The city of Newport is situated on the edge of the Welsh border, equidistant between Bristol and Cardiff. Its location allows the university to boast two campuses which are very different in nature. The brand new City Campus at the heart of the city and Caerleon, just a 10 min bus journey away, set in a picturesque and rural village on the outskirts of Newport. Many Newport students choose to live on the Caerleon Campus, and travel to City for their studies; accommodation is also available in the Opal student flats next to the City Campus. In other words, Newport students have the best of both worlds.
Newport has a long history of art and design education. Its prestigious Fashion design department – part of the School of Design, Engineering, Fashion & Technology – resides on the top floor of the £42 million City Campus. The new campus is able to house the entire Faculty of Arts and Business. This allows fashion students to be in easy reach of those studying complementary disciplines, such as, Photography, Advertising and Business.
The University mission is to inspire and enable individuals, organisations and communities to succeed through innovation in high quality learning, research and enterprise.
This is exemplified perfectly in the Fashion Design course. Many students go on to set up their own labels, such as, Claire Andrews, Beck Cochrane and Sabrina Khan who founded the Welsh Collective designers who showcase at London Fashion Week. Many of Newport’s fashion graduates go on to secure excellent graduate jobs throughout the industry at prestigious fashion labels, both in the UK and abroad.
Newport’s fashion design programme is fundamentally about ‘design’ – creating practitioners who have the technical ability necessary to produce innovative designs and keep pace with the fashion industry. It teaches skills vital for employment in the creative industries. Students are given the business and marketing know-how essential for any entrepreneur hoping to make it in today’s contemporary fashion world.
BA Fashion Design course leader, Irene Dee, joined the University of Wales, Newport following an extensive career in the fashion industry. Design director of her own label, she employed over forty production staff, managed a team of in-house designers and worked closely with international buyers and design consultants. Her company supplied Harrods, Selfridges, House of Fraser and Fenwick’s as well as high street fashion stores. Irene also worked as a design consultant for Mexx UK International, for whom she won a number of business and export awards.
Read our interview with Irene Dee below…
What can students expect when studying fashion at Newport?
Our fashion course enables students to experience working practices beyond the normal learning environment of the university, encouraging them to develop useful skills for life after graduation. We train our students to question and push ideas forward and attempt to balance commercial concerns with a strong creative vision.
How do you approach this difficult exercise?
We feel students need to understand the whole fashion process, not only the finished product. Students must recognise that they will operate within a commercial world and that their creative work will need to stand up within a business context with constraints of cost, time and market.
We encourage our students to test their creative ideas, to link theory and practice in the light of real-life situations to which they are introduced during the course.
How does your industry experience help your current position?
My fashion industry background is proving invaluable. I continually transfer it back into my teaching. It contributes to a learning environment and atmosphere built on mutual respect.
Our team is proactive in negotiating links with the creative industries through live projects and enterprise activities. This approach earned our fashion design programme a Teaching and Learning Excellence Award from the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching Academy (CELT).
How does this translate for student’s employability?
The industry demands creative fashion designers who have technical and business skills. We try to answer this demand and challenge students to explore the industry through internships and work placements and to engage in entrepreneurial activity.
We are realistic, we keep the students grounded, focused, engaged and we emphasize employability. This is what the end goal of any degree should be.
How does the course deal with the issues relating to sustainable fashion?
We feel that ecological consciousness should be at the heart of the fashion industry. Sustainability is introduced in our first year modules. Students are involved in sustainability innovations through highly successful zero waste, recycled and up-cycled projects, such as those of Oxfam UK and Wastesavers Newport.
Most recently our students won international recognition for their sustainable designs with a Best of British Design Award at the world Alpaca conference.
What makes Newport special as a fashion school?
Our success at Newport rests with a community of talented students and staff with commitment, drive and passion. Everyone is immersed in the energy, enthusiasm and creativity that is generated across the fashion disciplines. It gives us great opportunities to learn from each other.