Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Surprising Path of Fashion Design

Jobs In Fashion You Probably Didn’t Know Existed

Graduates in fashion design are finding work beyond the mainstream.  We meet three graduates working in the fashion industry in roles they never imagined and in jobs you probably didn’t know existed.

When Ashleigh Boyce, Jordan McKenzie and Elena Asikas finished their studies in fashion design at TAFE SA, none of them imagined the career in front of them or how quickly they’d secure work.

Before landing their current jobs, between them, they’d worked in hospitality, interned with couture designers, volunteered to help with fashion events and in fashion related PR. Upon graduating, one of them toyed with the idea of starting her own couture label and another took up honours in her Bachelor of Creative Arts Course. They didn’t have any idea of where their course would lead them, but they’ve all landed on their feet and love what they do.

While they couldn’t be happier, none of them is working as a fashion designer.

Ashleigh Boyce works as a Buyer’s Assistant for Suzanne Grae, while Jordan McKenzie and Elena Asikas wound up working together at Karmine Leather.


Ashleigh Boyce – Buyer’s Assistant Suzanne Grae, Sydney

TAFE SA graduate AshleighBoyce works as a Buyers Assistant with Susan Grae in Sydney

What exactly does a Buyer do and so how does a Buying Assistant help?

My job is to assist the Buyer for the Knit Top, Knitwear and Leisure departments. A big part of a Buyer’s job is overseas travel. They analyse overseas markets and identify trends, colours and shapes to begin planning their range. Back in the office they work closely with a team of people  to develop products for the next season. The Buyer is responsible for overseeing the whole product development process and ensuring the product is right for the customer.

My work involves everything from preparing reports and products for meetings, writing orders, assisting in the fabric approval process and sitting in on fits. I also update range boards and ensure any changes along the way are communicated clearly to the supplier to ensure our product gets to stores on time. Another part of my job is putting together visual tools such as mood boards or trend documents to communicate what is happening for the season and any other admin that is required.  It’s a very collaborative environment and requires open communication with all areas of the business from Marketing, Merchandising, Planning and Buying.

Aboriginal Clothing Brands

What did you imagine you’d be doing when you graduated?

My goal was just to be working. In Adelaide I was unsure of what opportunities I had ahead of me. It wasn’t until the start of my third year studying that I decided I was happy to go anywhere for a job and get the best experience I could. Eventually my long term goal is to make my baby label Tahuna, a full time business.

Describe a day in your life at work

A typical day starts with checking emails and setting out my plan for the day. On any given day there may be a Buyers meeting, fits, approvals to be sent, admin to be completed. I think the most important thing is to be organised and prepared to adapt. It’s a busy job that keeps me on my toes and any given day can be different. I love working with such a fun, talented team and learning more and more about the business.

To what extent is being prepared to move a factor in taking up work in the fashion business?

I love Adelaide’s fashion community and I think there is work out there for someone dedicated and keen to get into the industry. However, moving interstate for work was the best thing for me. Not only did it open me up to a world of opportunity, it gave me independence and confidence.

Ashleigh Boyce at work as a Buying Assistant Suzanne Grae

How far did your training prepare you for this job?

I couldn’t recommend the Bachelor of Creative Arts Fashion course enough.  From garment construction, fit and fabric knowledge, to the more creative side of the job.  I also found the business subjects and world of marketing and graphic design, very useful. TAFE SA and Flinders University together provided a well rounded education that prepared me well for working in industry.


Jordan McKenzie – Leather Production Assistant Karmine Leather, Adelaide

Karmine Leather Apron
Photo: Courtesy Karmine Leather

 What do you do?

My job consists of so many fun things. It’s always different which I find exciting and it also means that there is no standard day. My main role is to help develop and produce high end leather goods which include everything from to footwear to hospitality wear and hopefully one day fashion leather.

One day I might be creating beautiful handcrafted products for a customer, the next I could get the chance to help develop new concepts and ideas. Everything we make at Karmine is done by hand which means every product is unique.

 What did you imagine you’d be doing when you graduated?

