Young Australian fashion designer, Alina, has only just begun her career, but already her talent for fashion has taken her far from the streets of Sydney all the way to the mecca for fashion, known as Italy. After studying fashion at acclaimed Sydney design school, the Whitehouse Institute of Design, Alina gained the prestigious scholarship to complete a Master’s in Fashion Design at the Accademia Italiana in Florence, Italy. Many sleepless months later, she wowed her audience with the presentation of her final collection for her Master’s degree. Now that she has graduated with flying colours, she’s back in Sydney working as a design assistant for well-known local label, David Lawrence.
Why did you want to get into fashion?
I’ve loved fashion ever since I was very little. I used to lie on my bed and sketch while I was supposed to be doing my homework. I love that fashion is never static, it always changes and that makes it exciting.
I had an interview with the principal of the design school and showed her a portfolio of my work. I put together my portfolio from some work I created on my own, and from material I created when I was studying at Whitehouse as part of the VET in Schools program.
Anyone in the final year of fashion design at the Whitehouse Institute of Design was eligible to apply for the scholarship in Florence. We had a panel of judges who came to view our final collection.
It was amazing and I absolutely loved it. Florence is my home away from home. The program was very different to the undergraduate degree I studied in Australia as it was very self-driven. There was a lot of freedom to develop our designs the way we wanted. The collection that I produced for my Master’s was a representation of everything I love. It had strong tailoring, detailed seam lines, embellishment and use of black and white with a touch of strong colour.
I worked in retail for two and a half years while I was studying here in Australia. This was a good job for a fashion design student, because you see the commercial side of the industry and learn what customers want and need so you can relate that back to your own designs.
I work as a design assistant for David Lawrence. It’s my first fashion design job so I was very excited when I got it. I do textile, print and embroidery artworks, prints, research and I also liaise a lot with the factories and suppliers.
Having a designer role is definitely where I see myself. But it’s really satisfying to make that first step into the industry as a design assistant. It definitely shows what’s possible.
You need to have vivid imagination, lots of creativity and a very good eye for detail and pay attention to the little things. But most importantly, you need to be dedicated. You have to make sure every single colour, thread and button is perfect. If you don’t absolutely love it, it can be very tedious.
You must have a good head for business. You may be able to draw pretty pictures, but to translate your ideas into successful product, you have to know the ins and outs of a consumer-driven industry and how to run a business.Fashion design is not only about the creative process, it’s how you actually implement creativity into the real world. You have to be realistic and business savvy to be successful.
We had business classes at the Whitehouse institute of Design, but nothing beats experiencing business first hand.
A typical day includes liaising with the factory and suppliers, approving colours and trims, helping designers with the fabrics, creating artworks for prints and embroideries, research and taking part in the sample fitting process.
It’s exciting to see my ideas become real. It’s incredible to see my work on the catwalk and see people looking up from their seats, appreciating all the hard work and the imagination that has gone into the collection. It’s also rewarding for me to watch the show because when you’re so involved in creating a collection, it’s exciting to see it exactly as you’d imagined – especially when you haven’t slept for months in the lead-up.
It was challenging to move to a country, where I had to produce a collection for my Master’s, where I didn’t speak the language and didn’t know anybody. It meant travelling to fabric warehouses all around Florence to put my collection together and trying to communicate what I wanted with a lot of difficulty.
You have to work really hard to get where you want to be. It’s easy to get sidetracked and think: ‘it’s too hard, I can’t do it’. But at the end of the day, if you love it, you go for it. It’s all about working hard and enjoying it at the same time.
The average pay for a fashion graduate is A$25 000 to A$30 000. It is certainly not a lot, but when you first start out in the industry, you realise how much more you have to learn after studying.