As part of a new end-of-the-year series we are launching, The Verse’s Alice Pierre had the opportunity to interview (via email of course, we didn’t break any social distancing rule) a few students who graduated this June 2020 from some of Brighton University’s arts programs. Today, we are talking with Sarah-Louise Koessler, who graduated with a BA (Hons) in Fashion Design with Business Studies and accepted to talk to us about her time at Brighton University and her art.
The Verse: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, your interests, how you got into illustration?
Sarah-Louise: My name is Sarah-Louise Koessler. I grew up in France with an English mother and a French father.
I lived in a small town in the region of Alsace surrounded by vineyards.
I went to the European School in Strasbourg where I perfected my English and graduated with a European Baccalaureate.
At the age of eighteen I made the big move to London to do a Foundation year in Art and Design in order to further explore my two interests: Interior and Fashion Design. I realized that I could take my crafts and creative interests (jewellery, accessories, sewing and DIY projects) and exploit them in my career.
The Verse: What can you tell us about your time at the University of Brighton?
Sarah-Louise: In 2016 I got an unconditional offer from Brighton University to study for a BA (Hons) in Fashion Design with Business Studies. I was thrilled as the course is regarded as one of the best in the country and it was my first choice! Brighton is such a creative and liberal place that it felt perfect for me. I have really enjoyed my time at Brighton University and have made some friends for life. I’m glad I chose this course, as I really enjoyed the business side and the year out in industry, which is not available on all fashion courses. It is an invaluable tool to start your own business.
My 3rd year out in industry was a turning point in my degree course. I was selected for an internship at the Haute Couture house, Ralph & Russo, in London. I assisted in fittings, pattern making, sewing and general atelier tasks. I also got the chance to work in their Paris showroom twice during Fashion Week. The second time I was sent as the London Atelier representative and managed a small team of interns.
I then returned home to Strasbourg where I interned with the designer, Adeline Zilliox. As I worked alone with her, I was exposed to all aspects of running a small business and was able to assist in all areas from designing, pattern cutting, sewing, embroidery and sales. During this year out I gained a useful insight into the Fashion industry. Not only in the areas I was interning in, but also in Marketing, Production, Design, Sales and general running of a business.
The Verse: What can you tell us about your practice, where you get your inspiration from, what themes you work around, etc.?
Sarah-Louise: I designed a 6-look fashion collection for my final major project entitled “This Madame, is Versailles”. Marie Antoinette meets Jeff Koons in a fusion of Rococo and Pop in the modern world. A high impact evening-wear collection for fashion conscious, playful and rebellious women. I began my journey drawing from my French heritage and passion for Versailles and the vibrant personality of the iconic Marie Antoinette.
After finding the book “Jeff Koons’ Versailles” from his exhibition there in 2009, I was intrigued by the juxtaposition of these two figures. Marie Antoinette is thrown into the modern world, capturing her spirit and joie de vivre in a super pop and stylized way, channelling the mirrored polished stainless-steel Jeff Koons’ sculptures. My collection picks up on the highly decorative Rococo detailing. To represent the decorative architectural mouldings in Versailles I made moulds from everyday objects I found in the studio using darts and seams to create these 3D shapes.
The Verse: could you tell us about your work for the Graduation show, and what you have worked on this past year?
Sarah-Louise: Due to COVID we were only expected to make 2 looks. I managed to finalise 3 from my 6-look collection, which is now available online in the form of a portfolio on the University of Brighton Graduate Show platform, as well as on The Dots and Arts thread. If you are interested in seeing more behind-the-scenes and up to date documentation of my work, please do not hesitate to consult my Instagram account (@Sarah_Louise_Designs).
The Verse: I think we can all agree this year has been quite strange, with the strikes and mainly lockdown, which resulted in online classes, as well as Graduation shows, and ceremonies being cancelled. What has it been like for you?
Sarah-Louise: Everyone’s final year is a challenging and important year. In the first half of the year we submitted a business plan and a dissertation and then we focused on the design and making of our final year Collection, composed of 6 looks. If you want to study Fashion, you have to be passionate about it. We spent every day from 9am-8pm in the studios experimenting, developing, pattern cutting and sewing. For Fashion students, the final year is arguably the most important. The year where you’ve worked for comes to fruition.
Normally, you design and make a collection of 6 outfits and have the opportunity to showcase your work at Graduate Fashion Week, THE graduate event held in London and attended by important members of the industry and the press. It was the dream which, of course like many others, was crushed in the space of a week when, because of COVID, the university had to close and public health measures came into place. We had to move out of the studio, which had become our second home.
I loaded my housemate’s car with fabric, garments, my box with my name on it and a mannequin which was lent to us. I filled every crack of my room with fabric I had brought back and squeezed a rented industrial sewing machine into a corner of my room. The room where I once would relax after a long day became my workspace, my Home Studio. It took some getting used to and required a very different routine, but I soon got back into my creative bubble which also helped me through Lockdown. I felt like I still had a purpose and a goal during these hard times.
I must have worked most hours of the day, but I really enjoyed sewing and found it relaxing. During this time, we also received tremendous support from our tutors and technical support staff, who went above and beyond to keep us motivated and help us out as best they could remotely. This course was certainly challenging to do over Zoom, but we managed, and I think there have been some really successful results! The Graduate Fashion Foundation is still very keen to help graduates and is working on some smaller events for October, as well as some online options to help support and promote our work. So, I am optimistic.
The Verse: So, what’s next?
Sarah-Louise: Now that I have handed in all my work, I have decided to take a year in my new home in Portugal (Algarve) to work on my own business, my portfolio and develop new products to sell. I want to promote my Collection and finish making the other outfits. I will also use the time to take some short online courses to perfect my skills and specialize in new areas of fashion.
Here are the links to follow Sarah-Louise on social media
Sarah-Louise’s Graduation Show on Brighton University’s website: