Backstage with a Fashion Textile Student

We spoke with 21 year old fashion & textile student Rhian Owen from Leicestershire, about all things fashion related and what it is like to be an aspiring fashion designer.

fashion & textile student Rhian Owen

fashion & textile student Rhian Owen

I walk into Starbucks to find a cheery Rhian dressed head to toe in black, she is wearing two long necklaces and some rings, paired with a pink jacket from Ebay. She explains that she is a train wreck when dressing herself in colour, so black is her go to. We both declare how boiling it is, sip our drinks then delve into our conversation.

Tell me a bit about yourself?

I didn’t do a foundation, Winchester is one of the only fashion/ art schools where you don’t have to do a foundation to attend, it is based solely on your interview and your grades. For some creative people this can be a struggle, but I quite enjoy this because when you write an essay it means you have to research a topic and this helps to guide your work.

The town of Winchester where the School of Art is based. 

The town of Winchester where the School of Art is based.

Where/ who is the source of your inspiration?

My mum went to art school to do illustration and my dad is into architecture. It’s as if I get my artistic side from my mum and the engineering side from my dad. I remember from a really early age looking through magazines and wanting to draw and make them. It was a battle of the wits with my mum, because I really wanted to make something but I was awful. I remember the first thing I ever made my mum was a yellow skirt with Velcro and I asked her why she never wore it. She said “do you not remember how bad that was, there was a gap in the bottom”.

Winchester School of Art

Winchester School of Art

I’m always inspired by art; I love going to exhibitions. I went to the Tate Modern, but I usually go to more classic art exhibitions, so I felt a bit like a fish out of water. But I loved it and went round twice. It’s about current things that are happening like feminism over the past decades. The last fashion exhibition I went to was Savage Beauty, I liked it because you’re up close to McQueen, but the way they presented it was commercial it was almost as if they did it for people of love the label rather than the fashion. McQueen isn’t commercial in my opinion.  It’s called Savage Beauty but did we see that savage side of him? I don’t think we did.  When McQueen died, people took more notice and made it more commercial, sometimes I think if Chanel was here today would she like this. I respect Karl Lagerfeld for what he has done with the brand and keeping it classic but current. But, If I had a successful label I would want my label to die with me.

Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A

Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A

What is your current project?

For my current project I’m looking at the reformation and how people used to hide their identity or religion and thought about how it is relevant today. I began to realize concealment is a part of our human nature which hasn’t changed, because it is vital for our survival. So I started to look at how we hide ourselves, I looked at the Snowden files and surveillance. I incorporated graphic patterning from computers and cameras. I also selected fabrics which feature metallic graphic patterning, a reference both to patterns we associate with computing and the opulence and wealth of the Catholic Church. My concept weaves religious concealment with ideas of modern disguise.

Edward VI and the Pope: An allegory of the Reformation

Edward VI and the Pope: An allegory of the Reformation

Do you ever finish an item and think … is that horrendous? 

Quite often I get that feeling. I always want to learn so much and sometimes you make two or three garments and put everything into that. You finish and think
“Oh gosh that’s awful”, because there’s too much. Whereas, simplicity and using elements sparingly make it visually dynamic. Coco Chanel did this well, by not putting everything in. It’s like when you’re reading a book and it leaves something for the imagination.

Classic Chanel Tweed Jacket

Classic Chanel Tweed Jacket

Tell me about Winchester fashion week, are you participating?

I’m not sure. We can if we want to, it’s for everyone in the Winchester area who can apply. I think it’s great and I wish they had more prevalence because wherever you go people are creative. It’s hard to get collaboration with creative people from lighting to makeup to music. I wish there was a platform especially for these people to gather and collaborate.

Do you make your own clothes?

I did when I was younger which was helpful for university. People always ask me that and I don’t know why I don’t. That’s’ my resolution for next year – I’m going to take a year out and make stuff for myself. I’m hoping to find a job; Leicestershire is good for the fashion industry. I’m even thinking about an alterations shop, in education you have to work quickly and your finishes aren’t as good as they should be. So I want to spend time perfecting items.

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Winchester Fashion Week

Winchester Fashion Week

Do you have any advice for future students?

If anyone is looking to do a fashion course, be interested in the things that surround you and social attitudes. Do something different. Don’t be afraid to mix ideas and experience. just chase what you want to do rather than just the marks. This is the time to experiment and mess up. Making mistakes means you’re learning. It’s a personal journey for you. Fashion education gives you a broad view of the fashion industry so you at least know the bare bones. Perhaps if you go into experience straight away you might be fumbling around for a bit. In education you get really in-depth research.

One of Rhian’s designs inspired by the reformation taken by Dave Clark

One of Rhian’s designs inspired by the reformation taken by Dave Clark

Are you a fashion student? Tell us about your experience.


Text: Tamera Heron

Images: V&A, Chanel, Dave Clark

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