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Graduate to Watch: Abby Johnson, Bath Spa University

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Graduate Fashion Week this year celebrated its 25th anniversary, the standard of fashion was strong, as each graduate looks to following in the footsteps of designers including Christopher Bailey, Antonio Berardi, Stella McCartney, Giles Deacon, Julien MacDonald, Christopher Raeburn and Sophie Hulme.

This week’s graduate to watch is the talented Abby Johnson from Bath Spa University, her collection celebrates the diversity of her hometown Birmingham, with the use of embellishments and bold stripes, referencing both Indian crafts and the football culture, in a collection of clothes that wouldn’t look out of place on the high street at the moment.

FashionUnited sat down with Johnson to discuss her collection and Graduate Fashion Week experience, why Bath Spa University, as well as her advice for taking on a fashion design degree.

Why did you want to be a fashion designer?

“I have always loved fashion and art and knew that I wanted to work in design. Fashion for me is so personal it is a way of communicating with people and is completely transformative.”

What was the inspiration for your graduate collection?

“My graduate collection was inspired by the diversity I encountered growing up in multicultural Birmingham. Combining English football fashions with the traditional embellishment crafts of Indian culture resulting in a bizarre parody of the two.”

What fabrics/techniques did you use?

“The main fabrics in my collection are jersey and denim, it was important to me to stay true to the casual wear fabrics. Stripes inspired by football shirts feature throughout, contrasted with delicate lace and decadent embellishments. The embellishment was the main focus of my collection developed from collaging found embellishments and trims.”

What are the signature piece/pieces?

“The signature pieces are the embellished jeans and sweatshirts Inspired by reading about how football fans from working class backgrounds would customise their clothes to fit in with fashions. I wanted to have a feel of customisation and handcrafts in my embellishment using lace, gemstones, beads and broken jewellery.”

Did you enjoy your Graduate Fashion Week experience?

“Yes, it was such an amazing experience. It was so great to see my own work showcased in a professional environment. I met so many great people there, both from industry and fellow graduates. It was a truly inspiring week, hard work at times but amazing.”

Why did you choose to study at Bath Spa University?

“I chose to study at Bath Spa because of its studio like environment, as it is a small course based in the historic Circus in Bath the amount of contact time with tutors is invaluable. My time spent at Bath Spa has taught me so much about fashion and pushed me to develop my own way of working.”

What was the most valuable thing you learned on your course?

“The most valuable thing I learn on my course is the balance of working through designs and problem solving with stepping away and doing something else. I think it is so important to know when you are over working and overthinking an idea.”

What do you wish you had been told before you started your degree?

“I wish I had been told to be fearless, I probably was told this but didn’t listen but I think it is the best advice. Fearlessly experimenting with design is how you discover ideas.”

What are your plans now that you've graduated?

“Now that I have graduated I want to continue to learn by taking up internships and continuing with my own personal design work. I am soon to start a graduate programme at River Island as part of their womenswear design team.”

What advice would you give someone considering studying fashion?

“It is difficult sometimes but if you love it that won’t matter. Make sure you enjoy your work so that you can put everything you have into it. If you push yourself you can only improve.”

Did you undergo any design placements?

“Yes, I undertook two placements during my studies, the first was a week spent at Next during this short time I got a huge insight into how a large design studio works from research and trend development to designing and then sampling and quality control.

“The second placement I did was at Atea Oceanie, I assisted the design team at Atea for a month learning and developing digital skills and design skills. Here, I also learnt the importance of organisation and time management seeing how each member of the team does their roles so that then the next person can do theirs.”

Images: courtesy of Abby Johnson

Graduate Fashion Week
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