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Graduate to Watch: Steffan Pearson, University of South Wales

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Graduate Fashion Week may represent 40 of the UK’s leading fashion universities, it doesn’t, however, feature a catwalk show for each, and with the case of the University of South Wales they use their exhibition stand to showcase their promising graduates.

One such graduate who stood out to FashionUnited was menswear designer Steffan Pearson with his intricate and unique handmade embellished collection, with his signature pieces featuring more than 40,000 beads. We spoke to the promising designer about the inspiration behind his collection, the techniques he used, as well as his Graduate Fashion Week experience and plans for the future.

Why did you want to be a fashion designer?

“I wanted to be a fashion designer because I’ve always had a passion art and design from an early age. Fashion allows me to express myself through many mediums from illustration to garments.

“Watching catwalks and reading Vogue gave me an insight into the world of fashion, I love seeing the glamour lifestyle many fashion designers live, I feel that I was born to live the life of the rich and famous.”

What was the inspiration for your graduate collection?

“The collection is based on a voyage in pursuit of knowledge, understanding and culture. The collection aims to illustrate adventure through harsh landscapes, icy glaciers, and Inuit craftsmanship. Garments are designed to adapt to the ever-changing conditions, with technical fabrics, layered outerwear, bonded pockets and fur.

“The collection has comfort and richness through bespoke alpaca fabrics showcasing creative surface texture and pattern, alongside unique textiles of beads and fur to create an overall energetic and lively colour and mood to the collection.”

What fabrics/techniques did you use?

“I used a mix of technical and soft fabrics to create an interesting juxtaposition. The contrast of hard and soft, textured and flat allowed my collection to have life and energy. I wanted to achieve this dynamic blend as the concepts within my collection surround exploration and change. During the fabric sourcing process, I actually worked with a company to create my own fabric using 100 percent alpaca fibre. I created bespoke shirting and wool fabrics, which gave my collection an even more luxurious finish.

“The process of working with a factory to create a new fabric was something very fulfilling as, as a designer you constantly want to create something new, something which hasn’t been done before, and most importantly claim the cloth. I also created a unique textile for my collection using beads and fur, which took 105 days, and 44,000+ beads.

“The colour and texture of this handmade embellished fabric really set my collection apart from the others at GFW, resulting in being nominated for the David Band Textiles award and Accessories award. Furthermore, fashion critics Suzy Menkes international editor of Vogue and Sara Maino from Vogue Italia stated that my collection was a “stand out at graduate fashion week”.”

What are the signature piece/pieces?

“My signature piece within my collection is without a doubt my beads and fur jumper and skirt as it's just so bold and unique. I would also say that my accessories which went with my collection as stand out pieces as they tie the looks together beautifully.”

Did you enjoy your Graduate Fashion Week experience?

“I was so overwhelmed with the exposure I got from graduate fashion week, even though my university didn’t have a fashion show I would say I was one of the most talked about collection there. Just to be able to come in contact with industry professionals from a verity of different brands was very beneficial for my creative practice and networking. Since GFW I’ve been flooded with emails from stylists, photographers, and brands to work for them. I can’t thank GFW enough for the chance to showcase my work there.”

Why did you choose to study at the University of South Wales?

“I choose the university of south wales, as it was close home for me. I got into the London College of Fashion, however, I felt it was too early to make the move to London at the age of 18, so decided to stay in Wales and develop my skill set in the comfort of Wales.

I decided to study at the University of South Wales because I knew the reputation was good from visiting opening days. Also, because of the amazing teaching team of Beth, Ann, Stacey, Jayne, Christian, Kay, Alyson, Sarah, Ben and most importantly the inspiration course leader Irene Dee who without, I wouldn’t have created the collection I made, as she really pushed me and developed my ideas to the fullest.”

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

“The most valuable thing I learnt from the course is the technical skills, from day one we were taught the fashion fundamental from how to draft a pattern to how to create a spec drawing. All these skills I see as essential and are something which will see me through my career as a fashion designer.”

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

“Maybe how expensive and stressful it will be. I’m not going to lie there were times that’s I was skint eating pot noodle, doing all-nighters just to meet the deadlines, however, all of the sleepless nights and stress was worth it in the end.”

What are your plans now that you've graduated?

“My plans are to try and make it as a fashion designer, I’m going to apply for as many jobs as I can till I get the job I want. I also plan to do an MA in a few years time, as I feel I’ll be more mature and be able to give my all to the MA programme I choose. I also plan to try and be a TV personality/radio presenter, as I love media and social media.”

What advice would you give someone considering studying fashion?

“I would say if you committed and dedicated to fashion and have great creative idea I would defiantly study fashion. It’s not going to be all glamour from the start but if you put the hours in you’ll get want you to want in the end.”

What designers/labels do you most admire?

“I really love the high street brands River Island and Zara, as I believe that the quality of the clothes there are superb and they are constantly pushing fashion. I also love designer brand Acne Studios as they androgynous styled clothing is also simply beautiful and clean.”

Images: Courtesy of Steffan Pearson / Denisa Nicoleta Molnar

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