Griffith College’s Faculty of Design were delighted to see three of our recent graduates shortlisted for the 2020 IDI Graduate Design awards, with two announced winners in their category. Given the huge impact COVID-19 had on learners, which was felt especially harshly by our Design students, we are particularly proud of our finalists.
To celebrate their efforts, over the coming weeks we will be running a series of interview pieces with our finalists to find out a little more about them, what makes them tick and what they’ve been up to since graduating.
This week, we speak to Bethaney Woolley who graduated with a BA (Hons) in Fashion Design in December 2020 and was announced as the winner in the IDI’s Graduate Award in the Fashion Design category.
Great to meet you, Bethaney. Firstly, will you tell our readers a bit about yourself - what made you want to study Fashion Design?
My story is probably a bit less traditional than some others. When I initially left school I studied Pharmaceutical Science at DCU for two years but I dropped out because it really wasn’t for me. I felt super lost and didn’t really know what to do so my sister suggested a six-week dressmaking course because I’d always loved crafts as a kid. My teacher thought I had potential and suggested I study Fashion Design so I applied for a PLC course at Sallynoggin College of Further Education. After two years there, I managed to secure one of Griffith’s academic scholarships which I used to progress onto their Fashion Design degree and continue my studies that way.
What’s your favourite thing about the field?
It’s funny because growing up, I wasn’t a typical “die-hard” fashion lover. I didn’t religiously follow trends, read fashion magazines or watch the runways. I liked fashion, don’t get me wrong, but I think everyone makes assumptions about what the fashion world is like, so when I started I was really nervous and still wasn’t convinced it suited me. As time went on, though, my confidence grew and I realised how much of a release design was and is for me. I’m quite emotional by nature and I think there’s something so special about getting lost in a design concept and exploring different avenues. It’s really exciting seeing where your mind takes you.
How did it feel to win the Graduate IDI Award for Fashion Design?
Honestly? It felt amazing! I couldn’t believe it! I was so humbled to have been even nominated let alone win! This year was a tough one to graduate in. There’s usually a physical graduate design show in every college which is a great place to showcase your work and network with people in the industry. Sadly, because of COVID-19, we didn’t have that opportunity which was obviously disappointing. That, plus the fact the fashion industry is one that’s been impacted quite heavily by the pandemic made me feel a little disheartened, but winning this award made it all feel worth it and I feel it’s given me the recognition needed to progress in my field.
Tell us about your winning project, Blind Spot. What was your inspiration?
I’m really interested in purity and simplicity in my work. My designs are minimalist but involve beautifully intricate details which make them equally inviting. I also like the idea of designs that don’t just look beautiful but also make you feel beautiful, so I focused on using materials and techniques that appeal to your sense of touch. This, combined with my desire to design in a more inclusive way is what inspired me to think about designing for the visually impaired.
I liked the idea of how texture can help to build a picture of beauty in a different sense. I think it’s important that fashion is accessible, and I want to create garments that encourage people to really feel what they are wearing. My pieces include subtle details such as the use of braille on fabrics to allow visually impaired people to make independent fashion choices through their sense of touch, but also to encourage others to re-imagine how we perceive fashion and the world around us.
What have you been up to since you graduated?
Since graduating I have set up an online store selling naturally dyed silk accessories. I also recently obtained a residency at a studio so I am in the process of setting up my own brand which I’m very excited about so watch this space!
What’s the most significant thing you took from Griffith College – either in terms of skills or personally?
One of the things I’m so appreciative of is that Griffith really taught us how to be industry ready. They’ve managed to blend conceptualism and commercialism into the course and they’re really focused on ensuring students gain the right digital and technical design skills needed to be successful, as well as softer skills and knowledge about the industry, something that not a lot of other fashion design courses offer – for that I’m really thankful. Being awarded one of the college’s scholarships is also something which I will always be very thankful for and incredibly proud of. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
What are your plans for the future?
Right now I’m really enjoying taking on any new experience that comes my way and I’m excited to see what the future holds.
Anything else you would like to share?
If anyone feels like they’re not good enough, that they don’t have the finances or the skills to pursue a fashion degree, think again because if I can do it so can you!
Want to keep up with Bethaney's progress? You can find her at the links below!