We speak to the next generation of the fashion industry on challenges they look to address in their post-grad lives.

By Madeline Brik.

The coronavirus pandemic has set norms ablaze, leaving industries and individuals navigating which steps to take next. Last spring, fashion school graduates faced a dual responsibility of choosing a career path while also adjusting to new industry standards. From the production process to runway presentations, the fashion industry has been forced to rethink its existing systems, but those changes have allowed space for more sustainable, creative, and innovative approaches. A year after they graduated in the midst of a global pandemic, we spoke to three 2020 graduates to get an inside look on their transition into life as a fashion student alum.

Sena N’Singi

Sena N’Singi graduated from Tokyo’s Bunka Fashion College in Textile Design. Since her scaled back graduation ceremony, she has been working full time as a textile and fashion designer and is working on launching her own sustainable label.

MADELINE BRIK: Tell me about your style and where you draw your inspiration from.

SENA N’SINGI: Growing up, I was strongly inspired by my parents’ style. I was raised in a strong Christian household and every week I always looked forward to wearing my Sunday best. My dad is a Congolese-Angolan man who grew up with strong Sapeur influences and therefore always wore strong and structured suits to church, whereas my mom loved dressing up in bright and funky African prints to represent her Kenyan roots. So I would say my style is a perfect combination of both of those elements: strong and structured mixed with bright and funky. I also love shopping at thrift stores and 99.9 percent of my wardrobe is thrifted, so I often get inspired by the cool pieces I stumble upon every now and again.

MB: From the eyes of a fashion student, what challenges does the fashion world need to address?

SN: As a textile design student, it was impossible for me not to acknowledge the fact that the fashion industry had a serious issue when it comes to sustainability. Thankfully, in recent years there’s been some uproar on social media regarding this issue and more consumers have been demanding that their favorite brands become more eco-friendly, which is great progress. But I don’t think all fashion brands are taking the issue as seriously as they should. I’ve seen so many huge fast-fashion brands create a small temporary “eco-friendly” clothing line to appease their angry customers, despite the fact that this is just a band-aid solution for a much deeper issue that requires systematic change.

MB: How has your viewpoint about the fashion industry changed/grown since graduating? How has COVID played a role in shaping your perspective?

SN: My viewpoint on the fashion industry has definitely changed significantly since graduating. In recent years, I’ve seen a huge decline in the demand for fast fashion items and it made me feel really optimistic that big change was on the way.

Here in Tokyo, I vividly remember seeing the multi-tiered Forever 21 store go from being a popular new addition to the line up of stores in Shibuya, to being completely shut down a few years later due to the decline in interest for fast-fashion garments. It felt good to know that things were slowly changing, but I think that’s just the beginning.

Eleanor Chapman

Eleanor Chapman graduated with a BA in Fashion from Kingston School of Art in Kingston upon Thames, England, and is now pursuing an MA in Fashion at Central Saint Martins in London. While pursuing her degree, she works as a freelance designer for London brand Dilara Findikoglu.

MADELINE BRIK: From the eyes of a fashion student, what challenges does the fashion world need to address?

ELEANOR CHAPMAN: We live in a society where everything is so instantaneous so one of the industry’s biggest challenges is trying to make people enjoy things for longer, whether that be digital content or garments themselves.

MB: How has your viewpoint about the fashion industry changed/grown since graduating? How has COVID played a role in shaping your perspective?

EC: Having done several placements before graduating, there were no hidden surprises about the industry post-graduating. However, COVID has definitely made me a lot more aware of the fragility of some of the structures within the industry.

MB: How do you feel your generation as a whole will be impacted by finishing school/entering the workforce during a time where the fashion industry is going through so many changes?

EC: Seeing from my friends who graduated with me, it has been extremely challenging to find jobs with so much uncertainty. But as the industry is questioning how things should be done and as the world goes back to normal, I hope that there will be a wave of new opportunities that come and more space for people to do things their own way without having to rely on massive institutions to be able to pursue a career as a designer.

Mai Sudo

Mai Sudo graduated from Tokyo’s Bunka University in Fashion Design. Since her canceled in-person graduation, she has been working for Hirurgi Studio.

MADELINE BRIK: Tell me about your style and where you draw your inspiration from.

MAI SUDO: I’m trying to do some designs that are not only fashionable. I want to create a place for people to experience art instead of the current fashion approach.

MB: How has your viewpoint about the fashion industry changed/grown since graduating? How has COVID played a role in shaping your perspective?

MS: Our lives have changed since the pandemic broke out. The fashion industry has also changed. To keep the fashion industry alive, it’s not the same as before. We must think about how to keep the fashion industry alive.

MB: How do you feel your generation will be impacted by finishing school/entering the workforce during a time where the fashion industry is going through so many changes?

MS: After graduating during the pandemic, I began to think about the essence of things. It’s not just about making things, it’s about whether people really need them. I learned that I must think about the essence of things and make them.

Image credit: Courtesy of Sena N’Singi, Eleanor Chapman, Mai Sudo