Representing the creative future

Meet the first three Bottega Veneta fashion design scholars

How was the application process and why is it important for fashion houses to help students?

During a moment when fashion is one of the hardest-hit educational disciplines, and as design students are doing their best to make their degrees worth their yearly financial investments, big houses are making supportive moves. Bottega Veneta set up a one-year scholarship with Central Saint Martins that covers the final year tuition for two home and one international student, whilst also offering £5000 to each one for their expenses.

Bottega Veneta’s initiative is not only a breath of help for the scholars. As the students are deprived of access to university facilities, covering the tuition and offering cash during their final year might be the only way to bring their final collections to life without jeopardizing their experimental visions – the point of a fashion school after all.

It is common knowledge that tuition is not the only financial weight for fashion design students. In comparison to the majority of degrees where the supply expenses are limited to a selection of books and a highlighter, studying in art school comes along with long bills on printing, tools, materials, fitting models, and of course, fabric, making fashion degrees inaccessible for the many.

On top of this in their final year, aspiring designers are going through an intense hunt for scholarships and sponsorships in order to be able to produce their collections. Some manage to secure fundings that cover their tuition or collection spendings, but the majority have to make it work with personal sacrifices or heavy adjustments to their final work.

We spoke to the first three Bottega Veneta scholars, asked them about the scholarship process, and, most importantly, reviewed the essential need for fashion houses to help the next generation.

Laura Barnes, BA Fashion Design Womenswear

 What is your work about?  

The main focus of my work is to re-contextualise objects and their original understandings. I enjoy extracting elements from items and bodies and putting them together in a seemingly nonsensical way, presenting a new understanding. I’ve enjoyed looking into the Art Brut movement and my own photographs, capturing seemingly random yet significant acts of ‘accidental’ art. 

What stage are you in with your collection?   

I am currently at the daunting point of finalising my selection of pieces and starting to show semi-polished ideas of what my final looks could be. It definitely marks the start of the end, as I’m now actually experiencing the part of my course that I daydreamed to be in. 

How was the scholarship process? 

Around November, CSM opened up a submission portal for students to submit a portfolio, financial needs evidence, and written answers that demonstrated to the selection panel why your application should be seriously considered for the scholarship. After around 2 weeks of waiting, a few of us across the year received an invitation for an interview before the scholarship panel. It was a nerve-wracking process. We showed the same portfolio to everyone throughout the interview process. After the first submission, I mainly just asked everyone around me to cross their fingers and toes, as there’s not much you can add after that initial submission.   

Why do you think you got chosen for the scholarship?  

 I’m so grateful, but still so surprised myself. I believe I showed a large variety of every corner of my work at CSM, and essentially everything I can do. I think also my excitement about my final collection came across, as I already had so many ideas at that time that I was determined to develop. At the end, members asked questions about how I had made some items and even gave recommendations to look into, so it was great to see the panel engaged like this in my work. I also think my drawings perhaps have hypnotic powers, but there’s no way to know for sure. 

 “My whole career thus far at CSM has been challenging, while balancing a part-time job to afford the rent, I often would sacrifice some cool ideas that I just didn’t have the money for. To have funds at my disposal has been such a new and exciting experience for me. ” – Laura Barnes

How will the scholarship help you practically? Would it be impossible to complete your collections without it? 

Having been awarded the scholarship has changed my final year completely. Having a stable financial mindset has allowed me to solely focus on giving everything to my collection, and to creatively explore every alley I can think of. My whole career thus far at CSM has been challenging, while balancing a part-time job to afford the rent, I often would sacrifice some cool ideas that I just didn’t have the money for. To have funds at my disposal has been such a new and exciting experience for me. For example, I wanted to look into taking a leather craftsmanship course, to execute my envisioned high standards for using the deadstock vegan faux leather I’ve collected over the years. The scholarship has allowed me to now ignore all previous boundaries and limitations, which I can’t put into words how important this is for young creatives. 

