How to write a personal statement for fashion
"Fashion is not simply a matter of clothes; fashion is in the air, born upon the wind; one intuits it." That's a quote from Coco Chanel – and it's how not to start a personal statement for a fashion degree.
When applying for a university fashion course, your personal statement won't even be read though if your portfolio is not good enough.
Willie Walters, programme director for fashion at Central St Martins, said the personal statement is "secondary" to portfolio work.
"I don't even read the statements unless the work looks interesting," she says.
Walters advises applicants to make their portfolio work as clear as possible, and to include research and sketchbook work, as well as photographs of design pieces. "We look for originality and something fresh."
When it comes to the written statement, saying you have a "passion for fashion" is an immediate no-no, says Josephine Collins, course leader for fashion journalism at the London College of Fashion.
"It's easy to do and sounds great but we've seen it so many times before," she warns. Similarly, admissions tutors cringe when confronted with yet another tired quote from a fashion icon.
Fashion related courses are notoriously competitive, so avoiding clichés is an important way to make your application stand out, says Andrew Groves, course director for fashion design at the University of Westminster.
"Put yourself in my shoes," says Groves, who reads over 1,000 personal statements each year. "How would you make yours different from all those other applications?"
Although mentioning your favourite designer is a good idea, you should think carefully about who you cite, says Mal Burkinshaw, programme director of fashion at Edinburgh University.
"We always have the same designers quoted. Every now and then someone says they are interested in a more conceptual designer and it makes them stand out. You can tell they are engaging more deeply."
Evidence of engagement with fashion is essential, agree tutors, but make sure you are thinking about it as a serious industry.
"Fashion is the third largest industry in the UK," says Jane Gottelier, programme leader of the fashion department at Falmouth University.
"I steer clear of students who talk mainly about celebrity fashion
and TV programmes in their personal statements because it makes me think that they see fashion as something rather fluffy," she says.
As well as explaining why you want to study fashion and listing any relevant work experience, it's also important to show interests outside of fashion, say tutors.
"Some of our fashion courses are really business-orientated," says Liz Barnes, senior lecturer in fashion at Manchester University, "so demonstrating a commercial mind is key."
Outside interests show an engagement with general society that is important for a fashion student, and key to fashion admissions tutors.
It's important to be up to date on current news, to prove an academic interest and to show curiosity about the world and an inquisitive mind. If you have an unusual hobby don't be afraid to mention it as it might help yourself get noticed.
"I've had ice skaters, an Olympic-standard gymnast and stick insect collectors," says Anne Chaisty, principal lecturer in fashion studies at the Arts University Bournemouth.
Fashion may be portrayed as a cut-throat industry, but people who are interested in giving something back interest Chaisty.
"We look for students who want to make a positive difference through what they do as a designer," she says.
Accuracy and a good flow are things all tutors agree on when it comes to a good personal statement, but Barnes says you should also be in tune with the specifics of your course.
"There are lots of courses that are called fashion marketing, for example, but the content of those courses will vary enormously," Barnes explained.
"Understand the course you are applying for and tailor the personal statement to match."
For courses where a portfolio carries a heavier weighting than the personal statement, it is still important to express personality in your written statement.
Tutors say individuality and character are perhaps the most important things to convey.
"Don't contrive something for the sake of it," advises Chaisty, "just be honest, be natural and be yourself."
Just don't quote Coco Chanel.
This article was amended on 19 September to correct an error, changing Willie Walters' job title from course leader to programme director of fashion at Central St Martin's.Source: www.theguardian.com