Product Developer: Ted Baker
Amy Elsom graduated with a degree in Multi Media Textiles in 2013. With a passion for fashion and an interest in experimentation, Amy has gone on to work for Ted Baker. Here, she shares her experiences of Loughborough, placements and working closely on menswear.
I was undecided at the time which career path I wished to take so I felt multi media was the most flexible pathway. I had always enjoyed experimenting with different materials and techniques and liked the idea that multi media wasn’t restricted in any way.
The Multi Media pathway was very self motivating, from writing my own briefs and keeping to my own time frames to booking my own workshops and spaces in the print rooms/dye labs. This helped my confidence grow and allowed me to learn how to plan my time and work load. These are all skills I have taken through into my current role.
Would there be one piece of advice that you would give to prospective students looking to study within the School of the Arts?
Study a degree that you know you will enjoy and have a general interest in. To do well in the design industry you have to be incredibly hard working and dedicated. Nothing is more enjoyable than heading into the design studio for the day knowing you’re going to appreciate what you are doing. It is important to feel confident in your ability to do what you want to do and stick with it.
If you put your mind to it you can achieve way more than you ever imagine. Whilst at Loughborough there were times where I struggled with confidence in my own ability and stressed about what would happen for me next. It is very easy to look around and compare yourself to other people. What I now know is you just have to concentrate on yourself and what you want to do, make the most of university life and the freedom it gives you – both in your personal life and studio life. There is a high probability it is the time in your creative career where you can be the most artistic and do exactly what you want!
Unless you’re brave enough to go it alone, there’s a chance after university you will always work for somebody else - therefore make sure you do what you want to do whilst studying!! Work hard and play harder is always my advice to anyone, I can confirm you never get another experience like it once you enter the working world! Loughborough really was a great 4 years in my life that I am so pleased I experienced for many reasons.
Did you take part in any extra-curricular activities during your studies? If so, how did they add to your Loughborough experience?
I ensured I had a good social life at University as this to me was a big part of the experience. My first time living away from home gave me the opportunity to mature and look after myself. I made my friends for life at Loughborough – I was recently a bridesmaid for a friend I met on my first night of freshers’ week! I also attended the gym regularly each week as this was a great escape for me from the studio work.
I completed a sandwich year during my time at Loughborough that saw me carry out two 6 month placements. Both placements were quite different – one as an embroidery design assistant at Matthew Williamson and the other a Fabric Sourcing Assistant at Next Plc. Both of these roles taught me very different things – a small studio environment being very creative to a large corporate organisation working with lots of different people.
Once leaving Loughborough I took a job at a smaller fashion supplier – the role was more of a fabric tech position and wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing but I saw it as an opportunity to gain some more knowledge and meet people within the industry (and also earn some money!). After 6 months the chance at Ted Baker came up as an assistant product developer on menswear design. I relished the opportunity to work for a well-known brand so was overjoyed by this opportunity – it was also a position on the design team which I saw as a great way in to develop my skills.
Three years on I am still at Ted Baker in a more established senior role on the menswear design team. Now a fully-fledged Product Developer on Men’s Jersey, I manage and develop an assistant on the team and also design the Men’s Swimwear. I am working on my personal development and concentrating on gaining a Junior Designer position within the next 6 months – this is something I will be very proud of.
Yes – independence, confidence and time management are key skills I gained whilst at University that I believe help me now.
Ted Baker is a well-known established brand. At times it can be incredibly stressful and my workload can be hard to manage. Working quickly is key and thinking on the spot to come up with new ideas and solve problems is important. Men’s jersey is a fast moving trend driven area so turn around is fast – fabric development, trend research, sketches, design decisions and design comments are daily tasks on the design team at Ted.
My main job role is to make things happen, working very closely with the senior designer – a hand drawn sketch and fabric swatch can be all that’s handed over to me – I then have to go ahead and make the design happen. Confirming fabric, picking colours and trims, approving submissions – liaising with the suppliers to problem solve and find the most effective way of getting samples in correct and on time. We work to very tight deadlines and nothing can be a ‘no’.
Ted as a brand uses many trims and details and it is important each and every garment which goes into a Ted store has individual internal features – prints, buttons, coloured tapes, cords, threads etc. It is one of my main responsibilities to work with the designer to choose these and ensure each style I am responsible for is the best it can possibly be. I attend fit sessions where we look at the garments on the body and make comments and changes. I have had the opportunity to work with the CEO Ray Kelvin himself very closely on a range for British Tennis player James Ward – this helped me gain great knowledge on technical fabric and sportswear.
I work on Men’s Jersey - a huge area on menswear at Ted. Product ranges from t-shirts to polo shirts to sweatshirts, zip through tops and layering. I really enjoy working on jersey as it is a creative area driven by trend. We have the opportunity to be brave with different techniques and use of colour is more experimental than other menswear areas. I work closely with the print designer, which I really enjoy as this was something I incorporated in my own project work at Loughborough.
I worried about not studying fashion design and having less technical knowledge than those that have and I think that is why I felt more confident going into menswear - I don’t look at it from an aspect of I would or wouldn’t wear this myself – I look at it purely from a creative designers prospective with the customer in mind. All the technical ‘garment’ knowledge I now know I have learnt on the job. This has shown me you continue to learn and develop beyond your studies - something which I maybe found hard to imagine on graduating.
How satisfying is it to see an item through the whole production process, from initial idea and design to seeing it on a hanger or in an ad campaign?
So satisfying – I love going into store and seeing people picking up and trying on styles I have worked on. I also love seeing things on social media and in magazines. If I know I picked that trim or colour and that style is selling well it gives me a great sense of achievement.
I really enjoy menswear and believe I will remain in that sector. Ted's customer is a specific man so the only change I would maybe try in the future is a different kind of brand – for example something more contemporary.
I would really love to progress my career at Ted and develop into a good designer role. My long-term ambition is to love what I do and enjoy my job – and keep on designing!! I see myself staying in men’s fashion but eventually the stress might wear me out!
Working with the menswear team as they are really great and playing a part in making really great products which make customers very happy! I also love developing new fabrics and choosing trim colours.