Since graduating from Teesside University with a degree in Fashion Design, life has been a whirlwind for designer Emily Dey. A graduate programme was followed by the opportunity to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime Modern Artisan training programme, giving her the confidence to launch her very own fashion brand. Emily tells her story here…
I began the Modern Artisan programme in London, September 2021. I’d applied for the programme a couple of months previously and waited till the final day before the applications closed as I couldn’t stop swapping and changing my CV and portfolio until the last minute. When I got an interview I couldn’t believe it and rehearsed for hours what I was going to say.
The whole application and interview process was rather intense and very competitive, so when I finally found out I’d secured a place on the programme I was beyond ecstatic.
Before the programme I had just taken part in one of the Teesside University Graduate programmes. I worked for 3 months between the University and MIMA helping curate a sustainable materials library alongside different innovative fashion items. This was all part of the award-winning Chemical City Exhibition shown at MIMA (winner of the Best Exhibition category in the NE Culture Awards). I think that having this experience with the university and being able to curate all the knowledge of sustainable and innovative fabrics really enhanced my chances when applying for Modern Artisan, as that is really what the programme is all about… a sustainable, ethical and innovative future for the fashion industry.
I had heard about the Teesside University Graduate programme from my previous tutor, Lynne Hugill as I’d studied Fashion Design at Teesside University, graduating with a First Class Honours in 2020. Before applying to do Fashion Design I had very little experience on a sewing machine and zero experience pattern cutting – I just liked clothes and designing. Everything I know about creating garments and sewing began at university and I fell in love with it straight away. I have Amanda Jobling and Vicky Wake to thank for teaching me everything about sewing and pattern cutting. They set me on the path to being a Modern Artisan, where I refined all I was taught at university.
In October 2021, The Prince’s Foundation and YOOX NET-A-PORTER unveiled the new artisans in training for the second edition of the responsible luxury training programme at the pre-COP 26 event hosted by the UK Government’s Department for International Trade in Milan. This year’s programme brought together eight artisans, four British fashion and textiles graduates, along with four Italian graduates from the leading Italian design school, Politecnico di Milano. Us artisans embarked on a collaborative ten-month paid training programme, with design training guided by experts from YOOX NET-A-PORTER and industry mentors, and training on small batch luxury production and heritage craftsmanship skills to help build capacity in the UK delivered by The Prince’s Foundation.
In January 2022, all eight artisans came together at The Prince’s Foundation’s Dumfries House headquarters in East Ayrshire, Scotland. We lived and worked here for six months of intensive training in luxury small batch production. Throughout our time at Dumfries House, we gained the skills to handcraft the entire collection to the highest of standards.
Over the course of the programme, we also had industry visits in the UK and Italy and received ongoing mentorship from YOOX NET-A-PORTER, The Prince’s Foundation and brand partners, initial brand mentors include Gabriela Hearst, Giuliva Heritage, Nanushka, VIN + OMI, Johnstons of Elgin, Tiziano Guardini, Flavia La Rocca and ZEROBARRACENTO.
On the 3rd of November 2022, YOOX NET-A-PORTER and The Prince’s Foundation announced the launch of our responsible ready-to-wear luxury womenswear capsule collection. Available exclusively on NET-A-PORTER and YOOX, 50% of the RRP is donated to The Prince’s Foundation, to support its innovative training programmes. For the first time, Highgrove Gardens, adjacent to Their Majesties The King and The Queen Consort’s private residence, served as an inspiration for a fashion collection. The programme and capsule reflect the initiative’s commitment to advance sustainability in luxury fashion and preserve heritage textile skills. We also demonstrate the shared ambition of YOOX NET-A-PORTER and The Prince’s Foundation to preserve the planet for future generations. It is the first collection to align 100% with the Infinity Product Guide, its sustainability and circularity design guidelines, and its first ever carbon neutral collection.
Each piece is embedded with a Digital ID through YOOX NET-A-PORTER’s partnership with EON, leveraging innovative technology to create a more circular industry and responsible customer mindset by unlocking unique product insights as well as care and repair and resale services. The Digital ID also shares with customers how YOOX NET-A-PORTER worked with environmental consultancy Carbonsink to minimise, calculate, and compensate for the carbon footprint of each garment. Carbon credits support the Artisans’ chosen certified offsetting project: Kariba Forest Protection, which protects forests and wildlife and supports community-based training and upskilling on the Zimbabwean-Zambian border.
Now that the Modern Artisan programme has come to an end, I have been working hard on my own brand, Dey Studios. It has always been a dream of mine to own my own fashion brand and with everything I have learnt from Modern Artisan, I feel that now is the perfect time to take the leap.
Dey Studios an independent, British slow fashion brand designed and founded by myself, Emily Dey. Every garment is carefully hand-made using sustainably sourced or dead-stock fabrics. All items are made on a pre-order basis to prevent wastage. This means every item is made in a much more responsible way. In the past, clothing was made to last – nobody ever thought to wear something once then throw it away. We invested in clothing we loved and wore it over and over again and if it broke, we’d simply fix it. Dey Studios wants to bring this back to the norm. Every item is lovingly hand-made in the North East of England, and made to be worn again and again. Dey Studios is reminiscent of all things fashion, film and music of the past. Not only were things made to last but they were beautiful too.
Each garment gives a nod to past decades where ‘fashion’ wasn’t important, as long as you had ‘style’.
When it came to owning my own brand, I needed all the support I could get so when I moved back home to Teesside, I applied to be part of the Launchpad FUEL Programme here at the university. The FUEL Programme is a 7 week Graduate Start-Up Programme where I was able to take part in numerous workshops and mentoring sessions all dedicated to helping founders learn about all stages of starting a business.
The FUEL Programme has taught me so many aspects of running a business that I otherwise wouldn’t have known where to start. At the end of the 7 weeks, each business founder had the opportunity to pitch to the trustees for grant funding. I was delighted to have been successful in the pitch and have secured grant money to help take Dey Studios to the next level. As well as funding I have also moved into studio space here at Teesside university, which is paramount when running a clothing brand so I am very grateful.
Follow Emily on Instagram at @_deystudios or email Emily on firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more about studying BA Fashion at Teesside University