- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
This year’s PCA Vision design competition, which encourages promising fashion designers to take workwear to the next level, saw the strongest entrants to date, with designs created for firemen, lifeguards, engineers and even McDonald’s staff, and Bedford College’s Summer Gill impressed judges with her innovative and multi-functional uniform for airport ground staff to win the overall Student Design Award 2018.
After her being crowned the overall winner at the Park Plaza Hotel in London, FashionUnited sat down with the talented design student to find out the inspiration behind her innovative design, why she chose to study at Bedford College, and her aspirations for the future.
Can you tell FashionUnited readers what inspired your PCA Vision 2018 workwear entry?
Summer Gill: “I initially researched into 5 jobs that I found interesting, including Firefighters and builders, and that is when I discovered I was interested in using reflective fabrics, and during my research I came across airport ground staff, and as my boyfriend worked at the airport he helped me with the idea.
“The main inspiration also came from the fashion at the time, with puffer jackets and loose fitted jeans being on-trend.”
“Even though your design is functional it is still stylish, was that important to you?
“I knew I wanted to go down a fashionable workwear route, so something that could be worn different ways. What you might not realise is that the arms fully zip off, so it can be worn like a gilet, and the inner jacket zips off from top of the other jacket so you can wear it all-in-one, or zip off for a lightweight jacket, plus the arms come off, the hood detaches and so do the trousers - to make it multi-seasonal, so workers would only need one uniform.”
Were there any specific elements that you needed to consider to make sure that your design met health and safety standards needed for airport ground staff uniforms?
“What I enjoyed about my chosen profession was that I was able to be really creative with it, as the only standards was that on the jacket 80 percent needed to be hi-visibility the rest was normal colours.
“The norm is red, and at Luton Airport they were using red and yellow, which I thought wasn’t great, so instead I went for black to make it smarter to wear away from work more. The other thing was that you needed two 5cm bands that were reflective on the front and back but I decided to do my thicker as I felt 5cm was too thin. Then on the trousers they didn’t need reflective elements but I included to make it look more like an outfit.”
What challenges did you face bringing your PCA Vision design to life?
“There were loads. First off I bought lots of the wrong zips as I didn’t really think about how hard it was going to be attaching both jackets together as I didn’t want them separate. So, I had to look at 5-in-1 ski jackets to find a special zip that was a two-way reversible zip. I didn’t quite visualise that so it was a last minute dash to find the right zip.
“I also had a problem with the material around the knee padding as it was so thick it kept breaking the sewing machines, at one point I didn’t think I was going to get it done, but I had to as knee pads was a requirement, for safety, but I found some extra heavy duty needles.
“The knee pads are also removable, it has a flap underneath with velcro on. So, when you are wearing them as jeans they aren’t so bulky.
What does it mean to you to know your design was the overall winner chosen by an expert panel?
“I was so shocked, I really did not expect it at all. It means a lot, I feel like all my hard work has really paid off. My main preference at college that I love to do is textile designing so I do more prints and I find designing quite hard, so it took a lot of hard work for me to do the design, I can come up with the ideas but I find it hard to draw.
“With my vision boards I watched loads of YouTube tutorials and learnt how to do it on Illustrator, which we had been taught a little bit, but it was only in our first year so it wasn’t as extensive as I needed. I can do sketches for myself but I wasn’t confident showing them doing them on illustrator was easier to showcase my design.”
As the overall winner you take home 1,000 pounds, what will you do with the prize money?
“I don’t know. I have no idea. I haven’t thought.”
What does the future hold? Are you going to continue with your fashion education?
“So, currently I’m on the HND and I was always going to go on to do the BA, but we’ve only just found out that Bedford College has got the BA, before I knew this was happening I had planned to go travelling for a year, but I do want to come back for the BA. I think I’m going to go traveling in September and come back. I feel strongly about travelling as I want that to take things I’ve seen and bring it to life in my final collection.”
Has winning made you think about a different path in fashion?
“Now I’ve won this it has changed my vision. Before, I wanted to do just print, but now I’m thinking I could incorporate my prints onto a jacket like this. Whereas before I would have done more elegant designs on floaty dresses, softer looks, now I’m quite interested in menswear, as for my final collection this year I did menswear prints for sweatshirts inspired by graffiti.
“I really enjoy menswear, with textile design it is sometimes easier to do womenswear as there is more freedom with colours and prints and patterns but the shapes and structure of menswear I find more exciting - as even though they’ve showcased my design on a woman I designed it to be unisex.”
What’s the goal? 5 years from now?
“Such a hard question. I did always want to own a shop featuring one-off pieces, but now I don’t know, winning has changed everything, but when I go back for the BA I’m going to tailor it between both print and design so I can get a feel for them and push myself even more so I will know which way I want to go.”
What is it about Bedford College that has help?
“My friend said how much she loved Bedford College so I had a look around and I was impressed by the resources, like the huge print table and digital printer. I’ve been here for four years, two BTEC A-level years and then the HNC and HND, and I will go back for the top-up BA.
“There are so many facilities and there is only nine of us in the class. We always get one-to-one time with the tutors, and we learn everything from the making and designing to producing the pieces. The contact time is amazing, the tutors are always there, it is a bit like a family, we all help each other and give each other advice. I’ve really learnt a lot from being there.”
Images: courtesy of Summer Gill / PCA Vision 2018