Since taking part in Fashion Futures as a teenager, Clara has been an active FAD volunteer and Leadership Academy member, running projects with young people at Coram Fields youth centre where she spent a lot of time growing up.
Clara has just graduated from Chelsea School of Art with a BA in Textiles Design. Her final menswear collection draws inspiration from rich African heritage, focusing on the origins and developments of natural black hair.
Clara, congratulations on graduating from Chelsea. Can you start by telling us a little bit about your graduate project?
My collection is something very personal to me. The inspiration came from my dissertation, ‘ Why Black Hair Matters, The Origins and Developments of Natural Black Hair’.
In ancient Africa, hair symbolised a variety of traditional definitions within society such as status, wealth and occupation. These definitions have been watered down somewhat due to westernisation, though Black hair is still considered prestigious and many label is as ‘ The Crown and Glory’.
My collection focuses on recreating African cloth from contemporary hairstyle patterns. I was inspired by a series of photos from 1968 by J.D. Okhai Ojeikere’s called ‘Hairstyles’. I selected well-known hairstyles – Cornrow, Dreadlocks, Braids and Weave-on – as all are strongly associated with black culture; I also looked at different combs past and present. These elements were the foundation for my print and stitch patterns.
How has FAD supported you in your creative journey?
FAD have been there for me from day one! I remember talking to them about applying for my Foundation course and they suggested what courses were good and what was required for each of them. Joanne helped me with my portfolio, then continued to advise me when I was on my BA, including helping me to apply for the Erasmus scheme at a German art college.
FAD has played a huge part in my self-development, by providing ongoing opportunities like the Leadership Academy. These projects have helped me to define who I am as a person, find my design ID and think realistically about my future.
What do you think are the qualities you need to study and be a textiles designer?
Good question, I believe being a textiles designer you need to have knowledge of all specialisms. You have a core area you focus on, in my case I specialised in Knitwear, but being prepared to incorporate other textiles techniques within your work is important.
What’s been the best thing about studying at Chelsea?
Chelsea became a home away from home for me ! I would highly recommend studying there because your creativity isn’t capped or looked down upon. Your free to create your textiles and develop a strong design ID. The best thing about studying at Chelsea is the diversity of people you come across. I’ve made friends from all across the globe as well as around the UK.
Whats next for you? What would be your dream job?
My dream job would be to have my own successful textiles brand – designing across all kinds of textiles; for fashion and lifestyle. However, before that can happen I want to learn the ropes within industry. I would love to become a garment technologist or a junior knitwear designer for a really big British brand like Burberry or Paul Smith.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself as a teenager taking part in Fashion Futures what would it be?
I would definitely tell the younger me to embrace all mistakes and don’t be afraid of trying new things.
Thanks to George at Asda for making Clara’s story possible thorough their ongoing sponsorship of Fashion Futures.