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.