01 Dec 2021

A career in fashion & design

When I see a student fretting about what they want to do when they leave school I calmly tell them that I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up either…. and I’m fine so far….

When I see a student fretting about what they want to do when they leave school I calmly tell them that I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up either…. and I’m fine so far….

These days, I find myself having the same conversation with friends my own age. There is lots of upheaval as jobs are lost, shifted or just not relevant any more in our new ‘jelly-like’ work-place. There are some emotional moments too as so many of us are defined by our job and when you lose that job you are not only losing your income but a part of your identity.

Re-education is definitely the new buzz word as everyone looks to re-invent themselves and add some skills. If you are a positive kinda girl you might see all this as a great opportunity to try that career you day-dreamed about when you were a teenager but ended up doing accountancy instead!

My folly was to open a recording studio (still working on that one!) and my best friend was dabbling with the idea of hairdressing but, it was obvious to all of us that fashion was her thing….as we tormented her to alter and make clothes for us…

I’m incredibly proud of my friend, Joan Brennan, who eventually went back to college as a mature student to study fashion and design. She followed it with a successful career as a designer and is now a course leader teaching Fashion Design and Accessories in the Waterford Adult Education Centre.

It is a fantastic course and they are so lucky to have her, as she knows only too well the challenges they face and is as passionate about her students as she is about her love of design.

So many girls, of all ages, ask me about careers in fashion and are surprised when they hear of this course. It’s a bit of a well kept secret ……but not for much longer…

It is a two year full-time, Fetac level 5 course. The amount of skills you learn is quite intensive. Students learn about garment construction, design, art appreciation, fashion drawing, pattern drafting, jewellry making, ceramics, illustration…sewing (of course..) and on and on.

Basically, you follow the steps of any designer. From inspiration, concept, design, to the construction of the finished garments…it’s all included. Also, business enterprise, communications and work experience are vital components to bring your new skills to fruition.

It all comes to a dramatic head when the design students get to show their collections in the end of year show that takes place in Treacy’s Hotel in Waterford. This is only their third year of doing the show and it is going from strength to strength.

The mix of students is eclectic with a mix from all backgrounds of mammies, mature students and career shifters. This year there will be 13 students graduating and all were under pressure to get the collection together for their recent end of year graduate show.

On the night there was plenty of buzz as outfits were getting last minute alterations, additions and tweaks. Launching one designer’s show (with no previous experience..) is daunting, imagine thirteen collections!!

There is plenty of help though in the guise of the hairdressing and make up students who are only too happy to get their teeth stuck into creating some looks and even the sound and lights are provided by students. A collaborative project for sure.

No matter what chaos lies behind the stage, it always looks gorgeous from the front as the clothes come to life on the models. A few of our Hype models always go down to help out and the show is always lots of fun.

I usually try to catch a front row seat to have a peek. It is impressive how they each found an original inspiration for their collection and how different they all were. One of the students (and one of our Hype models), Barbara Prusak was inspired by modern photography of wildlife and even included her wedding dress for her upcoming wedding!

One of my favourite collections was by Shana Chu who used comic book illustrations as her inspiration. Her collection was very wearable and the attention to detail and quality of finish was excellent – this girl must surely go further with this.. Her simple blue shift dress and 50’s style dress caught our eye. A name to remember, one to watch for sure.

There were plenty of dramatic looks too, that would have had Lady Gaga reaching for the cheque book. Marguerite Keane’s collection inspired by Alice in Wonderland would have been right up her street!

The audience was full of proud families who were as impressed as I was to see the final result of two years work.

The only problem is, that every year I get tempted to pack it up and do it myself. Two of the models have already jumped in and I can’t wait to see where it brings them.

All of the students talk about how the course has injected them with a new confidence in their abilities. And lots of them have a new passion for learning as they go on to study further. With lots of encouragement and support from their tutors many of the students pursue their new career with confidence.

So, you see, a career in fashion and design is accessible. Sometimes we fool ourselves that new dreams are out of our reach….maybe because we’re a little scared or are still a little bruised from recent employment hardships.…but, in a climate like ours, a little leap of faith may be the kick start you need.

For further information you can contact the WAEC on 051-852803 or

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