I had been anticipating the Women in Fashion event hosted by St Andrews’ Women in Work since January. I had just gotten my wisdom teeth out (classic) and was hoping to do something exciting and this event did not disappoint. The panel talk was held at the Hotel Du Vin, a small but luxurious location that was perfect for the event. Upon entry, the first 30 or so guests were treated with a gift bag, with vouchers to Bobbi Brown and Mammacitas, which was an unexpected but welcome touch. Once everyone sat down, the event started promptly at 6:45, and we were presented with the five speakers.
The first was Cora Hilts, who co-founded a “sustainable fashion brand” (Women in Work) called ‘Reve En Vert.’ Ms Hilts graduated with a Masters degree from Environmental Politics at Kings College London, and founded her company after working for fashion houses Stella McCartney and Christian Louboutin. It was interesting to see how Ms Hilts’ use of her degree and time spent in academia filtered into her creation of a sustainable and ethical fashion brand that used recycled material to make luxury clothing. Ms Hilts also emphasised the importance of women in the workplace, especially in fashion careers because despite the number of women that go into the fashion industry, many of the highest positions are still dominated by men. According to her, “women have a responsibility to take of the earth for future generations.”
The next speaker we were presented with was Nene Granville, who may well have been the speaker with the most experience in the fashion industry, with almost two decades under her belt. Ms Granville stated that she always knew she wanted to be in fashion, and began working in the PR industry while studying a degree at fashion school at the same time. She founded her company Industry Menu in 2017 and stated that she loves fashion and the PR industry because “people can just be who they want to be,” and work independently. Ms Granville was one of my favourite speakers, because her career advice was so eloquent – and her fashion inspiration was her mum!
The third speaker was Chelsea West a current St Andrews student and small business owner. Ms West specialises in detailed embroidered art and one of a kind clothing. I was amazed at her ability to juggle her degree and business, while being able to produce original content. For her, “fashion can be accessible to everyone” because everyone’s personal interests are reflected in both art and fashion. To see more of Ms West’s work, you can follow her instagram, @sew.est
The fourth speaker was Maryam Al-Ammari, another current St Andrews students. Ms Al-Ammari truly blew me away. On top of her degree, not only does she run her own sewing business, but she is also a social activist, and founded the Maharat Sewing Project with her sister, which she says is, “an education charity focusing on sewing” by training Jordanian and Syrian women by giving them useful vocational and job skills. Over 200 women have benefited from Maryam’s foundation, which is steadily growing.
Lastly, we were introduced to Amanda Davies, one of Scotland’s top fashion bloggers, and the creator of her the instragram @honeypopkisses. Ms Davies explained that she studied garment technology and had a job as an assistant buyer at Next before her blog took off. Because of the hoops she had to jump through to gain a successful blog, she advised us that “no one really has a linear career path,” especially in fashion. One of her favourite parts about blogging is “talking [to] and championing independent designers in Scotland,” which is so important in a world where fast fashion reigns supreme.
I left the Women in Fashion discussion with a greater knowledge of how the fashion industry works, and learned that it was not as glamorous as it seems. The five speakers discussed some of the ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspects of the fashion industry, such as sustainability, ethics, sexism, diversity, and misconceptions which basically turned my preconceived notions about the industry upside down. I found it incredibly refreshing, and am now even considering a career in the industry, which I never thought of as an option before. All of the speakers spent a number of time at university (or are currently still in university), and I saw the value of having an education or a degree, no matter what career someone happened to be on. I also realised that these women were all very young – in fact, it was the youngest panel of speakers that Women in Work had ever hosted before. This showed me that it doesn’t matter how old you are – you can always be successful and have the drive and ambition to land whatever career you want, as these women have displayed. Overall, I had an amazing time at the event and I would highly recommend it if Women in Work were to put it on again, and in a little under two hours, I left with a lot of valuable knowledge. For the five pound ticket price (even cheaper for members of Women in Work!), it was definitely worth the value for the experience and information I received. It was classy, engaging, and a breath of fresh air, and one of the best, yet underrated events I have been to at St Andrews.