Final year BA (Hons) Fashion student Chloe Gee recently spent two weeks working as an intern at the Vivienne Westwood London headquarters, working alongside the brand’s small team in the run up to their London Fashion Week 2019 show. Dame Vivienne Westwood is a true icon of the British fashion scene, and renowned all over the world not only for her punk inspired collections but for her strong socio-political standpoint.
The designer used this year’s London Fashion Week catwalk as a soapbox to broadcast a commentary on current political issues, alongside showcasing her AW19/20 collection. A mix of campaigners, actors and models walked in the show, carrying microphones, and stopping as they walked to perform powerful speeches focused on the threat of climate change and Brexit. The show included activist and actor Rose McGowan speaking out about consumerism, and the executive director of Greenpeace, John Sauven, delivering a speech about the environmental and economic impact of oil corporations like BP.
We chatted to Chloe as she returned from her two week stint working with one of fashion’s most influential and politically charged designers…
Tell us about your internship - where were you working and what were your responsibilities?
I was working at Vivienne Westwood as part of the archiving team. This was really interesting, as I was handling garments from all of her collections, dating back to her first show. I also worked on the London Fashion Week 2019 show, helping to sew final touches to garments, and prepping to style and dress the models at the show, which took place in February.
"Push boundaries and take risks to gain confidence - this is what my internships have given me."
- Chloe Gee, BA (Hons) Fashion
What was it like working backstage at London Fashion Week?
It was the most incredible atmosphere, with photographers and video crews capturing every moment. I was assigned to a couple of models, and my main responsibility was to dress and style the models into three outfits as the catwalk took place. I think Vivienne Westwood’s catwalk shows are very informative, raising awareness on important global issues. The team at Vivienne Westwood is small but they create amazing collections!
One of the models in the show stated "Fashion is all about styling, buy less, choose well, make it last.” How much do you agree with this statement?
The concept of the Vivienne Westwood show was focused on buying less and choosing those pieces well. The garments are expensive, with jackets costing £500 for example, however the fabric is sourced from some of the best suppliers, for example one of the jumpers in the collection was made from wool sourced from a UK farm. By buying less, it helps to reduce the amount of “fast fashion”, which is damaging to the environment.
It’s not London Fashion Week every week - so what did a more typical day at your internship involve?
After a three hour commute (which involved car, train, tube and a bus), I would arrive in the Vivienne Westwood Head Office at 10am. It was my responsibility to return garments into the archive and to pull looks out for specific requests, which could include photoshoots for magazines and so on. Then I might be asked to head over to the Flagship store, assist at the client showrooms, or shop for items required for London Fashion Week.
What’s going to happen next for you?
Once I have completed this final year of University, I plan to get a full time position, in the Womenswear fashion sector. My interests are in creating abstract artwork, which inspires my prints and in turn my collection. In my career, I would either like to specialise in design or print, creating artwork which can be made into one-off fabrics. Working abroad and travelling for my job interests me. I would love to work in America or Australia one day. I find different cultures and lifestyles fascinating. It would be my dream to work for a high-end couture house, however I would love to run my own small label too, some day.
Do you have any advice for other students looking to do internships in the fashion industry?
Take every opportunity.
What’s the best bit of advice you've been given during your studies?
Push boundaries and take risks to gain confidence - this is what my internships have given me.