Representing the creative future

Here is how you can get involved with CSM’s First Alumni Club

Meet the Fashion Students behind Central Saint Martins’ digital alumni network for fashion design and fashion communication students.

Whilst struggling to secure placements for their year out in September 2020, Central Saint Martins BA Womenswear students Maïssanne Zinaï and Cécile Bousselat decided to take matters into their own hands; creating the universities first student-lead digital alumni network for fashion design and fashion communication students. We spoke to Maïssanne and Cécile to find out more about the club and how you can get involved.

Maïssanne Zinaï and Cécile Bousselat

How did you first come up with the idea for the club? 

Maïssane: During my year out I found myself stuck at home with no money or internships. Despite sending a ton of emails, I was getting the same response: “Because of COVID-19 we are not hiring at the moment…” Everyone was in the same situation, we’d been dreaming about our placement year, expecting to do great things, but that has been replaced with disappointment and stress. Out of these mixed emotions, I got the will to create something. This is how we got the idea for the alumni club. In such a competitive and contact-driven industry like fashion, it’s essential to have something that unifies us. All “traditional” universities such as Oxford and Cambridge have alumni societies, so why shouldn’t CSM have one?

Cécile: In such difficult times, encouraging collaboration across all sections of the fashion industry is vital. We started talking to our classmates, in addition to year-out students first. Second, final years and graduates, all expressed their frustration. It was heart-breaking to hear how a whole generation of talent’s future careers was in such a precarious position. We identified a lack of an established connection with our peers before and after they graduate and a place to access a network that has the potential to help with internships, future employment, and mentorship.

 

What other issues is the club hoping to tackle? 

Maïssane: To us, CSM isn’t just a school, it’s our home. People are here from anywhere between three to seven years; we come to Granary Square every day, working 24/7,  even when we leave we’re still thinking about it! It’s easy to see why lockdown has been such a big adjustment for a lot of students. When we spoke to students many said they were very lonely; the pandemic has highlighted the importance of a digital community for students, in both a personal and professional sense.

Cécile: Another issue that came up was money. The disparity between students who just have a small room to work in and have to support themselves with part-time jobs and those who are more fortunate is more noticeable than ever. Being able to advertise financial support, scholarships, and funds along with sections devoted to sustainability and exchanging ideas on the platform could be a way to help, even if it only helps a little bit, we want to do all we can so people can focus on their work.

So, what exactly is the club offering to both undergraduates and alumni? 

Cécile: It’s all about offering new perspectives! Guidance from either young creatives, new graduates, or established names isn’t a one-sided transaction, it’s a circle. Yes, we can learn some great things from big names, but there is much to gain from alumni who have been recently confronted with the reality of being a young designer, image-maker, or journalist in 2021. The main idea is to support students in a way that is relatable. Advice coming from people who can remember being in the same situations, and advice from established names, who can probably also remember how difficult it was when they first started out.

 

What has the club already achieved?

Maïssane: Two weeks after conceptualising the idea, we got 177 founding signatures from students and alumnus to legitimize the creation of the Club. The first move we made was to try and solve the issues surrounding finding internships. We ended up securing 36 placements with CSM alumni for fashion design and communication year-out students. We are now developing our mentoring program, online platform and gathering more applications. We want to develop this project to its full potential.

How close are you to launching?

Maïssane: We are now starting the first round of our CSM alumni mentorship program. A lot of graduates told us that they’d been thinking about ways to give back to younger designers. They know exactly what they would have loved to be told in their place. Everyone is really eager to offer their support. The club was inspired by family and lineage. For students, it’s a beautiful way to receive help and guidance regarding internships jobs, portfolios along your final collection and dissertation.

As a mentor, you’ll be given one to three students, together you’ll form a “mini-family”. You’ll see your mentees for half an hour sessions, four times within a year.  The idea is that as a mentor, you are active for two years before final years progress and become a mentor themselves, 3rd years become final years etcetera, and you’ll welcome a new member every year. It means your lineage grows until eventually, it becomes a close network of support for creatives, that’s what we’re really trying to achieve with the project.

We’ve received an amazing response from students and prospective mentors who are both very excited to meet each other. But our call for alumni is still very much open.

 

If you’re a current undergraduate, recent graduate, or alumni from either a fashion design or fashion communication course at CSM and want to join the Fashion Alumni Club, email: csmfashionstudentsalumniclub@gmail.com for more information

 

1 Granary

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