Sally Dewhirst is assistant designer at Manchester based fashion brand Twisted Muse. In May 2015, Sally will be judging the first ever Patternmash Pinata competition. For this month’s Snapshot we get to know Sally a little better.
I studied Fashion & Innovation at Leeds College of Art, a course which covered all aspects of fashion design techniques and development of drawing skills. I never had myself down as someone who is great at drawing, but the drawing elective I chose taught me to be expressive with the materials I was using. Whether working with ink, pencil, paint or any other crazy things I could get my hands on; it really helped me to ‘loosen up’ as a creative and made me realise that you can express yourself in so many ways.
The things we explored later on in the course weren‘t so much about the design, fit and makeup of a garment, but more about the concept and how you put that across to others. We developed everything from the initial idea, to the product, to creating the brand for which your items would be known as. Every aspect of the process had to be refined to such a level that it was ready to take to a store and be sold. I collaborated on this project with a Graphic Design student to create a packaging, a lookbook and magazine which was unique to my brand. She taught me things about InDesign and graphics as a whole that I’d never really come across before. It was refreshing to know that I could work with other people from different backgrounds who got what I was doing and what I was trying to express.
When I first graduated, like many others I found it really difficult to find a job in the fashion industry. I was given the opportunity to work at Twisted Muse as a design intern a couple of days a week, while also working full time in a local restaurant. I only had a couple of days off in 9 months, because I was either earning money or gaining experience in this amazing environment. Although it was difficult, I had to pinch myself over how lucky I was to be gaining this experience and work ethic.
It can be really disheartening to constantly search through sites like Drapers and Manchester Fashion Network and apply for roles that sound perfect but then not receive even as much as a ‘thank you for your application’ in reply, but you can‘t let it knock your confidence. There were plenty of times in the past that I doubted myself and my ability to ‘make it‘ in the fashion industry, there was even a point where these doubts stopped me from being creative unless I needed to be while interning. I didn’t like the person I was when I wasn’t being creative, so I gave myself a good shake and I didn‘t give up!
It’s also important to remember that sometimes opportunities show up in the most unexpected places. While working at the restaurant, I got chatting to some regular lunch time diners who owned a rug company. I was very cheeky and made sure they found out my background and I landed my first paid role designing! Although it wasn‘t designing for the context that I wanted, it was the best feeling ever! I felt appreciated and it gave me the kick up the bum that I needed. I worked there for 9 months as assistant designer working with large clients like Tesco, Matalan and B&M. I worked with the buyers closely to create briefs and I saw the product through from research to design and then sampling and production stages. It was really intense and demanding, but a great experience that paid off as I am now working in fashion at Twisted Muse as assistant designer.
At my current role, I work really closely with the head designer creating the briefs at the beginning of the season. I take this through from research of fabrics, graphics, silhouettes and initial designs, to sampling and making comments and amendments on specification sheets, to communicating with overseas suppliers and then handing the designs over for production. I have just arrived home from my first sourcing trip where I worked directly with the suppliers. We had fit sessions for the latest prototypes to make them ready for SS16. We didn’t sleep much and the tea isn’t great in Portugal – but I loved it!
I don’t follow specific trends and designers to inspire my work. I kind of live by: if you see it, like it, love it, then roll with it! My favourite kinds of print are those that you could read a million different things into, but only the designer will ever really know what it originated from. Having a strong colour palette is important; after all there are only a certain amount of colours that actually work (particularly for our customers – mostly pinks) but it‘s how you combine them in a way that no one has seen before using different tones. As for my future design intentions, I am currently trying to put some ideas together to do some fashion related fundraising for the British Lung Foundation, a charity that is very close to my heart. My advice to designers trying to get a foot in the door now is to remember that everything happens for a reason. Without the knock backs and the experience of working long hours and interning, I wouldn’t be where I am now and I am so grateful for that.