London has thrived as the creative melting pot of Europe, highlighted by its fabulous creative happenings. Designers and artists from all over the world end up in London in search of inspiration. Among them are two Hong Kong students from Central Saint Martins (CSM) and London College of Fashion (LCF), who have built up a greater appreciation of fashion and design by living in this vibrant capital city.
For Elaine Lip, a student at CSM Fashion Design with Knitwear, the story began with her appreciation of arts and crafts. “Having worked at a premier fine art auctioneer, I consider a specialist degree a natural progression to gain deeper insights into the creative process,” says Lip. “London has a diverse fashion scene where design talents are encouraged to experiment with new ideas, which may or may not come to fruition. This is in contrast to the result-oriented environment of Hong Kong where I’ve grown up.”
As a CSM student, Lip enjoys access to professional teaching staff and specialist facilities. “CSM goes to great lengths to encourage students to think beyond boundaries,” says Lip. “Our tutors attach more importance to the challenge of aesthetics, shapes and forms than the finish [of garments] and production techniques.” Outside of the classroom, Lip and her peers spend considerable time at the fashion studio harnessing their skills in knitting, pattern cutting and garment construction.
Lip acknowledges the extensive industry links of CSM, which opens up a variety of opportunities to students. “The career office and our tutors dispatch information about recruitment by fashion brands and design houses. Occasionally there are also drop-in interviews hosted by notable labels such as Marni and Maison Margiela,” she says. “The school has a long-standing reputation and some of our graduates have landed excellent roles working for established names such as LVMH and Chanel, as well as rising stars such as Craig Green and Simone Rocha,” she adds.
Studying fashion design overseas has pushed Vivian Ko, a final year student at LCF Fashion Design Menswear, to challenge her design thinking. “The arts education that I’ve had in Hong Kong focused more on the techniques and detailing, whereas in the UK, creativity also encompasses the idea development process and the experiments you’ve tried,” she says.
Ko describes her curriculum as rigorous: every semester, students are tasked with creating a set of three garments – a top, a bottom and an outerwear. LCF students have access to a diverse range of facilities on campus, from sewing and heat pressing machines to laser cutters and more technical machines, she adds. Students then receive feedback on the work produced at weekly tutorials, which run alongside lectures and skills workshops.
The employability of students is largely enhanced through active industry participation. “Some of our projects received strong support from industry partners such as menswear label Ermenegildo Zegna and GQ's Breakthrough Designer Charles Jeffrey. We were able to engage in direct interactions with and learn from seasoned practitioners,” says Ko. The placement in the second semester is another valuable experience whereby students can develop their professional skill sets. “LCF Careers runs a full schedule of activities including skill sessions, coaching tutorials and career fairs to enhance the employability of students,” she says. “Some of us ended up working at the placement company upon graduation.”