To Sew or Not to Sew

My latest article for To sew or not to sew?

It’s that time again when fashion students a few months shy of graduating struggle to divide their time between the creative task of assembling their final portfolio and the practical one of sewing their final collection. Without either, they cannot graduate.

In some schools, a percentage of the collection can be sewn by an outside professional provided the student can afford the extra expense, while other institutions prohibit any outsourcing whatsoever.

A final collection can be anything from six to ten looks, some looks may be three or four garments. That’s an average of 24 garments. A final portfolio is a book of work that represents the student’s ideas, artwork and illustrations, photographs of completed garments, experiments with textiles, and any publicity they may have received.

‘In the fashion industry, a student’s qualifications will not gain them a job’

In the fashion industry, a student’s qualifications will not gain them a job. Graduating with a First Class Honours will not dazzle a future employer like it might for graduates in other fields. Furthermore, design students will not be hired on the strength of their sewing. They are hired primarily on the strength of the graduate portfolio. Companies generally look for entry level designers to function as mini ideas factories who also demonstrate proficiency in technical flat sketching. It is not inconceivable that a student graduates with a poor grade, is prohibited from presenting with their peers in the final year fashion show, yet gets hired shortly after solely on the contents of their book.

The Fashion School at Kent State, Ohio, is a Midwestern centre of excellence with satellite campuses in New York and Florence, and partnership study abroad programmes in Paris, Hong Kong and London. When I asked its director JR Campbell if the Bachelor students are able to seek outside help when sewing their final collections, he responded, “No. Not by any means for any element of their final collections… please continue reading HERE


  1. I had no idea! Thanks for sharing your article- it has me thinking!! Great work and thank you, as always, for keeping us/me so well informed!!

  2. They need to know start to finish! I’ve always wanted to learn pattern making. Not that I have the time but may take a class one day. ~Elle

  3. Excellent article, Jackie — crazy and challenging times for the student. Did Alexander McQueen come through the Savile Row tailoring ranks (or am I thinking wrong?)? Is that what separated him out? Or did he get hired straight away for an excellent portfolio? Oh, I see he got into school on the strength of his portfolio…hmm.

    • Thanks Dievca! McQueen took an apprenticeship at a Savile Row before studying fashion which will surely have helped him put his portfolio together to get into St Martin’s. Then when he left there he had Isabella Blow championing his clothes so he was a particular case.

      I advise my students to work for a couple of years before thinking of setting up their own label. I think times are so hard now and especially in this town, better to pay your dues on someone else’s dime!

      Hope your weekend is fun-filled thus far xo

  4. I blame the media..all we hear are the fairytales, thanks for holding up the mirror! xxx

  5. I know so little about the fashion industry that reading your posts and articles is always an eye-opener. An enjoyable one of course! Jx

  6. I’m so grateful to be able to impart even a little eye opening factoid your way 🙂
    Lovely to have you read xo

  7. Upon reading this post I feel an old but familiar wave of utter exhaustion roll over me and I hear an old, familiar voice, not heard for some time, pleading with me to push on—keep swimming, keep sewing!!!

    I’ve been here and I’ve done it! And your article nails the turmoil and angst that a young designer feels, along with the extreme tensions that fill their last months at school—not pleasant in any way, and definitely not fun 😦

    No outsourcing was allowed at my school either but if it had been, it would have been welcomed with great joy 😉

    And I would agree with you that at the end of the day it is your portfolio that gets you hired…
    you—the whole person, the complete package, is never considered by this profession…
    just the ideas that they can harvest from you…
    and for that reason I found it a struggle to remain in such a world.

    Another great post Jackie, and such an honest reflection of the reality that faces design students as they gear up for graduation and prepare to enter into the discriminating, self-serving world of the schmatta industry! ~xo

  8. Shoot, I always wanted to try my hand at being a designer…now I’m glad I didn’t! Sounds like work!!

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