LONDON Feb 19 As London Fashion Week closes,
Britain's budding designers must tackle the challenge of finding
employment in an economy where most recent university graduates
are struggling for work and in an industry that is notoriously
London has a reputation as a cradle of new fashion talent,
with the Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design boasting
an illustrious list of alumni including Alexander McQueen,
Stella McCartney, Christopher Kane and John Galliano.
The London-based school showcases its graduate talent every
year in a show for fashion week, luring headhunters looking for
up-and-coming talent to offer their labels.
A lucky few will be tapped on the shoulder for positions at
top brands. But most will have to settle for employment that
doesn't advance their dreams beyond internships that pay little
or nothing at all and jobs on the bottom of the career ladder.
More than one in three of all recent UK graduates were
employed in lower skilled jobs in the final three months of
2011, according to the UK statistics office.
Veteran fashion journalist and trustee of graduate fashion
week Hilary Alexander told Reuters the numbers of graduates also
seems to be increasing each time she attends the show at Central
"Every year there seem to be more...Obviously they all can't
become fashion designers," Alexander said.
Figures from the University of Kent show there are more than
4,000 textile and design graduates in the UK competing for
around 500 jobs every year.
"We have the talent. That has unquestionably been our
strength for decades," Natalie Massenet, founder of online
fashion retailer Net-a-Porter and Chairman of the British
Fashion Council said at the start of London Fashion Week.
Central Saint Martins student Eilish Macintosh, who won the
L'Oreal Bursary Award for her collection of black jersey dresses
decorated with rope in hangman knots, said she would love to
find a job but has no offers at the moment.
"To be honest I'm just going to see what opportunities come
up," Macintosh said.
Marie Rydland moved from Norway to London to take advantage
of the city's fashion scene.
Rydland, who presented a menswear collection of floor length
ivory kaftans with a patchwork of silver and blue embroidery
said job hunting would have to wait until after her exams.
"Everybody makes their portfolio and then it's about going
out there and getting contacts," she said.
Designers at London Fashion Week said that a great attitude,
creative vision and work experience were key traits for any new
hires entering the country's 21 billion pound ($32.6 billion)
"Be prepared to do lots of work experience and work hard at
it," designer Alice Temperley advised applicants, describing the
job market for new graduates as "terrible".
While Temperley pays all her interns, the pressure to curb
unpaid internships has made it harder to get work experience.
Journalist Alexander said the emphasis should be on new
innovative skills when training fashion students.
"We need to channel the talents into the whole digital
arena...(Mary) Katrantzou, Holly Fulton, Peter Pilotto are using
digital printing," she said.
Others have expressed concern that fashion schools are not
preparing their students well enough for the world of work.
"Many fashion schools do not provide enough training in
pattern cutting, which is a fundamental skill for any young
designer," Imran Amed, a fashion business advisor, adding that
those who do have these specialist skills are sought after.
British designer Paul Smith echoed this after his show at
"They really need to know how to put a garment together,"
Smith said. "A lot of people think fashion is just about
networking, getting out there - but now it's reality time."
(Reporting by Dasha Afanasieva, Additional reporting by Li-mei