LAST IN A SERIES
Getting up at the crack of dawn on the day of the Contour Fashion student catwalk show, from all over the country we made our way to the Freemason’s Hall in Covent Garden, London.
By the time I arrived it was already an absolute hotbed of activity backstage. I had to literally tiptoe as I tried to navigate through all that was going on.
Tensions and stress running so high I had to hold my breath, as I made my way through the zigzag of garments being zipped, buttoned, handed back and forth between models and dressers, lists being ticked, names of people shouted, pins sticking out at unsuspecting angles and steam thick in the air from the pressing iron.
This is what I love most about catwalks and photo shoots. On the surface everything is so perfectly poised and graceful, but take one foot behind the scenes and it’s minor chaos as problems arise and have to be solved in a matter of nail-biting seconds — shoes not fitting models, garments tearing or particularly diva-ish models demanding a change of outfit.
Once all the gift bags were packed, sound checked, lights pointed in place and the models’ outfits all lined up and waiting, the representatives from companies including Gossard, Triumph, Biondi, Nichole De Carle, Curvy Kate, Marks & Spencer and Abercrombie & Fitch started pouring through the big archways to watch the show.
Taking my place amongst them I waited as the lights dimmed to darkness and voices quieted to silence, before an almighty explosion of lights and sound illuminated the room as the first model hit the catwalk, a secret smile nestled on her perfectly carved cheeks. It was my housemate Beth’s collection, and even though I’d sat beside her every day for the last few months watching it develop, on the catwalk it transformed into something else.
Goosebumps of pride crept up my arms. I watched mesmerized as ribbons trailed ethereally in the air and thousands of tiny little crystals glinted upon the bodies of the models as they swayed down the catwalk, before freezing momentarily in front of the wall of photographers.
When it was all over, industry, alumni and guests all mingled upstairs where an impressive spread of alcohol and canapés was served amidst a backdrop of larger-than-life-sized boards from Fabrice’s photo shoot.
There was a careful selection of mannequins and work laid out inviting people to explore some of our projects. The room was full to the brim with guests, conversation and drinks overflowing, until before I knew it, it was time to leave, dozens of business cards lighter.
I’ve always been a firm believer that life owes you nothing; it is up to you to work hard to make your own fate in this world. Having survived the roller-coaster of stress, achievements, disappointments and life lessons the last three years of Contour has chucked at me, I know they are only the beginning of what is to come as I pursue my dreams in the lingerie industry.
When I eventually got into my bed at 3 a.m. that night, I felt a sense of finality. The catwalk had been the last chapter in my year; the full stop on everything we’d been working towards for so long.
I thought I would have felt lost at this point; with everything I’d worked so hard at achieving now at a complete end. But instead as I closed my eyes that night I just felt filled up with excitement at all the possibilities that now lay before me; all the roads I could take now I’d finally completely my degree.
A small part of me was scared at the prospect that I was out in the industry now — time to make it or break it — but the better part of me just couldn’t wait to see what might happen, where I might take myself to next. I could hardly wait.
The next day I woke up to an e-mail landing in my inbox from Hong Kong. Scarcely allowing myself to believe it, I re-read it three times before getting my housemates to check it through too.
It was definitely what I thought it was. A job offer. To work as a Junior Technical Designer for Clover in Hong Kong.
Clover had been a company I’d been dreaming about for a long time. Thriving on innovation in the creation and development of lingerie products, always pushing themselves forward with cutting edge solutions, they sit on the forefront of lingerie manufacturers, always a step ahead. The kind of place I really admire and want to be part of in developing the lingerie products of the future.
Even better was the fact that my housemate, Beth Kendall, got a job alongside me, which makes the next few steps on our journey a lot less daunting. Together we began the intimidating process of applying for visas, sorting out shipping, beginning to scrub up on Cantonese and tying up all the loose ends here in England, ready to start afresh in a completely new city, new country and new culture.
The next adventure definitely looks set to be a good a one ….
[Editor’s Note: I've never met Bryony Bennett (she's in the UK, I'm in Canada) but if she ever needs a job or personal reference, I'll happily give her a glowing recommendation.
By now, readers of Bryony's exceptional series 'The Final Collection' should have a pretty good idea of the incredible workload faced by the dedicated students in DMU's Contour Fashion lingerie design program. But you probably have no idea how much additional work Bryony took on in order to produce this series of articles.
We spent months co-ordinating this project (which was Bryony's idea to start with) and I was often stunned to see that she was filing her posts via e-mail in the middle of the night after very long days at DMU.
She wasn't paid anything for this, and didn't ask for anything. Her objective was simply to give other young people considering enrolling in a lingerie design degree program a detailed behind-the-scenes view, so that they might appreciate both the extraordinary commitment required and the tremendous, often-surprising, rewards.
Although Bryony landed a great job at the end of her program, students haven't yet received their final course marks. If you ask me, though, she's earned an A+ for leaving behind this invaluable reference.
Photo Credits: Bryony Bennett, WGSN, Lingerie Insight