Being A Fashion Student 101: Applying & 1st Year Tips

Monday 18 August 2014

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fashion design student applying 1st year tips

As the A-Level results have just been released, and everyone is finding out whether they are going to university or thinking about applying, as a graduate, I thought I'd pass down my mountains of wisdom. I studied fashion design at Nottingham Trent University, and I would have to say, it was the best 3 years of my life. I have always been so passionate about fashion so given the opportunity to concentrate on this full time was literally a dream. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be posting a variety of tips and advice posts (research and sketchbook, design and illustration, fabric, pattern cutting and manufacturing), starting off this week with the how to apply for a fashion course as well as general tips on being a uni student.



When making my life plan, I wanted it to go from school to 6th form then to uni, but when looking at entry requirements, they all mentioned an art and design foundation. I've got to be honest, I wasn't at all pleased. If you aren't sure, an art and design foundation is a year course which is suited for students who are coming out of college or 6th form, or who haven't got an extensive design background and want to develop their skills before university. It can be based on all aspects of art and design or a specific route; mine was fashion and textiles. I loved doing mine, and glad I did it. When looking back at my portfolio that I applied with to my foundation, compared to the portfolio I applied with to my degree, even though it was just a year, I had made a huge improvement. They're a great thing to do and you can really experiment and find your niche as a designer.


I remember when the time came to pick a uni course, I was overwhelmed with the choices. You can go for fashion design, which covers the entire spectrum of design, or fashion technology which is more manufacture based; there are literally so many to pick from. Make sure you read the course structure so you know exactly what areas the course covers. Once you choose your favourites, go to an open day. Look at the facilities, find out the ratio between sewing machines and students. Find out if they do any live projects with industry, or if they allow for gap years to work in the industry. If you're really passionate about pattern cutting, find out how much of the course is based on this, or if you struggle with a certain area, find out how they can help. When I want to my open day for NTU, as soon as I was there I knew this is exactly where I wanted to be. You're going to be spending 3 years and a huge sum of money going to uni, make sure you do your research and find the best course suited for your needs and passions.

I'm learning how to apply and prepare for my 1st year at university studying fashion design with @helloaycan #fashionstudents


Coming from an art and design foundation, my portfolio wasn't entirely fashion based, but it linked back to fashion as much as possible. It's not about quantity is about quality, but if the uni has asked for a specific amount, try and stick to this. Make sure you feature a range of different art and design mediums; drawing, life drawing, photography, and mixed media. They want to see how creative you can be, but still keeping in mind you're applying for a fashion course. If you have any favourite sketchbook pages, recreate these as they may not have enough time to look through all your sketchbooks. Make sure they're beautifully mounted and placed in an order that flows from start to finish. Put your most striking piece at the front so as they open your portfolio, they think wow and want to continue looking through. Don't bring any 3D pieces, photograph those and add a small sample if it includes a print or fabric manipulation. Include a written piece, most unis ask for them during the interview and it's best to be prepared just in case. This might be a silly point but know your portfolio inside out as they will ask you questions which they expect you to know as it is your work. Remember this is your portfolio and should show your journey as a designer and express your personal aesthetics.


This is the part of the process which everyone hates, I've got to admit, it's one of my favourites! I know most people get scared at the thought of having to sit and talk to someone but you really don't need to be. The fact they have gone through hundreds of applications and have called you in for an interview is a great reason to feel positive. They just want to get to know the person behind the application and see if you're suited for the course; don't worry, it's nothing like the interviews from The Apprentice. They will ask you the standard questions as well as asking you to talk through your portfolio or sketchbook so they can understand your thought process; this is your work, you know exactly what you've done and why. You can ask your tutor to hold a mock interview so you can run through the questions, but don't plan what you're going to say, as if you forget, you will panic. I remember one of my interviews was about 10 minutes long and with it being my first one, I was so nervous. I left thinking I had completely messed it up. By the end of that week, I found out I got an unconditional offer. The moral of this story is they just want to get to know you and your work; just be yourself and be passionate and confident about your work and good luck!



If you're lucky enough to go to a uni with other design students, interact and make connections. If you aren't the best at print, work alongside a textiles student. If you want help creating a logo for your brand, work alongside a graphics student. You both, in a way, are using each other to help progress in your own field of work.


If there is something you're excited about doing but want to wait until you're in your final year DON'T. You never know how it's going to come out. If you start developing in your first year, you will have time to build your ideas further.


If you're like me, your work is like your baby and hearing your tutor saying anything negative is heartbreaking, but they're the ones who know what they're talking about, and you're paying them to do so. Keep a 'reflection book' to write down what they say, and in your own time, digest what they have said and see how you can improve.


You will have so many different classes and lectures so keeping organised is key. For me, colour co-ordinated folders and journals really helped. Make sure you have a diary, and schedule in what you want to do during your free time, and when your deadlines are so you have enough time to complete your projects.


Getting your name and work out there is important, so whether it's a competition to win free printing credit or an intern with a designer, do them. It will also get you in the habit of working on different projects at the same time.


Whether is a few weeks during the summer or a few days over the weekend, I can't express how important it is to intern while you're still at uni. The experience is key to move forward as a designer once you graduate, and making connections early on in your career is a plus.


No matter if you love spending hours pattern cutting, or love working out different ways to create beautiful detailing, push this forward in your design work. It's great to know your niche as a designer and it really shows in your work when you're passionate about it.


You want to give your work 100% but make sure you still enjoy your uni life. Join other societies, meet new people, have crazy nights out. I know that it can be overwhelming, especially during your final year, but university isn't just about learning, it's an experience. You will make the best memories, and meet the most amazing people so make the most of it!

If you're about to go into uni or deciding what you want to do, I really hope this post has helped. If there is anything else you want to know and think I can help, comment below, tweet or e-mail me, (links below or above) I would really love to help. Make sure you're following so you won't miss out on the next part of this series.