365 days in fashion: My placement year

Education is important – but sometimes, you can’t beat that real world experience you get outside of the classroom. Fortunately, it is possible to find the perfect balance of both, as Joyce discovered.

Originally from Malaysia, Joyce came to the north east to study fashion design at Teesside University. She opted to extend her studies to take on a placement year in London.

Here, Joyce shares a little about her university journey so far and how embarking on work experience is opening up a whole new world.


Guest blog: Joyce, BA (Hons) Fashion Design student

Have you ever thought about applying for an internship? In all honesty, it’s not easy – but my experience has shown me that the hard work and patience can really pay off.

When I joined Teesside University, there was an option to do a placement year as part of my fashion design course – and I gave it some real thought. Taking a year out would mean I wouldn’t graduate at the same time as my peers, but ultimately, I thought the pros would outweigh the cons.

I hoped a work placement would help me gain experience, build my confidence and help me to meet my career goals.

I hoped that a placement year would help me gain work experience, build my confidence, and help me to meet my goals. Plus, I thought it would give me a higher chance of securing a job after graduation.

I was eager to gain more knowledge about the fashion industry and grow my professional networks. It’s a competitive industry, so the more experience I have, the better.

So, I decided to put my studies on pause, give up the idea of graduating with my friends and take a placement year.

Applying for an internship gave me a taste of what it’ll be like applying for a graduate job after I leave university. It took months of applying; constantly amending my CV and preparing portfolios. I must have submitted easily more than 50 applications.

After sending more than 50 applications, I started thinking, ‘Am I not good enough?’

Going through numerous interviews and waiting for the outcome was incredibly frustrating. At one point, I started to lose hope because I applied to many companies but only a few replied. I was losing confidence and I started thinking: ‘Am I not good enough?’.

Thankfully, I had the help of friends, family and lecturers who were very supportive. It made me more determined to do it until I made it! The University supported me well – especially Angela, the Placement Officer at the University. I visited Angela a few times in the Student Life Building and she regularly kept me informed me of any opportunities.

Finally, I got my break.

I secured an embroidery and embellishment internship at a couture company based in London. There is a sense of familiarity in London, but it also felt like a foreign land. It felt like home, surrounded by the hustle and bustle and high-rise buildings at every corner. But I felt anxious because I was alone – though excited for my new journey.

There is a sense of familiarity in London, but it also felt like a foreign land.

I remember walking to the studio on my first day feeling nervous. But on my last day, I had mixed feelings because my experience was nothing but amazing. I made so many nice friends with whom I still keep in touch, and I’ve been carrying forward the skills I’ve learnt to my next placement.

I relished the opportunity to learn something new. Embroidery and embellishment are completely different from what I learnt at university, and I wasn’t exposed to it before. I had always been interested in Haute Couture (high fashion) and thought it would be beneficial for me to understand different embellishments and finishing techniques.

As this was a couture company, I worked with many intricate designs, delicate and high-quality fabrics. We have to be careful all the time and this taught me how to care for the fabrics and materials, as well as learn how couture garments are created. But I also enjoyed running errands because I get to choose samples for clients and network with suppliers who work with big companies.

I was given many opportunities to showcase my creativity and skills. We once had ‘fun day’ where we created sample designs using any materials available in the studio. We presented them to the owner and the team and it was fun because it felt like a break from the ongoing projects. It’s a work environment where people are always asking for opinions, new ideas and solutions to create the best couture garment.

I was thankful to the owner for trusting me. She helped me discover that I had some talent for embroidery and entrusted me to do the toiles and manage several projects. Me and some of my team mates also got to assist her and other professionals in their photoshoot. As I’ve done it few times at uni, I was able to help with dressing, styling and arranging the dresses.

But my favourite part of this internship was going to big private events with the team. It trained my professionalism as I was representing the company, but I also got to network and have fun. I’ve met so many nice people from similar industries through these events and it was brilliant to experience such big events.

What I loved most about working with the team is that it felt like family. We work hard when we work, and we play hard when we play. We would share little things about our lives and have celebrations for birthdays and Christmas.

What I love most about working with the team is that it felt like family.

And they gave me so much support – they would always check on me to make sure I was fine. It made me feel less lonely in London to know that I had people to rely on.

I’m now interning in pattern cutting and designing with OneOffLondon and I can’t wait to see what’s next. I’ve truly enjoyed my placement year and I have absolutely no regrets. I’ve gained so much from these experiences and developed skills that I’ll take with me wherever I go!

Author: Amy B

Amy studied English and now works in the Communications and Development team at Teesside University. She's also a home interiors blogger with a passion for nature, art and colour. Away from work, Amy loves great vegetarian food, indie rock and a good box set.