Ask Alexandra: April 2014 Inbox

Ask Alexandra is my advice column. Have a question you want to ask me? Fill out the form here.

Usually I tackle one “big” question in this column but today I’m answering a few short letters I received recently about fashion portfolios, fabric tradeshows, and studying in France.

valerie servais

All illustrations by Valerie Servais.

Dear Alexandra,

What fabric show season corresponds to what collection season? In other words, if you go to a fabric show much earlier than the season you need it for, it may be bought up by the time you’re ready to purchase. So when should you go to the fabric trade shows?

valerie servais

Dear Kim,

The fabric shows happen right at the time that the designers are looking for new fabrics. So, if we work backwards, Fall 2015 arrives in store in the summer of 2015. The stores place their orders for Fall 2015 in February and March, so the designers have a few months to manufacture the clothes. That means they have to have everything ready by January 2015, and they need about 3-4 months to design a collection. So in July to September 2014 the fabric tradeshows will be selling Fall 2015 fabrics. Designers will look at the fabric collections, choose the fabrics they want to use, order enough to make the sample collections, and then order the production quantities in March when they have all their orders from the stores. Fabrics for Spring 2015 were shown from November 2013 to March 2014. And keep in mind that most big fabric orders are made to order, companies only keep a limited amount of fabrics in stock.

Further reading:
Fashion 101: How do Designers Get Fabrics?
Ask Alexandra: How Do I get Exclusive Fabric?

valerie servais

Dear Alexandra,
I’m graduating (tomorrow!) and am really tempted to apply to the Chambre Syndicale for their advanced pattern making course. I do speak french… my parents snuck me into a Francophone program in kindergarten, and after 13 years of it I’d definitely say I was fluent. WAS! I haven’t spoken much of it at all in the last couple years, and even though my written is still really good my oral skills have gotten pretty pitiful. My question to you is how French do I need to be? Do the instructors get snarky when they have to talk slowly to you… do other students make fun of your accent? I know I’d get the hang of it after a month or so, but from experience Parisians are pretty disdainful of French as a second language. Are you French? What was your experience there like?

valerie servais

Dear Katie,

First of all, if the course says the classes are taught in French, then they are taught in French. And my experience with the instructors there was that hardly any of them spoke any English. That said, if you have basic French, you’ll pick it up quickly, and I doubt they will be that snarky with you because they know that international students pay a lot more money for the course. My French was very good when I went there (my father is French and my parent’s spoke french at home), but I struggled at the beginning with the technical terms although I was ahead of most of the other non-French students. No one will make fun of you! And in general, don’t expect the French to be very accommodating of anyone with an accent. In fact, don’t expect them to be accommodating for anyone, full stop. But that’s just what it’s like to live in France, and you’ll get used to it. If you find it frustrating, drown your sorrows in delicious cheap wine.

Further reading:
Ask Alexandra: Pros and Cons of Studying Fashion in France

valerie servais

Dear Alexandra

Hey, I am a fashion design graduate and I am planning to enter a fashion management course. I wanted to know how should I make my portfolio. Any tips will be helpful.

valerie servais

Dear Shreya,

Since you aren’t putting design work into a portfolio for a fashion management course, I’d suggest the following types of work: shop reports, trend reports, writing (articles, catwalk reviews, press releases), marketing or PR plans, social media or event plans, business plans, visual merchandising layouts, range or collection plans, styling or photoshoot samples, technical packs, and/or any other business or marketing related work you have done, even if it isn’t in the field of fashion.

Further reading:
10 Tips to a Great Fashion Portfolio

These beautiful fashion illustrations are by Valerie Servais.

  • Noe

    Hi, Alexandra!

    I am just graduating from a Design University in South America and I want to do a Ma in London. I have been accepted in Ravensbourne, but I am not sure if it is a good university. Going to study there it is really expensive for us, so I want to make a very good postgradute that help me to get a good job, that is the only way it is going to be worth it. They have offer me a Ma in fashion and an Ma in Wearable Futures and I am not sure if they are good and which one is the best.

    Thanks so much

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Ravensbourne is a great school! But I don’t know much about the individual courses. Read this about choosing a fashion school:

  • Noe

    Hi Alexandra !

    I need your help, I have got three interesting offers now and I do not know which one to choose. Two are from Ma in Fashion, one is in Ravensbourne as I said before, and the other one is at Kingston university. Additionally I got a place in an MA in Textiles at Chelsea College which I also like pretty much because I like textile experimentation in my designs. Which of the three Ma do you think it is going to be better for design experimentation and getting a good job after finishing it?

    Also I have been rejected by LCF, but they have offer me to do a graduate course and after it apply to an MA, which is not a bad idea either considering that it has a highly international reputation.

    What do you would recomend me to do ?

    Thanks so much for you help !!

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Hi Noe,

    This is a very important decision to make and I haven’t done any research into these courses so I don’t want to sway your decision without being educated on the subject. My only reactions are this: if you don’t think you want to work in textiles, I wouldn’t consider Chelsea since you will probably struggle to get design jobs after. Kingston’s MA is supposedly quite good, I don’t know much about Ravensbourne, but you are right that LCF has the best reputation. That said, if it if going to be really hard to get on their MA after, then I would be careful about going there (find out if the MA recruits from the graduate courses.) Regardless, all the four schools you mentioned are good ones so congratulations!

  • natenee

    Hi, Noe!

    Hope you read this! I need some help as well and I think you went through a similar situation..

    I got an offer at Ravensbourne for the Fashion MA and I am also applying for the Postgraduate Diploma at LCF. I have an interview the day after tomorrow with LCF..

    Which offer did you take?

    The thing is, If I get an offer for the Postgraduate course at LCF, I won’t be applying for the MA afterwards.. So I am wondering if a Grad-Dip at LCF would be better for finding a job after, because of the school reputation, or an MA would count more as a title, even in a less known college.

    Thank you for you help!!

  • Noe

    Hi, Natenee

    Sorry I haven’t check my email for a while, hope it is not too late.
    A postgraduate diploma is the same than an MA, but a graduate course of course not, it is a step below.
    Personally I believe that the graduate course is not very useful unless your you come from another discipline or you need to go further with your skills. If not it’s too expensive for just a course, the best is to do the MA but I don’t know if Ravensbourne is the best option I have heard that the BA is pretty good, but I haven’t heard anything about the MA.

    Hope its helpful, if you have more questions do not hesitate to write me again.

  • natenee

    Hi, Noe

    Thank you for answering back!
    I did help to know that the Grad Dip is not as useful in my situation!

    Are you currently studying in any of the courses you mentioned?

    best wishes