Is Talent Alone Enough To Succeed In Fashion?

The fashion industry is worth over $5 trillion dollars globally and drives £28 billion into the UK economy every year. It’s a serious job, with serious contenders and there is serious success to be had.

For the last 12 months, new faces ready to take this industry by storm (and earn a slice of that pie) have locked themselves away and been busy studying meticulously for their MA degree in fashion. Course objective: to investigate and develop their own personal style and methodology to present their unique voice to the world. Real Objective: Get hired.

I got to see 3 of these students work on display at the Norwich University Of The Arts MA Degree show a few weeks ago. And I wasn’t disappointed.

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Libby Double

MA Fashion Graduate, NUA

Under the amazing mentorship of Senior Lecturer Ike Rust (ex-Head Of Menswear at The Royal College Of Art) 3 very different designers displayed their work like pieces of art fit for a private room at the V&A. Each piece encapsulated months of integral research, development, curiosity and passion and could easily be seen alongside Alexander McQueen at London Fashion Week or a Chanel presentation in Paris.

These guys along with many others have dedicated years of studying fashion and investing in their career as a creative and designer. So I was curious to find out what was next for each of them, and was lucky to get chatting to one of the MA designers, Libby Double.

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Annabel Gaelle

MA Fashion Graduate, NUA

Libby was lovely and her work was beautiful. As we talked about her MA I asked her what was next for her. She had sent out some CV’s and shared her excitement of being invited to Paris next week to be considered for a possible internship with Dior. For a small city like Norwich competing with the London big boys, this is amazing news! The recent appointment of Ike Rust is defintely making impact.

I also got chatting to another MA graduate, Jeanette Bolton-Martin. She was here to support Libby & graduated herself last year from NUA with an MA in photography. She recently set up her own photography business and is looking to diversify into fashion.

Both these girls are lovely and very talented at what they do. And so too was the beautiful work by Elizabeth Elliott and Annabel Gaelle. And I wish them all huge success.

But I can’t help but want to scoop them all up and take them home with me so I can start to tell them what the next part of their journey is going to be like. Not to scare them. But to prepare them.

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Libby Double

MA Fashion Graduate, NUA

As a former fashion designer for Alexander McQueen and Mulberry and working in industry for 15 years, I know what it takes to be successful in fashion. And its much more than just talent that gets your through.

First it takes passion. And you can’t doubt these designers and creatives for encompassing this trait. It’s what drives our desire, innovation, curiosity and compulsion. And in fashion you need this desire. You need this curiosity. The drive to be the best at what you do and create something no one else has.

But is this enough?

Fashion is such an amazing industry to be part of but it can equally be cut throat, competitive, unforgiving. The pressures that come with the privilege of each role can be overwhelming. The crazy schedules, the loneliness, the critics. The daily battle with self doubt, the desire to push the boundaries and push yourself to the max. The belief that you could do better, design something more beautiful. It could be a line, a cut, a colour, a pattern. Seeking perfection that sometimes doesn’t exist.

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Elizabeth Elliott

MA Fashion Graduate, NUA

As a designer I was never more talented than anyone else. I knew I may never make it as the best fashion designer in the world, but what I did know was that I was driven, focused, motivated. Which all matter so much more than talent alone. But it took me years to understand what the key ingredient was to be successful.

Resilience.

Talent will get you through the door. Passion will drive your motivation. But resilience will be the making of you.

And I learnt this from one of the best in the industry - Alexander McQueen.

Alexander McQueen was one of the first designers I worked for after graduating. To work alongside such a creative genius at such a young age was unforgettable. But more importantly for me, it was what he taught me about resilience that I will always remember. No matter what the critics said - McQueen always stayed true to himself.

In your fashion career - this is the biggest challenge you will face. And learning how to do this will become your biggest talent. People will doubt you, challenge you, test you to the limits. And it’s learning how to trust your own intuition, to think for yourself, and learning how to say no that will bring you the biggest success.

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Annabel Gaelle

MA Fashion Graduate, NUA

We have an amazing fashion education system in this country and it teaches us the design and technical skills we need to be able to do our jobs. But sadly it can’t teach us the reality of the real world. What it’s really like. How we will cope, react, behave and be treated.

I believe students need much more than spending their degree years working on sketchbooks, research, dissertations and final collections with their sole focus based on receiving a piece of paper at the end of it. How much more empowering would it be if we taught our students about Grit and Resilience, Passion and Perseverance - and prepared them in a way that we never have before. Where they have the knowledge and confidence to make their voice heard and the ability to cope with success and failure - and more importantly how to deal with the pressures that both can bring.

We have lost so many amazing designers and creatives in our industry because of their struggle with the pressures of the privilege of their role. Lets not let this happen anymore.

Instead I want to start empowering the next generation to be strong, brave, and courageous. To stand up for themselves and be prepared for the challenges and pressures ahead and be able to choose their response to events to control their own outcome. Creativity and innovation thrives when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and authentic. This is the kind of world I want to create and see.

Libby Double: @_thewayoftea / libby@thewayoftea.co.uk

Elizabeth Elliott: beth.elliott@btinternet.com / www.elizabethelliottstudio.com

Annabel Gaelle: @annabelgaelle / www.annabelgaelle.com

If you would like Marie to come and speak in your school or university about ‘Why passion and resilience is the key to success in fashion’ then please get in touch at: thetrendacademy@gmail.com or call Marie direct on: 07446 302593