Think you want to work in fashion? Chapter W co-founder Katherine caught up with Annabel Dowsing, who works with British womenswear designer Georgia Hardinge, to hear all about the reality behind the runway…
We know each other as we went to the same school and the same university, but then took separate paths – what have you been doing for work since leaving UCA?
I am proud to say that I work with British womenswear designer, Georgia Hardinge.
And what do you do in your free time?
Free time is a rare gem when working in the fashion industry. I like to waste mine frivolously, by sleeping in, cheating on my diet and heading out to my favourite bar for a well-deserved bottle of prosecco with the girls!
When did you decide that you wanted to work in fashion?
It was never really a decision, it kind of just happened. From the age of ten, I would sit with my teen magazines copying out figures of models or celebrities so that I could design elaborate outfits for them to wear. From there I followed every necessary step to turn it into a career.
Before landing your job at Georgia Hardinge, what qualifications and experience did you pursue to get to where you are now?
Firstly, and most importantly, working within the world of fashion is not a decision to be taken lightly. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work to be in this industry and it’s certainly not as glamorous as it all seems. I studied for four years at university, coming out with an Art Foundation Diploma and a BA (hons) Degree in Fashion. Throughout this time I gained experience through internships in the industry with the late great designer Richard Nicoll as well as my current employer, Georgia Hardinge. If it weren’t for my university pushing me to excel, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Tell us a bit more about your role at Georgia Hardinge…
Georgia and I have a great working relationship. We challenge each other and have a lot of fun in the studio. I assist her with all aspects of the brand, whether that be managing production, putting together collections, finding the next trends, updating the website… the list goes on. My role with Georgia is hard to define but it’s safe to say that no day is the same and each day I learn something new.
Talk us through a typical day in your working life…
This is a difficult question to answer, as each day is so different. The only typical part of my day is the time that I arrive, and the coffee I drink whilst checking my emails in the morning. After that point, who knows what I will be up to. Just last week I arrived back from a trip to the Paris showroom. It’s exciting work and keeps me on my toes.
You’re also a blogger, is it hard to juggle blogging with such a full on job in the fashion industry?
It is incredibly difficult, which is why I tend not to blog as much anymore. That said, it’s something that I always find myself returning to, despite it taking up a lot of time. I’m sure one day it will get easier to maintain, but for now my focus is fully on my career in fashion.
What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
I have to say one of my favourite highlights was the Georgia Hardinge AW16 presentation at LFW, my first season with the team. We created these amazing optical illusion sets as a backdrop for the models. From a straight on perspective it didn’t loo
k like much, however, from the side you could see the outline of a star in holographic paper. The whole show took my breath away and was so much fun to work on.
You recently attended London Fashion Week, how did you find it this season?
London Fashion Week always has an amazing buzz around it. It may be stressful in the lead up but it is always worthwhile showcasing the latest collection. This season in particular we received such a lovely reaction to the pieces. Georgia did something a bit different to her usual signature styles by experimenting with pleating velvet. I’m so excited to put in my personal order! Top priority on my wish list is a pleated velvet pant suit in petrol blue.
What’s the best thing about working with a real #femaleboss?
It’s very inspiring. Georgia commands the respect of her team. The atmosphere in the studio is always fun and relaxed yet productive. She’s built an incredible business from the ground up, going from strength to strength. I would have to say the best thing about working with Georgia is watching her visions come to life. She is a true creative and it is fascinating to see the development of her ideas.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I see myself still working in the fashion industry. I am very much dedicated to working with Georgia and her brand, continuing the success of her collections. It has always been a dream of mine to have my own label one day, so perhaps this is something I can achieve alongside my current career.
What quote do you live by?
“What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” – Buddha
What’s your favourite thing about being a woman?
Shoes… and the vast amount of creative options on offer to us. Some may hurt us or make us wobble as we walk but they look damn good. A good pair of shoes can not only pull an outfit together but also give confidence. As said by Marilyn Monroe, “Give a girl the right pair of shoes, and she can conquer the world”. Above all, I’m quite short so heels are my saving grace.
What’s your least favourite thing about being a woman?
Being judged. Some women, and men, can judge you before they even know you, based on the way you dress, body image and appearance. I may work for an industry infamous for judging body image but I prefer to appreciate every quality in a person. I’m starting to see changes in the way women see each other and it’s really beautiful. One little compliment from you could mean the world to another woman.
Last, but by no means least, who are you female role models?
I choose to surround myself with strong women who can challenge me on a day-to-day basis, and I look up to all of them whether they are my boss, my friends or my family. But my true role model has got to be my mum. She was a single mother to two of us, but still managed to maintain her career and be very successful in it. That kind of raw strength isn’t something you just happen upon, it’s grown from within and her journey is inspiring.
Thank you to Annabel for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk to Chapter W.