Leanne Keogh caught our eye at last year’s NCAD fashion show with her light-weight leather punctured jackets that became a momentary obsession. Like so many other art college graduates Leanne headed straight to London upon graduating to get cut her teeth on the reality of the industry. Here this bright young thing shares her experience and that of many like her, between the grind and the glamour of it all…
Describe your schedule on a typical day? My typical day begins in the studio at 9 am. I consult with the senior pattern cutter to discuss our plan for the day/week. We often have a number of deadlines and projects running alongside one another so we prioritize the tasks. At 9.30 the interns arrive and we set up the sample room, and delegate the tasks. This can involve anything from developing patterns, cutting out the patterns in fabric and sewing up the toilles ready for fittings. At the moment we are developing patterns for our aw14 show. Our day finishes up around 7/7.30.
You’re working with Richard Nicoll – what are your duties exactly? I came back to Richard Nicoll to complete my 3 month Leonardo da Vinci grant program – a scheme that supports graduates in gaining industry experience in Europe. Having spent time interning with in the company the previous summer I knew that I wanted to specialize in pattern cutting and design development. Since completing my three month program I have been offered a full-time position with the brand, my role is currently an amalgamation of sample room manger and junior pattern cutter. In the lead up to the show I manage the in-house show sampling and the alterations for the collection. Having worked on the development of the patterns I am able to oversee the construction liaise between Richard and Bella, his senior designer, to ensure the designs are being executed. Post-show I am able to get back to pattern cutting and design development which I really enjoy.
What’s the most rewarding part of the job? The most rewarding part of the job is seeing the studio’s hard work come together at the show. The final result overrides the previous weeks of hard work and exhaustion. It is amazing to see a season through from the very initial sample stages and mood boards to a runway show, there is an overwhelming feeling of pride in the brand and Richard’s vision . But just as soon as the show is over the collection is shipped to Milan or Paris for sale and it’s onto the next. Richard does 5 shows a year so it’s a quick turnover.
What disappointments does it present? The nature of the industry means you’re working long hours in often high stress situations , and having to intern after completing a four-year degree can be disheartening, especially as most London-based internships are unpaid. Without grant schemes like the Leonardo in place it is difficult for graduates to emigrate financially. However once you get here I think your career prospects look up almost immediately.
How many of your friends are in the same boat as you? There is a huge network of Irish in London particularly NCAD graduates across many of the disciplines. Out of the 10 on my class, 6 of us are now living here either working, studying or interning. There is an un-official network of sorts through friends and college alumni. Having small numbers in college meant we were close with the older years who were always at hand to give advice based on their experiences of interning. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have an official online forum for Irish fashion graduates in London to keep in touch, given that a lot of internships and job opportunities can come up via word of mouth. But in general the good nature of the Irish means we look out for one another.
Emerging Irish designers you admire? Simone Rocha is definitely the most inspiring talent to come out of Ireland in recent years.
Your collection for your NCAD fashion show was stunning – what inspired it and where to next for you? The notion of identity and place provided the context for my collection. I was primarily interested in the way in which my garments would perform as an element of the customer’s daily narrative. The outcome was a wearable collection developed from the outside in with a focus on over-sized outer-wear contrasted with delicate mesh bomber jackets and linen under coats. Post collection my head was spinning with ideas and potentials for development of the range, designing 6 looks is more limiting than you imagine, however I decided to put any personal projects on hold in favour of getting back into the industry as soon as possible. So at the moment my focus is on developing my skills and getting a feel for how I want to progress.
Where do you live and how have you found living in London? I’m currently living in Hackney, East London. It makes sense for me because I work nearby and have a close network of friends in the area. There are lots of markets, beautiful parks and pubs too so I avoid going into central London.
Favourite brunch spot and favourite bar? Hackney City Farm is my favourite spot for brunch on a sunny afternoon, followed by a drink in the Dove on Broadway Market.
Roisin Agnew @Roxeenna