I don’t think any collection is impossible to create, especially as our tutors always encourage us to work around and find better solutions. However, the scholarship has undeniably opened new doors to accomplish the best possible version of my final project that has been in the making for years. 

How will you use the £5000 offered as part of your scholarship?  

Having £5000 is actually a really daunting sum to initially take advantage of! My money-saving tendencies have definitely been on a ride this year, but I’m starting to realise and learn I can say yes to a lot of [fabric] manipulations and prints I’d otherwise be cautious to pursue. I have always loved drawing, so being able to use materials and pens that have been on wish lists for years is unreal! To sit back and observe how much my practice has developed at the hands of the scholarship is crazy at times. I’m used to doing everything myself, usually taking hours watching youtube videos and sourcing books just to attempt one particular technique, for example. It’s already been amazing to work with other people who know what they’re doing and trust that samples will come back much more elevated than I would have been able to achieve, and envision how it will all come together to (hopefully) produce the quality of the final collection I’ve dreamed of.  

Do you think that more brands and organisations should offer this hands-on help to students? Why do you think this is important?  

I think the involvement from fashion houses in young talents is the best way to nurture our industry, as that is what London is known for. During my placement year, working at brands such as Maison Margiela and Loewe, I built a real connection with the teams there and want to come back into the industry showing them all I have learned, and in a sense make them proud. I believe that brands becoming involved with the next generation of designers is an invaluable relationship, and sets so many students down the right paths on how to go about actually designing a collection. It is reassuring to have big brands showing interest in our skills at such a young stage in our careers, especially now more than ever our futures are so ambiguous. 

How is completing your final year from home? 

I still don’t have an answer for this. Usually, I give an awkward laugh and make a joke to make it all seem manageable. It’s hard, and definitely not what any of us signed up for. However, I have always thought something in our generation needed a big change or shift, to initiate true change. Prior to the pandemic, I was insane. I honestly think this is the only thing that could have made a lot of fashion students just stop for a moment and reflect. I have a clearer idea of what I want to do and why I’m doing it, as so many elements of our life right now pivot around the question: ‘Is this essential?’  

What are your plans after graduation?  

I’ve always answered “it depends how my collection goes!”, but I guess I‘m now at that intersection of what has this all been for? Every option seems daunting in the current climate. I would be happy to search for a job, as I think I’m now more inclined than ever to have a sense of normality. 

What are your feelings about finishing university?

With the pandemic as well, it feels like a really prolonged, hard break up, and I’m not ready to accept it’s going to end. I now feel confident in my work and design process, but I still feel short-changed for the year I was supposed to have with my classmates to savor our final times at CSM. I’m excited to get on with the next stage of my life, but I feel like I’ve missed a huge part of this transition.

Amon Kale, BA Fashion Design Womenswear

What is your work about? 

Love, burden, and responsibility. The relationships between people who care about each other. That sounds really heavy, but humour and sincerity are the most important elements of my work. Fashion needs to be fun, as well as having a message. 

How was the scholarship process? Did you have to apply? Was there a selection process?

We applied through the communal University of the Arts London scholarship online portal. We sent a body of work along with a paragraph about how we would describe our work. Then, we got shortlisted for interviews. 

How will the scholarship help you practically? Would it be impossible to complete your collections without it?

Without the scholarship, my collection wouldn’t have been possible. The pandemic has changed everything so much. When you’re on a practical course, like mine, and you’re robbed of your studio time, collaboration inside and outside of university becomes a challenge. 

“Companies need to have a hand in the investment of creative education.” – Amon Kale

How will you use the £5000 offered as part of your scholarship? 

I was very lucky during my placement year to work at an architecture firm that had a strong social and environmental focus. One of the projects I was involved with was a housing solution for women escaping domestic violence. In the design team, we were working towards being carbon and construction-waste neutral. I am hoping to bring over some of the sustainability practices I was able to implement there, into my collection. It would be prohibitively expensive and difficult to replicate some of the materials reprocessing as an individual. 

Do you think that more brands and organisations should offer this hands-on help to students? Why do you think this is important? 

