Vanessa Cockburn

Vanessa CockburnFashion Designer, M + N Clothing

BA Fashion, 2010

What made you choose Middlesex University?

I chose Middlesex University because I liked what they had to say about teaching fashion design. I went through to all of the different universities and I just liked what Middlesex had to say about developing us as artists and designers the most.

What attracted you to your course and made you apply?

I'm not from the UK so I researched where I could study, because there are many places around the world I could have gone to. The best place to study fashion was the UK, and Middlesex seemed like the best place to study in the UK. It is a very well respected and well known university in the fashion industry. When I went to work at Viktor & Rolf after I graduated they knew about Middlesex and the reputation it had.

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?

The course just gave us a really great background to fashion. I can do lots of different things within fashion because of the course; not just design but also how to actually make clothes and the disciplines around this. This was great when I went to get jobs as I could do lots of things so there were no restrictions on what I could design because I knew how to make it. I don't have to answer to pattern cutters or seamstresses because I know how to make it, and this means I can problem solve on the job.

What is your fondest memory of life at Middlesex?

I made very close relationships with the people I went to university with and formed very strong bonds with them which have followed me through to my working life. I can call on them when I need advice with my work or when I have jobs going. The type of people that go to Middlesex are great.

What one piece of advice would you give to a prospective student interested in studying at Middlesex?

I would say ensure that you have your own sewing equipment and printers and things at home because although they have the facilities on campus, when you're studying fashion you will need to work long hours so you have to work from home as well as at college.

Saying that, it's important to work in the studio as much as you can as you need the experience, company and advice. Your work is far better for being around fashion people.

How did your course and time at Middlesex help you get to where you are professionally today?

Middlesex trained me for my job! The course gave me industry contacts and a good grounding knowledge-wise, which were essential in developing my career.

I've used what I learned at Viktor & Rolf, when working for suppliers of ASOS and Urban Outfitters. Although I was designing I had to oversee making the garments and work with the seamstresses, so everything I learned at Middlesex meant I was able to do this comfortably.

What made you choose the industry you work in and what are its pros and cons?

Before going to university as a mature student I was running clubs making costumes and I wanted to do more of it so I decided to go into fashion.

The pros are that I love it and I love that fact that I get to be creative, design and make clothes.

The cons are that it is not always obvious how to go forwards in your career. You have to always look for opportunities and keep questioning people. You will do well based on the information you gather from people you work and study with.

How did you get your first foot on the career ladder?

While I was at university I had already been interning with Richard Sorger and I started working part-time for him after I graduated. Richard stopped running the label so I started looking for work, and called up Viktor & Rolf.

What has been your defining career break or highlight to date?

The best moment so far was definitely Paris fashion week I was working in the couture department for Viktor & Rolf making the big ball gowns. It was crazy. There are five hundred people backstage and it is just such a major event.

What are you doing now?

I have set up my own label called M + N with another Middlesex graduate which is going well, but we have to start selling come September! At the moment it is the fun bit of putting the collection together, but all of the buying goes on come September so then we will be selling our collection.

I am also teaching fashion at Camden Working Men's College. At the moment I am a teaching assistant but in September I will be doing my teaching qualification. It is going to be a busy month!

What tips would you give to current students and recent graduates who are looking for a similar career to yourself?

Always keep talking to your classmates and everyone you work with. They are your best source of information about how to get a job. People start doing internships while at University and some will already have done internships, so that real world knowledge is important and it is all around you. You must talk to people and keep learning new things.

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