Saturday, 24 September 2011

A Fashionable Reunion: Interview with an Aquascutum Intern and Old Friend

Last Tuesday, I got on a different train to work.

At the time, I thought this was just because I had got up too late, wasted time straightening my hair and missed the earlier train. I now realise, I was always meant to get the later train on that day (the day of the Aquascutum show at London Fashion Week) and, by a twist of fate, meet an old friend, currently interning at Aquascutum as part of her Fashion Technology degree!

On reading the show was scheduled for later that day, I thought of her and then looked up to see the same girl standing beside me! I should mention now, I had not properly seen this friend, also called Fi, for about nine years, though our mums remained in contact. Bizarre to bump into each on that particular day, right?

Anyway, it was brilliant to have a brief catch-up and so strange/ wonderful that we share the same passion after all these years!

Plus, it turned out she was on her way to the actual show! As you can imagine, I was beside myself with envy and excitement. I really could have missed my stop to find out more. Unfortunately, I still had three-pack baby vests to deal with-no runway shows for me as yet.

 We chatted later though and she even allowed me to interview her about her role, the brand and Aquascutum’s Spring/ Summer 2012 collection. You can tell just how passionate Fi is about what she does. Her insider's perspective really makes you appreciate the attention to detail that leads to garments of outstanding quality and upholds Aquascutum's reputation as a long-standing, luxury brand.

What is your interning role title at Aquascutum?
I'm officially a 'Product Development' intern.

What does this involve on a day-to-day basis?
Luckily I don't make cups of tea. Everyone has this horrid vision that their internship will involve making tea on a daily basis but I was never a glorified tea maker (thank goodness!)
Part of product development is quality assurance (QA), which is ensuring that the customer gets the best quality garment they can. I suppose quality is defined in many ways but from a QA point of view it's having a garment that is fit for purpose and is going to stand the test of time.
When we get garments that come in from the factory I check that they are not faulty, that they've actioned comments we've written to them (about how the garment should be made, trims, finishes etc...). If they have, we approve them and they go into mass production and, if they haven't, we reject it and they have to send us another sample.

When did you realise you wanted to work in Fashion?
My nana used to be a dressmaker and I used to look at her drawings as a kid. It sounds silly but I seriously cannot remember ever wanting to do anything else. I wanted to be a fashion designer at first but - while I think I'm kind of creative - I'm not always good at thinking way outside of the box. So I settled for a more practical approach; one that would teach me how to make garments.

Can you tell us a bit about Aquascutum; its heritage and image?
Aquascutum has been going since 1851 and is famous for its trench coats. I cannot tell you how many raincoats I check over on a day-to-day basis. Jo Sykes is Head of Design for Aquascutum now and she's bringing a really fresh feel to a brand some often saw as being only for an older audience. Alongside the raincoats is our trademark club check which we line our coats in so that people know it's an Aquascutum garment.

Aquascutum is typically a tailoring brand so with everything they do there’s always that element of neatness. The menswear suits are amazing and that’s the field I find myself most drawn to, you really cannot beat a good suit - I find myself assessing the fits of mens suits when I’m on the train thinking to myself “You need longer trousers,” or “that shoulder pad is way too large!” Even with the feminine colours of the collection there were strong shoulders, straight cuts and tailored trousers on the catwalk. You just can’t escape it!

What has been your favourite moment of interning so far?
Fit sessions. It sounds weird but when you get a garment you have to make sure it fits your customer so we have a real life, standard size ten model who we put the clothes on. We then change measurements, pinch bits out basically make it fit better. The women’s ones are so involved because their fits are more complex, you want the clothes to do different things depending on what they are. The men’s ones are simpler in the way that a men’s garment block doesn’t change. Suit styles haven’t changed, it’s just the trims that change with every year. I love going into fit sessions because I get to see the before and after effect.

Were you involved in the show’s preparations?
There are a lot of 24 hour days. I’m not kidding. Darting off at a moments notice across London to get buttons, trims and garments was a regular occurance. I made several trips to the edge of east London to get garments from a supplier. It’s absolute madness, you need dye samples, stitch samples - so many samples before anything gets the green light to go. You have to draft and re-draft and then copy the patterns for trousers, skirts, tops etc to go to factories halfway across the world and I was doing that - the copying bit not quite the drafting bit yet. We have machinists in the building who ended up making about 70% of the clothes that appeared in the show. Some people would get into work at 7am and not leave until 7pm the next day. Interns stay too.

What was the inspiration for this season’s collection?
I think it was feminine colours mixed with fine tailoring. There were a lot of wrap trousers and shorts (which are a Jo Sykes trademark). I loved the injection of yellow; it was like a wake up call in amongst all the soft nudes and dreamy beiges.

What was it like being at the show?
It’s quite relaxed surprisingly. It was really strange to see months of madness all over in 10 minutes, but it was nice to see the effort getting it’s moment to shine. Not many people will ever know what went into it and whilst it could be a disappointing it feels more like knowing a huge secret haha!

Did you meet or see anyone famous?
Apparently Kara Tointon was there but I didn’t recognise her. It was quite hard to see people because all the staff were standing behind those that were sitting - and of course some people are roguishly tall!

What was your favourite piece?
There was a long yellow dress. It was a halterneck with a wrap front and it looked so bright and Grecian I thought to myself, “I need one of those!”

Do you have any advice for those hoping to go into Fashion?
You can study as hard as you like at university but the most you will ever learn is in your first year of work. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t think you’re doing well at university. The fashion world is built on interns, and they don’t expect you to be excellent at first because you can learn so much in 3 months. I was so useless back in June but now I feel like I’ve got firm footing, I’m still learning but I don’t feel like a fish out of water.

Suss out what kind of intern you want to be and, if it’s a design intern, don’t expect to sleep much but do expect to see some wonderful things. Design interns work harder than any other interns I’ve met - myself included!

Sorry this post has been so long but it is the closest access I have, had to London Fashion Week and I'm so pleased Fashion has brought my friend and I back together. We've already been reminiscing about the good old days when we played around with huge rolls of material and dressed each other up...not sure we knew about Quality Assurance then!



  1. That is so awesome that you two found each other. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. One time I went to a place for lunch (that i never go to) and rekindled a friendship with a girl I hadn't seen in 10 years! It's truly amazing and meant to be. That is a wonderful interview! She is learning so much and ENJOYING it! How grand is that!?! So happy the two Fi's met up! Have a great Sunday girl! :D
    SassyUptownChic xoxo Kim

  2. Aww thanks for making it all the way to the end haha! Some strange things do happen don't they and I'm glad I'm not the only one who re-found a friend.

    Fi xx

  3. WOW. talk about lucky!!! that was really faith! :D
    omg! lovely post!!
    and your blog is lovely too!