In all honesty, I had no idea what I would end up doing after I finished! I thought bridal, evening and couture fashion was my end game. But at the same time, I was more than happy to take what came to me and learn from all the wonderful people who have helped me or who have been a part of this journey. Working with leather and the challenges it presents definitely was not something that I imagined myself doing, which is funny, because here I am!

How did you come to get the job?

I applied for the job after hearing about it from TAFE SA. There was so much I remember getting out of my course on this topic, as it does have its own specialised techniques and requires you to think differently. So I thought ‘Why not?’ and got in contact with Karmine. I think it was just meant to be?

I absolutely love the hands on aspect of the job! Because it’s leather we use so many fun and different tools to create something beautiful. There is a real craft to what we do… oh and I don’t know of many other workshops where it is 100% ok to use a hammer on something (especially if it’s a stressful time!)

To what extent has your training prepared you for this job?

TAFE SA and Flinders really helped upskill me to do the work that we do with Karmine Leather.  I learnt everything from a base knowledge about the in’s and outs of leather working to aquiring practical skills to being able to manipulate  leather to create a product.

Karmine Leather products
Photo: Karmine Leather

Did you know you’d be working with a fellow graduate when you took up the job?

OMG no! I rocked up one day to do my induction. When they showed me around in the workshop to say hello and meet everyone, standing there was Elena and you should have heard us scream and have a huge hug!  I think it was the last thing either of us were expecting!


Elena Asikas – Leather Production Assistant Karmine Leather, Adelaide

What do you do?

My work involves all elements of product development for ugg boots, slides, aprons, knife rolls, homewares and accessories. We have just started developing a range of leather garments now, which is great because I get to use my skills in patternmaking and be creative.

Jordan and I have the most experience out of everyone at Karmine Leather in pattern making, and it’s really cool, but also a “pinching” moment, like “is this real?” That’s because we are relied upon and our judgement and opinion is highly valued! As a recent graduate it is so cool but also strange to be considered a competent professional!

Each day is different, which is great!

Karmine leather products
Photo: Karmine Leather

Typically, when we get in in the morning we look for new orders in the tray. The manager gives us a brief of what we need to complete that day. Customer orders are prioritised. Usually one person will do the cutting, another will do the machining and, for shoes, another will glue on the soles.  Sometimes each of us will be required to make the whole product from start to finish, instead of completing just one stage.

There are so many things I love about this job! I never imagined working in leather but I am so, so glad that I gave it a try because I’ve learned so much. I love to learn. Literally, I  just love it every time I am making something new, problem solving and learning from the manager who has a plethora of knowledge and is so skilled and a pleasure to learn from.

I love that we are always doing something new and that we work together as a team to develop products and come up with ideas. It’s nice to be in an environment with team work! We are encouraged to make samples of our ideas and we all have input into product design and construction. What we are doing is new for all of us!

What did you imagine you’d be doing when you graduated?

After completing the Bachelor of Creative Arts Fashion course, I imagined that I would be making dresses and doing alterations for people I know. I thought that I would be applying for work experience at different places and doing placements and internships in the hope of it turning into employment. However, I didn’t think I would find work so quickly. I thought that this would last for a year or so and that I may need to move interstate for work.

How did you come to get the job?

After I graduated, I didn’t feel ready to work full time because I felt like there was still so much more for me to learn. I enrolled in honours and for my research project contacted Karmine Leather to find out more about the industry and its future. A few months later I heard Karmine were recruiting, so I sent off my CV. I then got asked to go for a trial. They were impressed with my machining skills and the way I used scissors, so I was offered the job!

How far has your training prepared you for this job?

Immensely! Without my Bachelor of Creative Arts Fashion training I would not have been able to work at Karmine Leather. The best thing about the course is that we are trained in all areas of the fashion industry. I am able to complete tasks such as: designing, patternmaking, construction, grading, selecting suitable fabrics and materials.

Completing my honours this year was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Without it, I wouldn’t have gotten in touch with Karmine Leather and probably would not have got the job!

Jordan Mackenzie & Elena Asikas TAFE SA graduates working at Karmine Leather
Jordan Mackenzie (L) & Elena Asikas at work at Karmine Leather



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