On the 2nd November, the 2016/17 TICE programme arrived at Boldon School for the Insight stage of Fashion and Textiles. The day’s session was being led by Fashion and Textiles mentor, Charlotte. Also, on hand to assist proceedings were both myself and Karra. Charlotte’s background is primarily in textiles and design, specialising in embroidery.

The goal of this session was to give students an introduction into what we do and provide an insight into the fashion and textiles industry by delving into the scope of what’s out there.

To get things up and running, the students were handed a sheet which contained questions designed to find out what current knowledge they already may have had of this industry. It was good to see the students working collaboratively for this task!

“What is fashion?” was a question directed towards everybody in the room. The students responded in fine fashion (pardon the pun!) with answers such as: “using our own opinions and individual preference”, “following current trends”, “being inspired by other people” and “coordinating an outfit to complement own personal looks.” Some very in depth answers!

“What is textiles?” was the next question Charlotte asked the group. Again, the students delivered some very cleverly put responses with things such as: “working with materials (the fabrics used to create garments)”, “learning different techniques” and “creating your own original piece.”

“What might create a trend?” was a question that I thought was a little more complex than the previous two. I found the students’ responses for this one in particular to be very well thought of indeed! Some of the answers I noted included: “media and famous people”, “world events… tragedies are an example of this. You wouldn’t wear bright colours during a time of mourning – tragic events can impact and influence what clothes we wear.” I was personally fascinated by such a reply as I would have never thought of that myself. Another student response highlighted how different social movements can dictate what clothes are worn by a group of people. Traditional stereotypes such as Punk Rockers are a classic example of this.

The students then had a selection of mood boards to choose from and had the task of picking out the key features to craft fashion illustration ideas. Each group also had to pick a celebrity figure to design an outfit for… the choice consisted of Pharrell, Ellie Goulding, Jenner Kendall and Nicki Minaj. Quite a stylish list there!

The students were grouped onto five separate tables. Amongst themselves, they had to discuss the fashion style and attitude of their chosen celebrity. With said celebrity in mind, they had to use their allocated mood board to sculpt a creative fashion piece. Each group debated and collaborated on various elements such as colour schemes and clothing patterns. Online resources such as Google Image were also used to conjure extra sparks of inspiration within the room! The planning process looked very methodical indeed as the group used mind maps to record various ideas!

Fashion illustration templates were allocated to each group so that they could begin putting all their ideas into practice! The students learned that professional designers within the industry can produce design ideas in a matter of minutes… (so there wasn’t any pressure or anything!). Primarily though, being able to work quickly and intuitively are seen as the key qualities during this process.

The next step for each group was to dissect each person’s individual designs. The idea was to merge everyone’s solo ideas onto a final design that will be used to sculpt an outfit for the manikin models that were provided to each group. It was emphasised by Charlotte that we had to visibly see the merging of everyone’s ideas… so team work was essential for this!

Next came the real fun! Charlotte gave a brilliant, in depth example of how to apply the materials onto the mannequin models. Firstly, a bin bag was used as a protective layer before the base was wrapped with fabric. Paper mâché was then applied and lines of fabric were cut with precision. It was then highlighted by Charlotte that the fabric had to be tactfully pinned into the mannequin. Initially, the group was asked “how do I give it (the fabric) shape?” It was then decided darts could be used to embellish the overall silhouette. Pins were also needed to counter excess fabric to achieve the desired structure. I found this process very fascinating! Again, it’s all very methodical. You need to combine creativity with weighing up how to achieve the desired look with the assigned materials.

After carefully watching Charlotte’s mannequin demonstration and taking a much-needed lunch break, the students began getting hands on themselves within their groups! Each group splendidly emulated Charlotte’s process to achieve the desired mould. The next stage was then to add paint and bring things to life! From what I observed around the room, there were some seriously stylish displays that even Gok Wan would be proud of! From vibrant colour schemes to the usage of extra materials to create stylish embellishments such as beautifully crafted shoulder pieces… things were truly starting to come to life!

Seeing the steady progression of these designs was quite fascinating for somebody like myself – a person who didn’t really know much about the in’s and out’s of how fashion is born out of nothing. After witnessing today, it’s very apparent that Boldon School’s year 9 and 10 students have a natural creative flair that if nourished properly, could blossom into something truly amazing. The finished displays looked absolutely fantastic! It is safe to assume that there could be some future designers here…

A job well done everybody!

By Tom Dingwall