Michelle Smith was only 16-years-old when she showcased at London Fashion Week with FAD. The Fashion Futures finalist recently opened the De Montfort show at Graduate Fashion Week, with her sassy, Zoot suit inspired menswear.
Tell me about the ideas behind your graduate collection?
“My final collection was inspired by the 1940’s, especially the Zoot suits worn during that time. I liked the fact that Latin-Americans and African-Americans would wear Zoot suits to stand out from the crowd and look different from the rationed fashions of the time. That is why my collection is so colourful and bright! My prints were inspired by tailored pinstripes and quotes taken from Malcolm X during the Zoot suit riots.”
Why menswear? Did you design with someone in mind?
“After I finished my first year at university, I watched a couple of the LCM (London Collections Men) shows and I fell in love with the clothes and the level of detailing. I love the way menswear is evolving; it’s no longer just about tailoring. Designers are really pushing the boundaries.
The man I imagine wearing my clothes is young, urban and confident. He likes to stand out from the crowd and is not afraid to wear colours like bright pink, orange or yellow. He likes to mix street wear with more tailored pieces.”
What’s your favourite outfit from the collection?
“My favourite outfit is the one that opened the De Montfort show at GFW. I feel like it best represents the inspiration behind my collection, and how I want it to be communicated to others. The print on the shirt is one of my favourites.”
How did taking part in FAD help you on your fashion journey?
“FAD gave me the confidence to go into fashion; I never felt confident in my design abilities until I did Fashion Futures and got through to the finals. It made me realise that fashion is definitely a career path that I want to follow, and something I’m actually good at.
Fashion Futures actually helped me get a place at uni. FAD helped with my UCAS statement, giving me pointers on what I should change or add. During an FAD careers workshop I got talking to one of the FAD mentors. She made me realise that London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins are not the only good fashion universities, and that I should maybe explore other options outside London. That’s how I ended up finding out about and choosing De Montfort.”
What did you love most about your experience at De Montfort?
“What I loved most about my course is learning so many different techniques – from textiles to knit – that I don’t think I would have learnt anywhere else. If it wasn’t for me being able to experiment with different techniques I doubt that I would have ever done print or menswear.”
What do you think of organisations like FAD?
“I think FAD is great. It’s the only opportunity, I feel, that helps teenagers to see and learn about work in the fashion industry. Before FAD I had never done any pattern cutting or used an industrial machine. It’s a good addition to your CV and a way to get your name out there in the fashion industry at an early age.”
What’s the next step for you now you have graduated?
“I’ve decided that I definitely I want to start my own menswear line and do an MA, but I’m taking a year out before I start to get some experience within the industry.”
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself as an FAD finalist in 2010 what would it be?
“To listen to my gut instincts and not be afraid to push myself and have more confidence in my work.”