FASHION INTERVIEW WITH CLAIRE SWIFT… This woman teaches and guides the fashion stars of the future; what she doesn’t know about womenswear simply isn’t worth knowing!

Camilla Harrison interviews the highly esteemed Claire Swift – Programme Director for Design Technology Womenswear and Pattern Cutting at London College of Fashion.

claire swift-1

 Do you feel that a degree in fashion is necessary for those wanting to pursue a career in the industry?

We do have students who are so naturally gifted and talented and I am sure would probably do well without a formal training. However it is so useful for students to be able to be on a course where they can experiment through the different projects that they experience. Fashion education creates an environment, which allows the student to understand how the design industry works.

They are also able to develop their skills and find out WHO they are as a designer and what area of the industry they want to be in. It also gives them an opportunity to learn, play, create and then to be able to make an informed decision about where they may want to go as a career.

 What advice would you give to someone interested in embarking on a fashion design course?

I think something that a lot of people outside of this industry don’t understand is, how hard one has to work in fashion. I would advise anyone who is interested in wanting to embark on a fashion course is “be prepared to work very, very hard. I would also say that yes, talent goes a long way, but more so does determination, motivation and the competition is high, so how do you stand out from everyone else? Often young people think “I like fashion, so I want to become a fashion designer”. It isn’t just about a few ideas on a piece of paper, designers really understand their ‘craft’; they have to be able to understand the whole process. Some of the greatest designers are also some of the best technicians; they know design through colour, fabric, technique and process. That takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to master.

Where did your journey into fashion begin?

I have always been into fashion, I can’t ever remember thinking or wanting to be or do anything else.

What interested you in teaching?

I have always worked in industry and but when I came into teaching found that it’s a totally different way of working. The demands are different, but since I have been at London College of Fashion full-time, the absolutely best part of teaching is working with the students.

For me the rewards of teaching are:

-Fresh ideas as the students change each year

-Watching them grow and develop

-The amazing clothes they produce

-Keeping in touch with the graduates after they have left and working with them perhaps in the industry or on projects.

– Discovering something new and exciting; constantly looking for creative new ideas.

– Working together with a really creative team of people

  

Do the constant advances in design technology affect your ways of teaching?

It is good to keep up with technology and we are very fortunate at London College of Fashion to have some of the best resources for our students to be able to use in their work. We very much try to encourage the students to learn about their ‘craft’ and traditional skills so that these can be balanced with new technology. This then introduces the students to think differently about how their ideas can be executed within an industry context, its important that they consider technique and process as fundamental to the design process.

 

Angel Jackson place great importance on producing our bags ethically; is ethical production important to you, and do  you feel it is being more commonplace in the industry?

I think we all have a responsibility for what is happening in the world on many different levels but the fashion industry who may have contributed to landfill or un-ethical practices, also has the solution to change. As fashion educators we have to educate our students to think about how fashion can make a difference to the world and people.

 

Do you have a defining moment of your career?

I think there have been many moments that for the last 30 years that just keep on reminding me how fashion has shaped me. How it has made me think about how important it is, not just as something to admire, or feel great in, but how it can fundamentally change lives and communities of people who can either benefit or suffer because of it.

 

What sort of careers have your past students gone on to have?

A lot of London College of Fashion students you will find at every level of the industry in many different capacities from designers to buyers to magazine editors, stylists, pattern-cutters, studio managers. They are varied and vast.  We very usefully have a great network of of graduates who are doing very well in the industry and they come back to us looking for new talent!

Course director Claire Swift outlines her course BA (Hons) Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear

Find out more: http://www.fashion.arts.ac.uk/courses-by-subject/design-technology/

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