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My Fashion Career: Philli Wood, Fashion Designer


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Whether you dream of being a designer, fancy yourself as a photographer, or are made for marketing, we’ve spoken to individuals currently working in various areas of the fashion industry to find out how they made themselves stand out from the crowd in this increasingly competitive industry, and what their job is really like!

Philli Wood is a graduate of Westminster University and winner of the 2014 Warehouse Design Competition, a partnership between Warehouse and the British Fashion Council’s Colleges Council to recognise emerging talent in fashion design. Now working as a designer for luxury Italian fashion house MaxMara, Philli spoke to The National Student about how her experience has helped to shape her career in fashion design…

You studied Fashion at the University of Westminster, how was your experience there?

I really enjoyed it. Westminster has great facilities for fashion students and lots of space, plus it’s really close to central London for exhibitions and such. 

While at university, did you undertake any work placements or internships to gain extra experience?

Yes, we had two timetabled periods for work placements. The first was three months in the middle of second year, and the second was a years’ placement for our third year. In second year I worked for Peter Pilotto, and in third year for Burberry and Proenza Schouler.

You won the Warehouse Design Competition Winner 2014 to design a capsule collection for the brand, which was released online and in stores in February - how did it feel to see your designs on sale on the high street?

It was amazing! It was really great to see that all of the hard work had paid off.

What were the influences behind your graduate collection, which was developed for your Warehouse collection? 

The collection was initially inspired by American Indian Inuit. I experimented with large oversized silhouettes and chunky knitwear, and I printed images of cable knits onto exaggerated shapes to give the illusion of knitwear. The bright, clashing colour palette was inspired by installation artist Dan Flavin. When re-designing the collection for Warehouse I had to make it a lot more commercial, so everything was reduced in size, but the main ideas stayed the same. 

Do you have any go-to areas for inspiration, or do you find yourself constantly inspired by new things?

I think new things inspire me all the time, whether it’s street style or an exhibition, everything and anything really!

Are there any designers that you admire or that influence your work?

I really like Proenza Schouler and their use of fabrics, and also Burberry as I love their heritage and their use of textiles. I love sportswear-inspired clothes also, so designers such as Kenzo and Alexander Wang.

When did you realise that fashion design was what you wanted to do? Did you ever consider any different career paths? 

No, I always wanted to do something creative. I used to want to work in textiles, but I think that this was because I didn’t know much about fashion. After my year spent on an Art Foundation course I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in fashion design.

What is your favourite area of fashion design; are there any particular garments you really enjoy designing?

Outerwear! It’s my favourite thing to design.

Could you describe your personal design process, how you get your designs from the sketchpad to the runway?

I start with lots of research, the more the better. I then experiment with fabrics, trying to find new ways of using them, and this often inspires my shape design. I like to drape on the stand often using existing clothes to create new takes on things, and then it all gradually comes together. After that, it’s a case of getting the garment made up and fitting it - for me, this is the boring bit!

What part of the design process most appeals to you?

I think the sampling and experimenting with existing garments.

And what do you find the least enjoyable or most challenging aspect?

The fitting part is quite challenging, as it can be hard to translate what's on paper in to real life.

So what’s the next step in your fashion design career?

I've just moved to Italy and started working as a designer for MaxMara!

Fashion design is a notoriously competitive field to get into these days, what would your advice be for any students considering a career in this area?

I would say the best thing is to immerse yourself in all types of inspiration, from blogs and exhibitions to street style and travel.

Philli's Warehouse collection is available to buy now online and in-store.

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