We sat down with 21 year old Charlotte Ambrose, who told us all about her experiences as a fashion student, and gave us an inside look at what life is like for a recent graduate.
So Charlotte, you’re just about to graduate from the University of Creative Arts in Epsom, but we want to know what inspired you to pursue a career in fashion design in the first place?
I saw fashion sketches when I was about 9 and thought they looked amazing, so bought a little template set trying to draw and copy the ones that I loved so much – it was then I realised that I liked designing and sketching my own. A tutor then told me whilst applying for university that fashion was exceedingly difficult and to only have it as an option if it was screaming out to me, which it wasn’t at this point as I was more of a painter coming out of my BTEC diploma in sixth form. But I saw the opportunities and designing was the only thing I didn’t know how to do at all within the art and design subjects, so I chose it and have stuck with it through the difficult times and the poor, and have come out on the other side having made my own collection.
Have your aspirations changed at all since the start of your degree?
My aspirations have indeed changed since I started university. I wanted to settle for a normal design job which was comfortable, to just try and get through, as I had no self-confidence knowing that other students actually had a fashion background before attending university, or had completed a foundation degree. I had never even used an industrial sewing machine before attending UCA Epsom. I didn’t know what an overlocker was either. But now I feel my ambitions are limitless, as I would truly love to work for, or be involved with, haute couture. My collection has now been selected for a showcase during London Fashion Week, where only 10 out of 22 students were chosen! The praise and publicity has really given me the belief and confidence I needed to realise that within 3 years I managed to learn multiple skills that can take years of practice.
Amazing! So, in what ways do you think your degree has equipped you for a future in the fashion industry?
University has taught me so much, no matter how much you have to change or how many times you have to start over – it’s always worth it. I have never worked so hard in my life and I’m really happy I finished the course. The skills I’ve gained (which I didn’t have before entering university) include pattern cutting, sewing, sketching, visual communication skills, such as illustrations, technical flats, tech packs; measurements, research and how to use it, as well as working with tight deadlines.
Now that you’re on the other side, what do you think are the most important qualities all design students should have?
I think it’s extremely good to have a flair in your design. Don’t be afraid of your designs, no matter how wacky they are – I mean, look at my collection! I’ve had a lot of positive feedback considering how weird the prints are. Not everyone will like everything anyway, the main thing is that you represent yourself as a designer and make what you believe in. As long as your designs make someone feel a certain way, it means you’ve produced a good collection. Fashion is like art. It’s successful even if it receives negative feedback because you want the viewer to ‘feel’ something when they see it – whether it’s positive or negative doesn’t matter.
So tell us, what has been your most memorable experience as a fashion student?
My most memorable experience of being a fashion student was just having the privilege of my own workspace, a place within the university to put up my research and really make myself at home in. You don’t realise how important space is when you’re designing or making until you really need it. It made coming in every morning in the early hours and leaving very late at night a little bit easier.
Now if you could, what piece of advice would you give your 18 year old self just about to embark on a fashion degree course?
Save!!! I would have told myself to save. I wouldn’t have been able to, but I also would have told myself to prepare for an emotional journey, from struggling to fund such an expensive course to feeling guilty for even buying a normal lunch instead of making it yourself because it was cheaper. But I’m glad I went in head first because I got through it and giving up was never an option. I worked a lot of hours in university and at Topshop’s Oxford Circus branch, and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I’m more mature because of it and a lot better with money. It also makes you more appreciative of the stuff you actually have.
You’ve just unveiled your final collection, a Sixties-inspired womenswear range meshed with a fresh, surrealist style, but we want to know what’s next for you. What are you most looking forward to now you’ve graduated?
I’m so excited about London Fashion Week! I feel so honoured to even have my collection considered for the showcase. I hope it leads to bigger and better opportunities and maybe even a design job (fingers crossed)!