Absolutely. Companies need to have a hand in the investment of creative education. But I think that obscures the fact that the UK government sets the ceiling for the exorbitantly high tuition rates, which are making far more students suffer.

How is completing your final year from home?

One of the greatest parts of working in the studio is being surrounded by so many other amazing people’s creative energy, working alone in my bedroom is certainly less charming. 

What are your plans after graduation? 

A job, I hope. I’ve been contemplating what my future in the creative industries will look like. An MA, starting my own business, an MBA? We live in a changing world and I’m just trying to change with it. 

What are your feelings about finishing university? 

I haven’t really been inside my university much this academic year, it’s hard to think about leaving it. 

Lynn L Yaung, BA Fashion Design with Knitwear

What is your work about?

I am exploring the idea of regeneration and transformation. I am interested in the continuous flow of energy where one thing transforms into another through an ongoing cycle of regrowth. My work is about my journey from the moment I moved from Burma to London at the age of 11, until today. Currently, I am in a sampling and design development stage. This time is very crucial as it involves rigorous sampling and exploring as many techniques as possible. These samples will decide what my finished pieces will be. 

How is completing your final year from home?

Completing this collection at home has been very challenging. Housing in London is very expensive and of a low standard, leaving us very little space to work. I am having to readjust my living space in order to accommodate my work alongside my other housemates who are also having to work from home. 

How was the scholarship process? Did you have to apply? Was there a selection process?

The process involved submitting a portfolio to be selected for the interview. I believe there were five people that I know of who were then interviewed by the panel. The final three were selected for this Scholarship.

Why do you think you got chosen for the scholarship? 

I think I got chosen because of the vast range of techniques I have explored in the sampling process. These techniques were supported by my research and my Burmese influence. I tried weaving with clay, exploring the knit weave effect with multiple coloured yarns, creating my own embellishments with clay, and more. The most technical process I used was combining photography with knitwear to produce print inspired samples, a technique that I was taught by my teacher in GCSE photography class back in secondary school. 

“It is important to nurture young talent and invest in them to ensure a future for the industry. “ – Lynn L Yaung

What will the scholarship cover? What does it entail?

The scholarship will cover my material costs such as yarn, but also machinery which I need to produce my collection, as having to work from home is difficult due to limited workspace and machine access. Bottega has also paid off this year’s tuition fees as part of my scholarship. 

How will the scholarship help you practically? Would it be impossible to complete your collections without it?

The scholarship has allowed me to unlock my full creative potential. I had planned to complete the course with or without a scholarship, using various ways to get yarn sponsorships or producing my own yarn through spinning. But being awarded this scholarship, I was able to go the extra mile and research into fibres and techniques that are eco friendly. 

How will you use the £5000 offered as part of your scholarship?

I would like to invest in a studio space, where I can work on my collection without distractions. 

What do you think of supportive initiatives from fashion brands?

I think that all major brands should offer financial assistance and pastoral guidance to students. It is important to nurture young talent and invest in them to ensure a future for the industry. 

What are your plans after graduation? 

The volatility caused by covid has put the industry in a very vulnerable position. Finding my place in this field is going to be a challenge, but I would love to work for a couture atelier and be given an opportunity to experiment with traditional embroidery techniques in a modern fashion house.

What are your feelings about finishing university? 

I feel confused about not having the ‘final year experience’ that previous cohorts had. It would have been nice to work alongside fellow students this year and share the experience. With regards to finishing university, I am excited and nervous about figuring out what the ’new normal’ is in the fashion industry, post-covid. Everything will have changed and the industry will learn a lot from this period of turbulence. Figuring out my position in this will be my next challenge.

1 Granary

Magazine Issue 6

With unprecedented honesty and depth, 1 Granary Issue 6 dives into the work and lives of fashion designers today. As a response to the construction of desire and personality cults that govern our industry, the magazine steps away from the conventional profiles and editorials, focussing instead on raw work and anonymous, unfiltered testimonies. For the first time ever, readers are given a truthful insight into the process, dreams, fears, hardships, and struggles of today’s creatives.

Buy Now