority of the festival ran on volunteers, support in kind and generosity of others, which we had no shortage of, and I think that is what has been really inspiring.

You had some great well known speakers taking part - was it difficult to get them on board?
3. Without the support of Winchester City Council and the contacts they
supplied us with, we would have struggled getting some of the speakers, including Wayne Hemingway onboard. However, saying this, we managed to get a lot of inspiring guests involved and supporting us, off our own backs, including Lucinda Chambers, Fashion Director of Vogue, and Mark Fast, Knitwear Designer. Everyone we approached was always very interested and responsive, even if they couldn't help out we always got interested replies. I think the enthusiasm (and perhaps sometimes naivety!) of our team meant that people were also very positive and wanted to get involved.

What was your favourite part of the event?
4. My favourite part of the whole event was definitely our Cirque Du Fashion Shows. These were our main catwalk shows, held at Winchester Guildhall. We showcased garments from many different places, including Winchester School of Art, Peter Symonds College, Barton Peveril, Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion etc.

With 20 local models, 20 dressers, hair styling by Guy Kremer and make up by students from Solent University, and 3 nights running, it was a really big event. I remember so clearly the moments before the first show started, with about 50 of us all waiting silently backstage for the music to begin and all our beautiful models wearing Mark Fast. There was a great sense of anticipation and excitement, and that feeling you get when you know this is exactly why you have worked so hard for so long on something, to be exactly in that place.

And what was the most difficult part of the process?
5. The trickiest part of the event was probably trying to keep everyone happy! It was such a big undertaking, with so many different people involved, and so many ideas, that it was impossible to say yes to everything and everyone, which I definitely found the hardest thing. We all had to learn to compromise along the way, and change directions, it was definately a big learning curve.

What would be your advice to other young people who are looking to put on their own event?
6. To other young people looking to put on their own event or fashion shows, I would say don't hold back and don't be afraid! I learnt that it is much more exciting to go for your big ideas and plans, rather than holding back with the fear of failing. People will be much more responsive and inspired if you are confident in your ambitious ideas.

So, what's next?
7. Winchester Fashion Week is carrying on next summer, and hoping to become an annual event. I have passed it over to a new team, which is a big relief! The hope is that it can be passed down each year to new students, whilst the past ones can mentor and advise.

Has this helped you decide what you want to do as a career?
8. I'm still not sure what I want to do after uni...! The good thing about fashion is that there are so many different things to get involved in, I would like to perhaps get into fashion films, maybe styling, we will see!

Thanks Poppy - very inspiring!

Poppy's story relates to some advice I gave to a group of students on our Fashion Fusion Career Course at the Fashion & Textile Museum recently. Part of the course involved advice on how to find fashion work experience, and we talked about the importance of taking the initiative of creating your own work experience or project if you haven't been able to find work experience within a company. We all know how hard it can be to find relevant work experience in fashion, especially if you're under 18 or not yet at Uni. Competition is intense for fashion placements, however if you're struggling, why not think of a few things you could do to kick-start your CV with a self directed project such as the ones below:

If you're interested in Styling: offer to style your friends when they're going to parties or special occasions - make sure to document the results by photographing the best ones and adding them to a portfolio

If you're interested in Fashion Journalism: At the very least, you should begin a blog in order to practise your writing skills and develop a signature style. Even better, start your own school or college fashion magazine - it doesn't have to be in print (but if you'd like it to be, speak to your Year Tutor about help with funding). It can be just as effective online, in a similar format to a blog.

If you're interested in Fashion Show Production: Put on your own show at your school or college. It doesn't have to be a production on the scale of what Poppy and her team did. Organising a smaller show will be just as good experience. If you're at 6th form or college, scout for a show team from among the other students. Music students might be interested in doing the soundtrack, theatre students in the practicalities of lighting, dance and choreography, textiles students could design and make a few pieces to be shown on the catwalk. Business students might want to approach local clothing stores and businesses to show their garments in the show...
The possibilities are very exciting!

These are just a few ideas to get you started.

If you're aged between 16-19 and are interested in getting into the fashion industry but not sure how to go about it, you might be interested in one of our forthcoming Fashion Career courses held at the Fashion & Textile Museum in London. The two day courses are free and are based on our best selling fashion careers advice book: How To Prepare For A Career In Fashion

If you'd like to register your interest in one of the courses, please contact the Fashion & Textile Museum on 0207 4078664

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