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KU grad’s journey from fashion BA to runway

By Alice Bradley Oct 19, 2017
Kate Clark's graduate collection inspired by childhood nostalgia

Whilst focusing on her Fashion BA (Hons) degree, Clark worked closely at honing her technique as well as her vision. Her distinct style which went to inspire her final collection is communicated immediately by her appearance; a sharp pixie crop haircut, a bespoke beheaded barbie doll crown and her famously exaggerated winged eyeliner, makes her the central focus of the brand.

Speaking candidly with Clark, she reveals how important Kingston has been for her growth as a designer: “Kingston has been amazing. They work us very hard in fashion, as is to be expected for one of the best courses globally. I have learnt so much and am proud to come from a course who’s tutors and technicians are like family.”

Aside from her countless artistic successes, what was most impressive about Clark was her ability to juggle her course with external projects. She emphasised: “I interned during first year one day a week at Sophie Hulme, then a summer at Clio Peppiatt. I worked with Fashion Scout during fashion weeks, then French Connection the next summer. But I suppose I see these experiences as a course requirement. Practical experience and real life experience is essential.”

Since graduating back in July, Clark has had little time to take in how much her life is changed. She explains: “I’m most certainly on a post-finishing high, living in Paris at a dream job, I can easily gloss over what were hard and stressful moments. But the beauty of Kingston is that it is worth it, as a community of fashion students, as you finally get something right.”

Now the 22-year-old is living in Paris and working for French couturier Chanel. Clark admits: “Chanel was really chance. They emailed the uni looking for interns and a selection was made to send digital folios. That’s how they chose me for an interview and they liked me. Only since I have started, have I realised how lucky I really am and how my work has been received. They chose me because they saw me in my folio. I have a project that centred around cat prints and they’ve called me kitty girl since my interview.”

Clark said proudly: “I love learning and I love being around people. To feel like you’re part of something is the most amazing feeling. The work is endless but for a workaholic like me, I couldn’t have asked for better. I really can’t think of anything I would change. Every mistake was important to learn from, every hard part was worth it when I’d got past it. I don’t live with regrets, I only look to my present.”

You only have to take a look at Clark’s Instagram to see how her accomplishments have spiralled this year. Her designs have been worn by British indie-pop sensation Kate Nash on stage during her recent tour, key items from her collection exhibited during London Fashion Week and the 22-year-old has even had pieces featured in a shoot with Glamour Brazil.

“Everyone is there to help you, if you are present and you work hard. Words can’t express how grateful I am to walk into the world and tell people how much my tutors mean to me. How much Kingston University was and is my home. I don’t know how you cannot be in love with a place, after spending 12 hours a day with the same group of people for 3 years,” says Clark, who reassures me that Kingston University was the springboard for her success.

She gushes: “The course has made me work faster and also taught me to think less and work more. Actions speaks louder than words, as my first year tutor said “An idea is worth nothing if it stays in your head”. The fashion industry moves fast and you have to think fast and act fast.”

Clark’s graduate collection is somewhat of an explosion of childhood possessions and memories. Repurposed teddy’s and dolls are weaved amongst layers of lambent pink and pastel blue tulle. The netting is flamboyant as Clark’s collection plays with the female frame, replicating toys she used to own as child. The exaggerated bouffant sleeves and legs of the trousers are reminiscent of a porcelain doll.

She describes: “In terms of influencing my collection, the feeling of growing up was definitely something that came to a head when I was living away from home. Eventually it became the idea of leaving Kingston, a place that had become my home. My interest in this subject has always been there, even as a child. I remember promising to myself that I wouldn’t forget what it was like to see the world the way I saw it as a child; balancing those promises with forging forward to the future was what the collection became.”

Although the collection works intrinsically as a whole, each piece has distinctly different qualities which represent parts of Clark’s magical childhood. She admits: “It’s very hard to pick a favourite piece from my collection, as it was designed as a collection, not individually. But I love the pieces with the teddy bears inside them, they just add more depth beneath the embroidery and print. They’re so fun to wear.”

Interestingly, Kate Clark’s collection plays with her childhood innocence by delivering her take on the use of fur in the fashion industry.

A Kingston University student has set up a petition to ban the use of fur in student projects. Despite declining to comment on her opinion towards the animal fur debate, Clark’s graduate collection uses faux furs from teddy’s and toys.

In a recent interview with former Editor-In-Chief of British Vogue Alexandra Shulman, she voiced her thoughts on the fur debate. “I’m not really keen on fur being banned and I tend to be somebody who thinks that things should be allowed rather than prohibited. I don’t wear a great deal of fur myself, and I think an enormous amount is faux fur now and it is so fantastic, that there is very good reason to use that. But I wouldn’t like to have an edict where it is banned. I don’t know enough about the petition, but I am not surprised someone has started one.”

As the landscape of fashion continues to evolve, Clark looks to her future and clarifies: “In the next five years, I can see many different avenues for myself. I could be at Chanel for five years, for all I know. Maybe I’ll go back and do an MA. Maybe I will move jobs and go back to London. All I know is that if I’m happy, and busy and still able to be creative in my job, then that’s all that matters.”

It is so evident that Kate Clark has kept true to herself and her tastes. “In terms of advice I would give to the new wave of Kingston Fashion students – the most important thing is to ask why. Why is it relevant? What are you trying to achieve? If you can answer the question why, then everything else becomes a lot easier. I don’t just mean why this colour or fabric, but why does it matter and why should we care? Look up 10 Ways to Work Better – I’ve had it pinned up on my walls since first year and systematically worked through the 10 points. Be tough, take every opportunity and don’t lose yourself.”

You can keep up to date with Kate Clark’s ventures via Instagram – @eithypan


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