This guy is one of a gun and a total babe from Glasgow. Charles Jeffrey is final year FDM student at St. Martins, halls of which he strides in his only attire – his good looks. 1 Granary met up with Charlie earlier this year and spoke of his industry placement experience, with which he shares in hope that it might be of some help and guidance to future CSM interns. We believe it will and thank him for telling us his story. Jeffrey, good luck and rock that graduate collection!
Introduce yourself and tell us about your background.
My name is Charles Jeffrey; I’m from Glasgow, Scotland. I am a third year FDM CSM student currently working on my final collection. I applied to the CSM foundation course from high school, I sent an application form and then they requested me for an interview, so I came all the way down with my mum to show my portfolio. My portfolio was a lot of portraiture, and drawing work. I got in through that. During the foundation year, I got in to the fashion pathway, and from there I applied to FDM women’s wear.
How was your sandwich?
I had no idea where I wanted to go. I had interviews for Dior, which I got put forward for. I went for the Dior interview, found out I got it, but it wasn’t to start until the following year, so I started looking for other placements. I then realized I had to do a paid placement because I couldn’t afford to work for free. I found a paid placement at a high street company. It’s not what I’m in to at all, but it put me in a really good position, as I was able to become self-sufficient: paying for my own rent and save money for Paris. I learnt a lot about menswear and how a high street company operates. The biggest thing I realized was that I didn’t want to work in a position like that, it was too static and uncreative. It was really flat, the whole time I was craving to go to Paris. Paris happened at the start of the year, January, and it was a breath of fresh air. It was definitely what I was looking for, sort of like a cleansing palette if you will; all I needed was creativity. The first day I arrived, we started playing with fabrics. It was, ‘Here we go, this is everybody, here’s some fabric. Now, start making samples!’ There was no going through it.
The first day you arrived at Dior…how was it?
Before I started, I went to see where I worked with my stepdad. We went around Paris. I remember going to see the Dior building itself and getting goose bumps and asking myself, ‘Is this actually where I’m going to be working?’ The day I arrived I made sure I was really dressed up and chic – all in black. I remember walking in and being like, ‘Fuck, this is happening’. We got picked up, me and another intern I met there (a knitwear student from CSM). It was really chilled out; we were showed round the rooms and offices. There was a screening from the haute couture shows, within like twenty-five minutes we were being offered champagne and that sort of thing. It developed back in to thinking about the work and the fabrics; it really was a breath of fresh air from what I was doing previously.
What else did you get to do in Dior? Fabric manipulation, research… what else?
Because of the times when Bill Gayton was there, there was a shift in creative direction. Like Galliano would always tell a story; it was much more, ‘Ok, this week we’re going to do texture’, or ‘This week we’ll be working on transparencies’, or ‘This week we’ll look at things for haute couture’. It was more how you would make it, whilst bearing in mind the Dior customer. It was funny, sometimes they would say ‘Your samples are a bit brutal, you need to tone it down to be more Dior’. I did sample making and then obvious intern things like getting lunch, moving things. It was really good, we got to be really free with fabrics; it is a really good house to do the industry placement.
How long were you there for?
February till April, three months. At the end of April I came back home.
What are you up to now?
At the moment I’m helping out this designer, called Alan Taylor, who is a menswear designer; he’s from Ireland. I’m doing that and looking for a paid job. I’ve had the chance to earn a bit more money and search for sponsors, so it’s a bit weird position to be in, not knowing exactly what’s happening.
Overall, what valuable things have you learnt from your placement year?
Personally, I think that I have grown confidence wise. The biggest thing I’ve learnt is how to find myself within the fashion industry. I think at St. Martins you can become quite head strong ‘This is me, nothing else matters’ kind of thing, but then, when you go to work, you can morph and position yourself. You learn to utilize the skills you’ve learnt to position yourself within the industry. I’ve now got a point of view of two different sides of it (the industry), and it definitely wasn’t how I expected it to be.
What advice would you give to students who are going for a placement next year?
I would say… don’t make excuses for yourself. Go for anything that you can if an opportunity comes up – take it! Do whatever you can to take it. You can always find a way to do something. Also, don’t be surprised if some things don’t work out the way you expect them to. Everything is an experience and you learn from every experience you take.
Take any opportunity you can, don’t be disappointed and… be a sponge!
Any tips for interviews?
Just be yourself and confidence is so important! I found when I went for interviews that if you’re just confident and chilled, then it’s one of the most important things. When you’re confident, good things come to you; you’re more approachable. If your work doesn’t necessarily fit with the brand, it is okay as long as you have confidence in yourself and your work; at Dior my work didn’t fit in at all, but it worked because I was so confident.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
It is really important to find somewhere you sit with aesthetically, because your taste and what you do responds very well to the company. For me at Dior, it was work on a lot of samples, so if you work somewhere you like, you fit in a lot well. The point is, if you find a brand you really work well with, that you respect and like, you’ll appreciate the work more. My boss at my interview was looking through my portfolio, saying, ‘I want to see ruffle, I want to see floral, I want to hear something feminine’, but I said that it wasn’t really me, but he still took me on because I think he just wanted a different approach. But then, I sometimes felt that it didn’t work out… maybe I should have gone somewhere else that sits more with me.
How would you describe your personal work?
Three letters – M O S – just keep it abstract! Three letters, that’s my style!! (Sassy laghter)