Lydia Cooper is a 3rd year History of Art student at the University of Bristol and I caught up with her to chat enterprise, creativity and Cruella De Vil.
This is the third year that Lydia has created a collection for FUZE, the UK’s largest student run fashion and dance event, and she’s switched up her usual creative process for a new social enterprise: iMPRiNT.
What was your inspiration for the FUZE 2015 collection?
I was inspired by the 60s/70s and Indian dress for this years Fuze collection. When I set out to design this collection I wanted to create stuff that is more wearable, compared to what I’ve made before as I hope to launch a new social enterprise called iMPRiNT. The idea behind it is to promote ethically produced clothes that help provide skills and employment for women in local communities.
How do you go about making a collection for the show?
My process for producing the collection this year is also different. Usually, I design, cut, pin and sew all the dresses myself, however this year I am working with a sewing group called ‘Sew Clever’. ‘Sew Clever’ is a club, made up of a group of local women in Knowle West, who come together at the old youth centre because they love to sew.
However, the group’s funding is due to run out in March this year, so they’ll no longer be able to afford their space. My aim is to hopefully contribute, in some way, towards them establishing themselves as a self-sustaining business so they can continue to rent their workshop, and carry on their hobby. I will still do the designing, cutting and pinning but teach the group how to sew my designs, and then pay them for the finished collection.
Which is your favourite outfit from the previous Fuze catwalks?
Probably the white chiffon and cashmere dress from last collection, but I also really like the leather and feather collared one.
How do you think your style has developed since being at Bristol University?
I get bored quite easily and usually go through phases of stuff that I like to wear, but I’m not that conscious of what my own style is; I just wear what I like.
Do you have a timeless, favourite piece of clothing?
I probably should pretend its something super trendy but it has to be my oversized red, all in one ski suit which I wear all the time. I look like a fat Teletubby but it keeps me warm and happy.
Do you still accept evening gown commissions?
Previously I have made individual commissions for outfits for a number of different things, mainly events and parties like 21sts, including fancy dress. I hope to carry on with the commissions but I want to focus more on working with the group and getting a ready-to-wear collection together for the summer. I really hope to actually sell some of the stuff after the show this year in order to make the project viable.
As this is your third and final year as a Bristol Student, will this be your last fuze collection?
It just depends what happens with the business but hopefully I could do it again and there’s a chance that I might stay in Bristol for another year. I’m also planning to do my own fashion show at the end of this academic year, to show the whole of my ready-to-wear collection.
Do you have any tips for those who want to start making their own clothes but don’t know where to start?
I don’t know what I would advise as I taught myself just making it up as I go along and learning from mistakes, which isn’t that helpful…
I guess the best thing to do is just buy some fabric and experiment with making something basic, and build from there. Or just look at the shapes of your clothes to copy if you don’t know where to start.
What plans do you have for after your degree, do you think we’ll see a Lydia Cooper clothing line at some point in the future?
I have no idea what will happen to me after I leave University, and have no idea where I will be this time next year. Ideally I will be running this business successfully and have workshops, with training and onsite childcare for local women all around the country, but the reality could quite easily look slightly different.
I am well aware failure is part of the process, so I guess we will just have to see how long it takes before I am unemployed, sat on the sofa at home, watching Bridget Jones, and eating ice cream in my ski suit.
If you had to wear one colour for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If I had to wear one colour for the rest of my life it would probably have to be either black or white, or preferably both… I get called Cruella De Vil quite a worrying amount for this reason, but there will be no puppy fur in the Fuze collection!
Article originally published in Epigram Student Newspaper.