Understanding fashion and its process is a rewarding and wonderful thing. However, getting to know the artist behind the creations is something else altogether. Alice Jane Potter, a fashion graduate of University of Central Lancashire, has graciously shared herself with us in this interview.
How did you get into fashion?
From a young age I learnt to sew and I found it be a massive escape for me. I loved creating things with my mum at a sewing machine and we used to sit and do cross stitching together which was so much fun! As I got older I knew that I wanted to continue to sew so in High School I did Textiles and then went on to do a triple BTEC in Fashion and Clothing at Sixth Form. I then chose the University of Central Lancashire for a four-year Fashion Design degree – this course had a sandwich year which meant I worked in the industry for my third year which I loved!
I worked for a stage company that created crazy headpieces for drag queens, burlesque dancers and huge west end shows and that’s where I fell in love with embellishment. Over my years of education my skill set grew and so did my confidence in myself, I would have never expected now to have received such an amazing following of people who love my work. To even be asked to do an interview like this is massive for me as I just feel like a normal girl from Blackpool, it’s such a massive compliment to myself and my work!
Can you explain your personal process when designing a collection?
For me there isn’t a set order in what you should do or how to do it but I found that being flexible and not setting your mind to something concrete is the best way to begin.
Find inspiration from somewhere, this could be from anything. A lot of people will ask what your concept and ideas behind your collection are, it doesn’t matter if at first you can’t really put it into words. A collection grows in time and into something with meaning and substance so try not to complicate it. If you research something and don’t find much that’s actually a good thing, it means that your imagination hopefully is going to help you create something fresh that people have never seen before. Go with your gut, sell yourself and your ideas, believe in it even if no one else seems to make sense of it because if you find a platform to show your work to the world then a lot of people will respond to it in a positive way.
The most important part of a design process is realising your strengths and weaknesses. Find what you’re good at and run with it, make it the focus point of the collection and the aspects that you struggle with don’t include. My biggest weakness is illustration – I am not an illustrator. Six years of College and University did not help me become a Fashion Illustrator even though tutors tried their best to force it out of me. I used to get so down on myself for not being able to draw but you do not need to be able to draw to create something spectacular. For me I worked with fabrics on a mannequin, I showed and explained to people what I meant and the majority of the time people couldn’t quite figure it out but I always knew in my head exactly what I was doing and it always seemed to work out for me!
With a collection you can’t expect to know exactly what your finished line up will look like. My starting point was knowing the type of pieces that I wanted to create, I would experiment and pattern cut a garment as a toile which could take a couple of hours or an entire week before I had it the way that I wanted it. As I finished each garment it would inspire me to create something else and as everything bulked up my ideas would change, I didn’t think about each outfit as a whole. My collection was individual pieces that I then put together to make 6 looks, it’s versatile enough the break up the outfits and swap pieces to create a range of different looks and that’s exactly what I wanted it to be.
I worked with a range of different weights of fabrics to create Cry Baby Club. Fabric choice is everything; your garments can look completely different if you don’t choose the right fabrics. It’s also about what you do with that fabric, for me I laser cut, I embellished, I gathered and these aspects turned a flat piece of fabric into something completely unique. You have to consider that all of the Fashion Students will be looking for fabrics in the exact same place as you and unless you buy a unique roll of something that’s completely one off then you run the risk of creating something very similar to another designer. It’s so hard to be unique in the fashion industry, some people will take the easy route and copy something that they have seen before but this is not the way to work if you want your work to be noticed. Think outside the box – confuse people!
What, or who, inspired your Cry Baby Club collection?
Many people aren’t actually aware but Cry Baby Club has quite a feminist message behind it, it’s a play on words linked with feminist values in our society as I believe that we are still not seen as equal to males. My design process came at the time where Donald Trump splurged his unwanted opinions about women all over any platform that he could. Women were portrayed and still are portrayed as extremely sensitive and emotional and we are not taken seriously for that reason – no matter what rights we now have in the 21st Century. I wanted to create something that would make women feel beautiful when they were wearing it; something that celebrated and oozed femininity yet still had a message behind it. Cry Baby Club celebrates our rights to feel and show our emotions because that is of course what makes us human and still makes us powerful and a force to be reckoned with.
How did you react when you found out Kate Nash would be wearing your dress? Is there anybody else who you would like to wear your designs?
My reaction was lots of happy tears, I was a little bit speechless and overwhelmed at the thought of what was going to happen! I’m still not really over it, it doesn’t feel real at all. This industry is all about who you meet and the opportunities you are given, everything happens for a reason. If I was not selected for the Graduate Fashion Week runway then I would have never met Kate Nash’s stylist, she would have probably never seen my work. Rebekah Roy saw something in my collection and myself and knew that Kate would too, I owe her so much for even showing Kate my work. To have had a platform that big where my work was shown all over the UK is something that I’ll never forget, social media is so helpful to small designers just starting out and it gave me the chance to see all of the photographs and videos of the dress on stage too. I connected with so many people and from that received more opportunities to better myself for the future.
Since then I have sent other pieces out to celebrities, even having my pieces requested from stylists is such a compliment. I would love to create custom pieces for celebrities, that would be an amazing opportunity and fantastic exposure but I will just have to see what the future holds!
Are you planning on selling your designs, and creating a full-time career in fashion?
In the future I would really love to start my own brand and to turn it into a full time career. I am so happy when I’m creating and when I get the recognition for what I have done. I knew that when I finished University that I did not want to go and work for somebody else, the thought of sitting behind a computer Monday-Friday creating something that no one would even know was mine just does not appeal to me. Ever since leaving University I have been planning so many things in my head but for me it’s just finding a starting point and a unique selling point for my brand, I want it to be unique and inspiring and hopefully then I will have the opportunity to flourish.
What advice do you have for aspiring designers?
You can always make more money.
You will never have the opportunity to do your degree again.
If you don’t love it – don’t do it.
For more information on Alice and her work, please visit her blog at: http://alicejanepotter.com/
Potter, A.J. (2017). Fashion Designer. Interview with author. 18 October.