Graduate Fashion Week showcase: An interview with UEL fashion design student Terri-Leigh Finnegan
Graduate Fashion Week (GFW) is the annual presentation of the work of the fresh design talent coming out of over 40 UK and overseas universities’ BA fashion design programs. The largest graduate fashion event in the world, GFW provides a showcase for the year’s best new talent.
The event is attended by potential employers, national and international media and industry, and can be a huge career kick starter for those students lucky enough to be chosen to participate, as these industry titans all flock to London to be the first to spot fashion’s next big thing.
As GFW 2012 approaches and in salute to our home grown talent, The Upcoming will be supporting British fashion students and running a series of interviews with students selected to show their graduate collections at this year’s event. Those chosen come from the University of East London – an institution whose graduates have, in the past, often been overlooked in favour of their counterparts from more well-known colleges.
The Upcoming interviewed fashion design student, Terri-Leigh Finnegan:
Hi Terri, give me a short introduction to yourself.
Terri: My name is Terri and I am 22 years old. I study at UEL on the BA fashion design program and primarily focus on womenswear.
Why did you pick fashion as your chosen career?
Unbelievably, for me, it was a throw up between mechanical engineering and fashion design. Ever since school, I would design clothes with my friends and follow the work of Vivienne Westwood. My hobbies were to remove engines from jeeps and improve them to use on dirt tracks. My dream is to incorporate the two – fashion and mechanics.
Who are your greatest heroes and inspirations in fashion?
As I just mentioned, Vivienne Westwood is a great inspiration. It is an obvious choice alongside Alexander McQueen, but these two designers changed the world of fashion and that is what I intend to do. I also follow the work of Hussein Chalayan and love how his garments sit on a line of fashion and art. They could be and have been exhibition pieces and have great stories behind them.
Tell me about your graduate collection?
My collection is based on the Haitian revolution – an uprising of African and Creole slaves against the French plantation owners. With use of natural materials such as raffia, cotton and wool, the Haitian people created characters based on a fusion of voodoo, ancestral memory, political satire and personal revelation. As distorted tailoring brings powerful and masculine shapes, ropes and leather are used to raw effect. Fabric is strong, heavy and layered to protect its wearer and contrasts with the purity of white shirts from the religion within this culture. This is a raw and awkward collection which incorporates textured treatments, applique and unorthodox cutting to create a result that is unexpected, tactile, yet simple in its layered wearability.
Who do you envision wearing your collections when you design?
In terms of models, Maria Carla Boscono is my muse. I think the wearer of my designs will be a powerful woman unafraid to dress in a masculine manner with sharp shoulders and pinched in waists.
What are your hopes and fears for your future career?
The greatest fear for me is that the industry is based on opinion. There are no real right or wrongs. I don’t hold back on my designs and it is all or nothing for me. I don’t feel my designs would fit in under any label with the exception of Westwood or, if toned down, maybe All Saints. So my hopes are that my label launches with excitement and flourishes within the fashion industry.
How does it feel to be chosen to show your collection at GFW?
It feels great. Graduate Fashion Week is another platform to showcase my collection and with so many industry bodies there, it is great to show them what I’m made of. I can’t wait to see my clothes on that catwalk. What an amazing feeling.
What is the main piece of advice you would give to the fashion students of tomorrow?
Give it your everything. There should be no holding back in fashion. It should be an absolute whirlwind of your emotions, research and skills. It should be exciting and have meaning behind it.
To you, what is the future of fashion?
The future of fashion? I know this sounds awful and will generate many gasps from the industry, but I hate how we all follow trends: trends depict our research and in turn, our collections. I think the future of fashion is to design whatever the hell you feel like designing and who cares if the colours or shapes don’t fit in? I understand the need for trends on the high street, but anything can be toned down into a trend after it has been designed. Otherwise, why are we here designing? I think there needs to be a little more freedom in what we design.
What is next for you upon graduation?
A small and well needed break and then setting up the label! I will carry on in my part-time job to get together money and put it all into a new collection and launching it.
Thank you Terri and congratulations on standing firm to your convictions! We wish you luck for the future and look forward to seeing your full collection at Graduate Fashion Week!
Ian Michael Turner
Photos: Catherine Bridgman