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Fashion Design in the U.K

Studying fashion design in the United Kingdom is to enjoy an education and training that is demanding, challenging, and of the highest quality. British fashion education is regarded as the world’s best in creativity, professionalism and diversity. Graduates are valued as innovators working towards the industry’s future. Many graduates are offered positions with international designers and multi-national companies, in addition to the fortunate few who go on to become international names in their own right.

This quality and reputation is the result of a strong emphasis on the development of the individual and an understanding of craft and business practice within the context of historical and contemporary culture. Students are presented with a dynamic mix of inspirations and considerations; never easy, but never dull.

What are the usual routes to studying Fashion design?

Students are usually required to have studied GCSEs at school and then go on to take A levels or, in Scotland, Highers. All UK Fashion courses will accept the equivalent overseas qualifications. Alternatively, students may undertake equivalent vocational qualifications such as BTEC National Diplomas, or the Advanced GNVQ qualifications in Art and Design.

Where students have pursued their education to A level, the next step is to apply for a one year Foundation programme. These courses offer a broad art and design experience, where time is spent in preparation for application to a chosen degree and finalising portfolio work suitable for submission and/or interview to an undergraduate course. Some Foundation courses allow students to specialise in their chosen area of design in the final term of the programme. Students are encouraged to investigate the variety of courses on offer and are guided through the application process.

At the end of a typical foundation year, most graduates move on to either a two year HND (Higher National Diploma) or a three or four year BA Honours course. Most BA courses take three years to complete, but some institutions offer a four year sandwich course. This usually includes up to twelve months working on industrial placement, either as a one year block or as two six month periods. A number of three year BA courses also include a short placement period within the curriculum, whilst all fashion courses dedicate time to working with the fashion industry in the form of sponsored projects, visits or visiting lecturers.

Upon graduation, a number of fashion students choose to continue their education within a range of postgraduate courses on offer; Diploma, M.A., MPhil/PhD. This allows for either further specialism or related study.

How do I apply for a place?

In order to gain a place on a typical course in the UK you will need a good portfolio which demonstrates your ability in drawing, design development, problem solving, colour work and interest in fashion. Some courses may wish to see examples of written work such as an essay or report, and some staff may wish to interview you by telephone. Courses may have different entry requirements and regulations, so, if possible, you should check prospectus information or course leaflets.

Some BA courses will allow you entry direct to the second year if you have either the equivalent of an HND already, or you have prior experience within the fashion industry. Again, you should check with the courses you favour. You should also be able to submit your portfolio or ‘slides’ rather than posting the original work to the UK.

What is the range of courses on offer?

Across the UK there is a great variety of courses on offer to fashion students. Two, three and four year undergraduate programmes cover all aspects of fashion design, drawing, design development, pattern cutting, manufacture, C.A.D. and C.A.M. In addition, students may study the historical and cultural influences on fashion, take elective or optional subject in photography, styling, knitting, footwear design etc. Some courses offer integrated subsidiary subjects such as textile design, marketing, languages, technology, or may specialise in one fashion area such as menswear or womenswear.

Course curricula are usually project based, with each project being run as a module or unit within the course. Students can expect to be taught and learn in a variety of ways - in a studio situation, in a seminar group, or attending lectures. Presentation and discussion of work is typical on many courses to enable students to develop confidence in presenting their work and learning from others in the group.

Most fashion courses organise a fashion show at the end of each academic year as a celebration of their students’ work and to allow graduating students to present their final collections to a wider audience. A number of the UK Fashion courses take part in Graduate Fashion Week, held in London each June, and event which attracts a great deal of media as well as industry attention.

Applicants from outside the UK should consider the college/university location for study, its facilities, campus, course details and successes, as this will help to focus in on the most suitable course to choose.

What then?

Upon completion of your course you should be ready to enter the fashion industry as a professional designer. During your time at college/university, you will have acquired the skills and developed a professional creativity which is invaluable in securing your first position as a fashion designer. Most institutions can offer help or advice to students before final graduation, and invaluable contacts can be made before you leave. Most institutions are able to offer links between students and the fashion industry, and students are always encouraged to keep in touch for the future.

Applicants to individual institutions should ask in more detail about student destinations and successes.

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