University interview tips for a fashion design degree course

Going for an interview for a fashion-related course
TARGETcareers spoke to successful fashion design graduate Amy Jones, now a womenswear design assistant. She explained what happened at her university interviews and the questions she was asked.

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Most universities invite candidates to interview for fashion degree courses, but not all. ‘I applied to four different universities and attended interviews for three of them,’ says Amy. ‘One accepted students based on their A level grades because it was a slightly more academic-based course. However, the university did offer days on which you could visit the design studio and chat to the lecturers informally, ask them questions, and show them some of your work for feedback.’

Interview structure for fashion design degrees

For Amy, the interviewers were the course leader and lecturers from the department. Her interviews lasted about half an hour and were usually included within a morning or afternoon of tours, opportunities for questions and meetings with current students. ‘All the interviews were the same format,’ says Amy. ‘I was required to bring a portfolio of work for the interviewers to look at in private, and then I would be asked questions on it. At one university, we were interviewed as a group and each asked individual questions.’

Interview questions for fashion design courses

It can be extremely helpful to prepare answers to questions in advance. If your interview experience is anything like Amy’s, the questions will largely be based around:

  • Your work and portfolio – where you get your ideas and inspirations from, how you go about researching a new brief, and so on.
  • Your interest in fashion – what designers inspire you, what magazines and blogs you read, why you want to study fashion design, and so on.
  • Your plans after university – where you see yourself in five years’ time and what kind of job or retailer you want to work in after university.

How to answer undergraduate interview questions

It’s helpful to understand what the interviewers are trying to find out. ‘They are looking for a basic understanding of the design process, how you have interpreted the brief, what research you have done, your design development, and then how you have presented the final outcome,’ says Amy. ‘They are also interested in where your ideas come from and how you get inspired by what’s happening around you.’ Make sure you have some questions for your interviewers ready too, such as ‘can I have more information on X?’. Other tips include:

Prepare to be challenged

When answering, remain positive and clear, and don’t become defensive if the interviewer questions your creative choices. ‘Be confident in your work and explain your ideas thoroughly,’ advises Amy. ‘Interviewers are there to look at your skills and ideas, and whether you would be suited to the university, not just their personal taste.’

Practise talking about your work

‘Know your work inside out and be able to talk about it enthusiastically and concisely,’ Amy advises. ‘Practise with a variety of people (eg friends, family, teachers etc); the more practice you get with people who don’t know your work, the more confident you will be.’

Research the fashion design course

To make sure you’re answering questions to the best of your ability, research the course. ‘Fashion design courses vary hugely between universities and have different reputations for the kind of graduates they produce,’ Amy observes. ‘Speak to students, go on the website, and try to find out about the course in more detail.’ Some courses are more creative, some are more academic, so it’s important to choose a course best suited to you.

What to ask your university tour guides

Current students will usually take you on a tour of the design department and show you the facilities. ‘This is the best time to ask questions and find out about students’ experiences,’ Amy advises. ‘I found they were very honest and open’. Some examples of things to find out:

  • Does each student have adequate space in the studio?
  • How many of the materials are provided by the university?
  • How frequently do the tutors give feedback on your work?

What to prepare before your fashion design interview

There are some things you'll need to do before your interview.

Fashion design portfolio

Amy explains that your portfolio of designs and fashion-related work is the most important part of your interview, as it will show who you are and what your interests are. ‘All interviewers will expect to see a portfolio, which are generally A3, although A level art students may have larger ones.’ Spend a good amount of time preparing this, ensuring that it shows off your strengths.

‘It’s important not to overfill it though,’ warns Amy. ‘Quality over quantity is key as most interviewers will be looking at a lot of work. About three or four of your best projects are enough.’ Make sure your portfolio is not cluttered but clearly labelled with consistent headings, and that your work is well presented on the page.

Fashion design sketchbooks

‘Interviewers love to see sketchbooks,’ states Amy. ‘they allow them to really see where you get your ideas from.’ Some universities specifically ask for them, although Amy suggests always bringing two that enhance and support your portfolio.

Fashion design interview tasks

‘It is not uncommon for universities to set briefs beforehand,’ she discloses. For one interview, Amy was asked to redesign a classic white shirt. ‘Make sure you allow yourself enough time to complete the task and can talk confidently about what you’ve done, and why you’ve done it.’

The briefs can be quite vague, but don’t get put off as they deliberately leave a lot of room for creative interpretation and allow you to follow your instincts and play to your strengths. ‘I struggled a bit with this as I wanted to impress my interviewers but wasn’t sure what they were looking for,’ reflects Amy. ‘In the end I decided to play on my particular skill, sewing, so I customised and remodelled the shirt. I also did a few sketches to show some of my initial ideas.’

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