Blog post

What I learned from my placement year

Third year Fashion student Jennifer has just returned from a year out in industry, which earns her the Diploma in Professional Practice. Beyond an extra qualification though, here’s what her time away taught her.

By Jennifer Read - 27 October 2023

Since studying at University, I always wanted to take a placement year as I know how valuable gaining experience in the fashion industry is. It was one of the reasons why I chose the University of Derby, as they were one of the few to offer this placement year. While in second year, we had the opportunity to do a four-week placement which then led to me getting an offer for a paid placement year! 

This was at a ‘fast-fashion’ clothing manufacturers in Leicester where they make items for brands such as Dorothy Perkins, Boohoo, Public Desire, and Yours clothing to name a few. I was made the Design Assistant and was responsible for trend research, delegating work to other members of the team and the designing. 

At the start it was really busy, with new things happening everyday while getting on with my own work. After speaking to other colleagues, I learned it was normal to feel the pressure and they helped me organise my tasks so it would be better for me to handle. This role gave me such a valuable insight to not only the company, but how to work effectively as a team and meet deadlines.

Looking into the local fashion manufacturer warehouse
Jennifer using a sewing machine

I also got to attend fashion shows, trade shows and assist on photoshoots. This was really important for me to gain industry experience as I would love to do something similar after graduating. I stayed there for seven months and decided I wanted to get another experience; a different skillset in the industry.

I finished the year at my next placement, which was at another clothing manufacturers in Leicester. They made everything in the UK and didn’t outsource from other suppliers in overseas countries. Because I had some knowledge of how the fashion industry worked, this made it easier to progress onto my role of Assistant Designer for their sustainable ladieswear brand. 

While there, I was able to assist on everything from pattern cutting, designing, and sampling, to social media and PR tasks. I worked within a small team which included the founder, the cutter and the machinist. This was really beneficial to me as I could have one-to-one teaching, specifically when pattern cutting. I worked on so many amazing projects on the manufacturing side such as premature baby slings for the NHS, racing suits for Formula 1, and supporting brands, from start-ups to fully established brands. 

Jennifer helping out on a fashion photoshoot
Range of clothing material samples on cutting table

My year was very hands-on but it taught me how the industry is and especially how it differs from coursework learning and classroom teaching. I am now back at university for my third and final year, which I am so excited for! I feel I now have the relevant knowledge to put into action for the final project of a garment collection. 

I've also had time to think about my prospects after university and eventually getting a job in the fashion industry sector. While I'm not 100% sure what it will be at this point, I have a rough idea of potentially working as a pattern-cutter or a garment technologist for a high-street brand. It's because of my placement year that I now understand these roles much more than before. To anyone thinking of doing a placement year I would recommend to do it. It has given me a great insight to the industry and how I can transfer my skills from university into the sector. 

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About the author

Image of student Jennifer Read for blog profile

Jennifer Read
Third year Fashion Design BA (Hons) student

My name is Jennifer and I am in my third year as a Fashion Design BA (Hons) student here at the University of Derby. Besides my degree, I assist the marketing team at the University for prospective students. In my free time, I love to design and sew my own clothes, shop second hand and travel to new countries.