Inside The Atelier – Catherine McEvoy
Inside The Atelier – Catherine McEvoy
Inside The Atelier is an insider fashion series. First up is Catherine McEvoy, the 27-year old Grafton Academy (and Chemistry) graduate. She now works in couture for McQueen. Portrait: Alex Sheridan
My job title… is Graduate Trainee’ in the Couture Studio of Alexander McQueen.
What people assume I do… I get all kinds of assumptions when it comes to what I do in work. A lot of people think my position involves nothing more than coffee runs and dry cleaning, while others assume I am making the dresses that go out all by myself!
But what I actually do… In reality, my position covers a number of different bases from studio assistant, which involves patterns, cutting and sewing, to studio management and admin…and of course, the occasional dreaded coffee run (although, these are usually for ourselves!) I have no typical day at work, one week is usually completely different from the next. In general, we do all the fabric preparation and cutting, help with the hand finishing and embellishment touch ups and lend a hand to the head pattern cutter and technician. We prepare design packages, order the fabrics and locate the trims and haberdashery required for each client’s individual garments, overseeing each project to the end. On occasion, special pieces may be required for a show or museum exhibition and we will help remake or touch-up the pieces needed, or make the accessories to go with the looks ourselves. These are usually demanding, yet really interesting projects.
I love it because… as well as being a lovely group of people, the couture studio of McQueen is still relatively young and at present we are quite a small team in the grand scheme of things. The benefit of this is that we get to see every stage of the work being undertaken and can gain experience in a number of different aspects of the job. I get to meet a lot of very interesting people and learn management skills that I typically might not have encountered in a bigger studio. In the run-up to show time, the womenswear studio becomes extremely busy and we can often be asked to lend a hand. I love watching the evolution of the collections. Being so close to such talented people is always inspiring.
It can be challenging because… with a lot of studio jobs, the hours can very long and tiring. It can be tough sometimes just getting out of bed! Also, a lot of the work is learnt on your feet, so I had to learn quickly to be receptive and try and absorb as much as possible in the shortest time allowed. It can be a very steep learning curve!
My favourite aspect of it is… the experience granted to me from being in this company will last me a life time. The challenge to learn as much as I can while in my position is my favourite aspect of the job.
The most unexpected thing… I found about the job was the vast number of genuinely lovely people you encounter while working. People with the same insecurities, as well as ambitions, as you. People that want to teach you. The biggest companies turn out to not always be the scariest.
The ‘I can’t believe this is my job’ moment… I haven’t really had one yet- except for the day I signed my contract. That felt too good to be true. I had never, ever imagined I would find myself in McQueen. As odd as it sounds, it just feels like a regular job when I’m in there.
The journey I took to get this position… I studied Fashion at the Grafton Academy in Dublin. While studying, I interned with both Danielle Romeril and Sarah Foy, both designers based in Dublin. After graduating, I moved to London in search of further experience and with the hope of getting a job! I did the usual- final collections, portfolios, CVs- and then got cold feet and chickened out when it came to applying for any of the jobs I really wanted. Through a contact, I was put in touch with the couture studio in McQueen. After applying, I had to complete an interview and a trial week before a long wait to find out if I’d gotten the job. Thankfully the news was positive. I’ve been in my position since September of last year.
Words of advice for those wanting to do what I do… Have confidence! It is very easy to become intimidated by the number of highly talented people entering the fashion industry every day. It is so important to concentrate on the skills that you know you are good at and to have confidence in them. These are what will get you your first job. No matter what your weaknesses are, there will always be a job to suit your strengths. A willingness to learn and take direction will bring you a long way. Finally- persevere!
The best advice that’s come my way… While I was dithering and losing confidence in where to apply, a wonderful lady told me to basically buck up and “Just go for it! You will never know if you don’t try.”