Roisin Harkin, 22 and from Kings Heath, is now a Creative Technician, working for South & City College’s Fashion School based in Digbeth. However, her fashion career started six years ago as a South & City Level 3 Fashion and Textiles student.
Roisin’s journey began when she came to an Open Day back in 2014 at just 16, fresh from finishing school, knowing that she wanted to study fashion and textiles, though not sure where.
“Everyone was so friendly,” explained Roisin. “Difficult to explain, but it just felt right, I felt at ease and at home straight away. There was an immediate Irish connection with lecturer Carmen and she was really honest about the course, how it would be difficult at times, but that all the staff would be there to help and if you work hard, you’ll succeed.”
When asked what she enjoyed most about the course, the first thing she said was how she got so much satisfaction when she successfully learned pattern cutting. For the uninitiated, pattern cutting is the process of taking a design and making it into fabric. The design is firstly made with paper (2D) before then being made with fabric (3D). The role of a pattern cutter is to interpret a design, put it onto paper/card, or in digital form so it can then be made into fabric and sewn together to make the finished garment.
Other stand-out moments of the course include the annual student Fashion Show and two trips; one to Paris for five days, taking in the Louvre and other art museums, and another to Alexander McQueen’s exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum. Alexander is a British fashion designer and couturier. He was chief designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001, and founded his own fashion label in 1992.
“I found the V&A trip very inspiring,” Roisin said. “The garments were very ‘out there’, more like a cat walk. That trip has stayed with me to this day and kept me designing conceptually, rather than commercially.”
After successfully completing the Level 3 course in 2016, she got a place at Birmingham City University (BCU) to study a four-year BA in Fashion Design, which included a year-out work placement at Conor O'Sullivan Designs, based in Solihull, where they design Irish dancing costumes. Having been an Irish dancer for about 10 years, Roisin already knew Conor and was keen to put her talents to the test, making garments and embroidering them.
During her final year at university, having kept in touch with her college lecturers all the way through university, she returned to give a talk those Fashion students who were about to follow in her footsteps to university that year. After graduating with a 2:1, Roisin also returned to college during this past summer to volunteer to make NHS scrubs during lockdown.
London Fashion Week – September 2020
When asked about this year’s September London Fashion Week (LFW), she explained her involvement with the Graduate Fashion Week. Graduate Fashion Week has adapted, making events for the class of 2020 possible in Covid-safe ways, just like LFW. They partnered with LFW to showcase a digital video and having designer profiles on the Graduate Fashion Week website. They also hosted an exhibition and showroom at Coals Drop Yard Kings Cross where two looks from Roisin’s graduate collection and her digital portfolio are available to be viewed by industry figures – stylists, buyers or recruiters.
Graduate Fashion Week X TikTok
After successfully being picked by the Graduate Fashion Week team as a competition winner for the TikTok merchandise residency, Roisin took part in a week-long factory production visit at Fashion Capital in London. She, along with other winners, were all put up in a hotel for a week, which was a great opportunity to meet and network with other graduates from the class of 2020, which they hadn’t be able to do prior due to the pandemic.
They developed toiles (mock-up of the garment) and patterns prior to arriving and then worked closely with the factory specialist to adapt and apply production processes to their designs. Roisin then produced four jackets over four days, working closely with a sewer who taught her processes to speed up sewing and construction of the garments. They also got to work with the TikTok team on creating a behind-the-scenes video and promoted their work on the TikTok app. [For more information, click here.]
Roisin has been exceptionally busy since graduating. Not only did she volunteer to make NHS scrubs and take part in competitions, she also secured a role working at the college as a Creative Technician. She has also started her own fashion business – Dreamland Sport – and has already made 40–50 garments, of which around 20 have already been sold.
Dreamland Sport creates clothes predominantly for women who are environmentally conscious and don’t like the ‘fast fashion’ fad, but still want to stand-out from the crowd. Did you know that 87% of the 53 million tonnes of clothing produced globally each year is either incinerated or dumped into landfills? Every piece created by Dreamland Sport is unique and made from clothes either upcycled from charity shops, or made from end-of-line fabrics from manufacturers. Prices range from £20 to £45.
When we asked Roisin what she would tell her 16 year old self knowing what she knows now, she had some wise words including “Don’t compare your work to anyone else’s and learn to appreciate the creatives around you rather than seeing them as competition.
“Never limit your design ideas based on your sewing abilities.
“Always keep practising the elements within the course you find hardest or are weakest at because practise really makes perfect and you will eventually find a way of working that works for you and clicks.”
Could Roisin’s story be similar to yours in a few years’ time? For more information, check out all of our Fashion courses from Level 1 up to degree level.