Joana Freitas: What Is Like To Be A Fashion Designer At Peter Pilotto
Hi Joana. Let’s start with a bit of a basic question. What do you do?
Hello! I am an Assistant Fashion Designer at Peter Pilotto, which is a London-based luxury fashion brand. I have currently been working there for 1 year and a half and at the moment we are starting the Resort 2019 collection.
Have you always wanted to work in fashion?
Well, not really… Since I remember, I have always really cared about what I wore and always chose my own clothes since little, however looking at Fashion as a career path only came to me later. I knew I wanted to study something within Arts, so then I moved to the UK to do a Foundation Year in Arts and Design, that was the first time I realized Fashion could actually be considered a career option. This all happened quite late because Fashion in Portugal is a really small industry and not truly appreciated by the Portuguese as an art.
It was in the Foundation year that I got to try a bit of everything, and for the first time it opened my eyes to Fashion, as a subject to pursue as a study and career.
Has your view on the world of fashion design changed after starting to be a part of the industry?
Yes, definitely! When you study Fashion Design the main idea given to you is that you either are going to be doing something extremely extravagant in Haute Couture or you are going to be stuck in a high street brand doing technical drawings forever, and either one of them are hard to get.
However, once you start working you realize that nothing is as glamorous or as boring as you could initially think. Fashion is still a business that runs on their consumers and that the Fashion shows is just a small part of it, the final aim is the product that gets to the shop floor and a lot of the process rotates around that.
It was interesting to start working and to understand all the different kinds of teams that get involved season after season. As a Fashion designer I always saw it from the starting point; the research, sketching, getting new ideas, draping, etc; however I am just part of the starting point of a very big cycle and what for a design team could be a beautiful piece of creativity for the majority of the other teams it is just a product. I would admit that once I became part of this industry the whole glamour and uniqueness behind it, did got slightly lost, however I did find the rawness and passion that people have for it.
How does your daily routine or work day look like (here you might list a series of things you do everyday, pointing out it might be different depending on the period of the year)?
So a day at Peter Pilotto as an Assistant Designer can vary a lot from day to day, and it really changes on the time of the year as well, it might be easier to plot it through different phases. We do have four seasons a year (Resort, Spring/Summer, Pre-fall and Autumn/Winter) and they all follow after each other. We usually start with a direction in what themes to research into so that we go off to libraries, vintage shops and archives, and even shops to research what it is available on the market at that moment.
Later we start narrowing down the research, start sketching, draping on the mannequin, doing small samples to test fabrics, etc. Simultaneously the textile and print team will have already most of the fabrics and prints developed so that we can start Photoshop-ing them into a few sketches to see how things work together. This development can last for a few weeks until we get the first fabrics and prints and start making mockups of the new designs.
Following, when getting to this stage everything flows quite quickly as we can start seeing some garments in real and then from then we start fitting often and making the changes needed to get to the intended look. All of this can take usually 2/3 months until the collection is finalized and ready to show.
When you lack of inspiration, where do you find new creativity? Is there a particular subject (ex. Music, travel, photography etc.) that inspires you constantly?
To be honest inspiration can really come from anywhere, but I would particularly say fine art, a specific art movement or artist, or even an art piece in particular. In parallel, fashion in the past centuries, is always essential to look back to, particularly 20th century. Both subjects have an endless research archive and I always discover new inspiring things.
Researching is one of my favourite tasks as a Designer, as I keep finding inspiration from decades ago, which still feel so contemporary. It is a source of inspiration that never fails and it really motivates me to try something new. Fine Artists can always be a great reference and inspiration for colour, mood, combinations and style lines.
After having dipped a foot in the fashion industry, what's the best advice you would give to upcoming designers and new starters?
I did realize that getting the first job is the hardest, as the industry is quite small and everyone knows each other, therefore as good as your portfolio may be, the most valuable skill you can have is your attitude and willingness to work. It is an industry that can be quite intimidating and is usually quite inaccessible, however once you have your first foot on the door many more opportunities will show up to you.
The biggest advice I could give you is to be dedicated and show that you are indispensible for your characteristics, and this attitude it is something you need to show from the start even in the shortest internships. You never know, you might work for people that like you, which can always become a new opportunity later. Just remember that as talented as you can be, the most valuable asset you can have is your personality and attitude.
Where do you see yourself going next and do you have any achievement in mind that you'd like to accomplish in the next few years?
In the shorter term, within the next 5 to 7 years I would like to experience working for different brands with a different design aesthetic and also with different ethics. At the moment I work in a luxury brand and not high street, which I truly enjoy and it really allows me to push my creative side, which for me is the most important. Consequently, wherever I would change to, I would still choose to stay within the luxury business.
On the other hand, I do more and more care about the environment and sustainability, so it is a theme that I would like to be able to work with in Fashion as I feel it is an area that is constantly developing and growing, and with still so much to explore. That being said, I would very much like to be able to experience in future jobs the coexistence of a luxury fashion brand with a sustainable side to it.
In the longer term, I do aim to get enough years of experience that will allow me to go off and build my own brand successfully, looking for it to be more environmentally and sustainably focused.