I have launched a Fashion Q&A series on Scarlet Aura where I interview fashion industry folk, and established and upcoming local fashion designers. I believe that you need to surround yourself with those that are where you aspire to be and I find that with each Q&A feature, I’m learning something new that truly inspires the budding designer in me to take things to the next level!
It is my pleasure to present to you my Fashion Q&A feature with Kathryn McCarthy, Senior Buyer of UTOPIA at Zando. If you are an avid online shopper, you will recognize the brand UTOPIA as one of the fashion brands sold exclusively at the ever popular Zando.
I’m all for clean lines, well-structured garments and a minimal design aesthetic, and the UTOPIA brand exudes all of these qualities and more!
The better you know yourself and are comfortable with who you are as a person and as a designer, the more confident you become in your aesthetic, and you are less influenced by outside factors. ~ Kathryn McCarthy
I will be doing another Fashion Q&A in the near future with UTOPIA’s footwear designer, so do subscribe to the Scarlet Aura mailing list to be notified of that. There is always something new and inspiring to learn from Fashion industry experts like Kathryn.
Do scroll further read my Fashion Q&A with the lovely Kathryn of Utopia.
Fashion Q&A with Kathryn McCarthy of Utopia
I think fashion means different things to different people – there will always be some universal trend that the world will buy into, and there are a myriad of influences that shape global trends, but in my opinion fashion is really what you and your peers are wanting to wear NOW!
What made you decide to pursue a career in fashion?
I always thought I would be an academic, but when I look back now, I remember drawing pictures of clothes I wanted my mom to make for me, and devouring international magazines when I could lay my hands on them (times were different back then!). My walls were plastered from top to bottom with images and campaigns that I had pulled out of magazines, and I had loads of look books that I had put together using swatches from my mom’s sewing room, so I guess it was something that was always part of me. It was actually my mom who suggested that I study design, and once I realised that success in fashion required creativity as well as business and analytical skills, I was sold!
Do you have a specific research process when you start a new collection?
Fashion and trends don’t often have a defined start and stop date – it’s an evolutionary process that is happening all the time. As a creative person, I am continually influenced by what’s going on around me – always gathering inspiration and ideas from what I see and experience daily. When it’s time to put a new collection together, I revisit those ideas, and merge them with what’s happening internationally to come up with my own take on what’s new. I am very fortunate to be able to travel in my current position, so I get to see the trends at a retail level in the Northern hemisphere a season ahead of SA. The internet has really made the world a very small place, and I spent a great amount of time online just browsing various sites to see what catches my eye.
What do you enjoy most about designing clothes and what is the most challenging?
What I love most is seeing people on the streets wearing my designs – it’s an awesome feeling, and I usually have a little flashback to where I came up with the concept, the fabric selection and all the behind the scenes drama that nobody knows about – in the end its all worth it when you see people loving your range!
The most challenging is to anticipate what the next big thing is going to be, and then to execute your concept the way that you see it in your head, while using all your resources to do so.
How would you describe your design style?
I have a very commercial eye – probably because I have grown up a bit over the years! The better you know yourself and are comfortable with who you are as a person and as a designer, the more confident you become in your aesthetic, and you are less influenced by outside factors.
What do you think are the future trends in fashion?
The world is definitely more relaxed now than it has ever been – we have moved on from the suits of the 80’s and 90’s (I mean how many people are still actually required wear a suit to work?) Smart/Casual is the new smart, and athleisure is here to stay!
I think what’s most important these days is to understand your individual style – never allow your clothes to wear you – understand how certain styles and shapes make you feel, and then wear what works for you!
What advice would you give those interested in pursuing a career in fashion design today?
Start with the end in mind – understand what it is that you want to be doing in 10 years’ time, so that you make the best choices now.
There are so many career paths to choose from in fashion, and you don’t need to stick to only being a designer. Know yourself – your strengths and where you can improve – this is a tough industry, and for example – no 2 days are the same, so if you like routine, this might not be the best choice for you. Design is challenging because there is no right or wrong answer – this isn’t accounting! Be prepared to work hard, but if you love what you are doing, that won’t be a problem.
What impact do you feel fashion bloggers have on the industry today and where do you see it going in the future?
I think bloggers are hugely influential, and I believe that the influence blogging has on every aspect of our lives is going to become exponentially greater, the more widely known and followed bloggers become. The days of the world being dictated to are long over – people demand choice – and what better way to choose what you read and how you are influenced than by choosing who you see on your Instagram feed? The longer you follow any particular blogger, the better you get to know them, and the greater their influence on you becomes, the more you like them. These are real people, often aspirational to their followers – gone are the days of nameless, faceless individual telling you what you should be wearing or which colour lipstick is hot right now. You would rather trust the blogger whose look you aspire to, who lives the life you aspire to, to tell you these things, wouldn’t you?
No longer liking what they are saying? Unfollow. It’s that simple.
What is your inspiration behind your collection?
Utopia is for everyone – its trend relevant, without being inaccessible to the average woman in South Africa – we are not all a size 8! Dress it up or dress it down as you wish – make it your own!
How can we get our hands on your collection?
You can find UTOPIA exclusively on www.zando.co.za