First-hand industry experience from fashion tutor

Janet Stanway teaches on our fashion and costume design degree, specialising in pattern and Gerber construction and garment manufacturing. Outside the College, she’s worked in the clothing industry since 1989 and is currently a freelance designer and pattern cutter for Lavelle Division in Bolton, which produces ladies’ and children’s wear for high street brands.

I love the industry so much

‘Pattern construction is taking somebody’s sketch - for a dress for example - from a 2D flat pattern to a 3D shape,’ Janet says. ‘Gerber technology is a computer package designed for the apparel industry, which enables you to construct the pattern onscreen.

‘The company I work for is very much design-led. We work for high street brands and we lead them in terms of design. I also do a lot of private commissions, like prom dresses and some costume work for the Palace Theatre. I’ve also done some work for independent brands like Frockstar in Salford and events like the Soap Awards and Liverpool Fashion Week.’

So, does Janet’s work in industry help with her teaching?

‘Oh, it helps massively. It keeps you interested and up to date. I’ve been in the industry since I was 17 and I love it so much. Things are happening all the time, you’re problem-solving all the time… there are different challenges. It keeps my skills right up there. I see trends as they happen too. As we do new collections I’m looking at what’s coming. It’s great working with other professionals as well.

‘It’s great to see the students showing their final garments at the end of   their course. It makes you proud because you’ll have worked closely with them. I also love it when students get work in the industry. My company has recently taken on one of our students as a sample machinist after she did a placement with us. Students often get work from the placements they do.’

Janet has this advice for fashion industry hopefuls:

It’s good to get a qualification behind you. Get some work experience wherever you can and build up a portfolio. It’s all about recommendation. And I certainly think you need good communication skills and to be able to work as part of a team that might include machinists, Gerber technologists and designers for example.

'You’re problem solving every day.’ Manchester is a good place to start a career in fashion, says Janet, particularly because it welcomes independent business and creativity: ‘You’ve got Manchester Fashion Network, you’ve got a lot of art galleries, a lot of pop-up boutiques and theatres…you’ve got a lot going on.’

Janet Stanway