A Columnnversation...with Abi Lewer
The Columnversations (I know! Took the day off after I coined that one, let me tell you) are designed to be a flow of information - not a stuffy Q and A interview. At Maison de Choup, we’re all about talking and listening, so these pieces should reflect a collaborative interaction between friends. We’re doing away with more restrictive formats, to better show you how we value those intimate conversations that everyone has (and desperately needs) during these [deep breath] UNPRECEDENTED TIMES.
So in the last week of the month, we'll chat to a creative - to highlight incredible work, stories, ideas and entrepreneurship.
Abi Lewer is a super creative and motivated individual, and a very fitting person for our first foray into a casual chat. She has designed and made some masks for us to launch on our site, (more to come about that this week - keep an eye on our socials!) but our relationship with her goes further than that. She actually did her FMP on the brand - for those who don’t know what that is (me lol), an FMP is a final major project (duh!) where you have more freedom to choose your scope and subject - and she chose us! Stoked.
Hi Abs! Let's get cracking. Tell our readers more about your story.
I’m 22 and a fashion graduate from Maidstone, Kent. Since school I’ve loved being creative, I did textiles for GCSE and A-levels and it was only right to carry my passion through to University. From then on, I knew I wanted a career in the fashion industry.
And why did you choose Maison de Choup as your focus for your final major project? That's honestly a massive decision.
MDC is a brand that really represents everything I wanted to get across in my final major project. My course was a four-year Fashion Design degree with a placement completed between my second and final year - I was a pattern cutting intern at ASOS. Although I had to write a dissertation, it was worth a very small percentage, whereas my degree is based on my FMP.
Fashion is a very intense and emotionally and physically draining course which took a toll on my mental health, particularly anxiety and depression, so I based my dissertation on answering ‘to what extent does the fashion industry affect your mental health?’. This is when I came across George and MDC, and reached out to him, and he was kind enough to answer some questions. I then used this to explore different ways in which I could achieve and express a similar message. I am incredibly grateful as for my FMP I was awarded the Roadley Sustainability Award as well as being shortlisted for the Fashanne Peoples & Judge's Choice award - results come out Thursday!
Ahhhh, okay. That makes sense. So what would you say inspires you to create?
I love creating commercial products that have a reason or message behind them - without being too literal. All my projects at university are based on a concept which usually has a powerful message, like feminism, rioting and now mental health. The inspiration mainly comes from the appreciation and people’s reactions and compliments I receive on the items I make. This is incredibly rewarding and is better than any form of payment as really boosts my confidence and abilities in what I do.
Okay so what do YOU wear?
I have a major obsession with animal print - anything with any animal print, I'll wear it. I also am a complete bargain hunter, so anything in high street sales or from charity shops to be more sustainable.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the fashion industry, right now?
Finding a job in fashion is incredibly difficult, particularly in this current climate, and especially for graduates. I’m constantly told I do not have enough experience for an entry-level or graduate role, but I’m not in a position where completing an unpaid internship is feasible. Especially as the jobs and internships, I had applied to have been put on hold due to Coronavirus.
As a former unpaid intern, I completely agree. It's...one of the toughest financial landscapes out there, for sure.
And the fashion industry itself is facing two big challenges. One being fast fashion is not sustainable & secondly, working within it majorly affects your mental health. Fast fashion is killing the environment for a number of reasons, but I don’t feel that consumers are aware of this when buying their items of clothing.
How do fashion and mental health overlap for you personally?
Personally, working in or studying fashion is one of the main causes for my mental health, and from my dissertation research, the cause for many others. However, I also feel that fashion is a creative outlet and a way of expressing built up emotions and feelings without having to use words - the message behind my FMP.
How have you held up during this pandemic?
I really struggled mentally in the beginning. Especially not being able to spend time with or see my family and friends, who are my support system and completing my degree from my bedroom when I was so used to being in a spacious studio. However, I’ve found things a lot easier by using FaceTime, blog posts and completing a lot of exercise.
How has the pandemic changed things for you?
The pandemic has not only completely changed how I finish and achieve my degree but has also changed my career path. I have to try to gain as much experience in the fashion industry in other ways due to the current environment by entering competitions and running my own alteration/creating business, which has really taken off! I’ve also been making keepsake and memory cushions and bears as well as selling face masks, all alongside working in a restaurant.
And lastly - what's on the horizon?
I hope that within time I not only continue my business, but get my dream job as a pattern cutter.
WEARING: My mask! I’ve been having a lot of trouble remembering to leave the house with it - so I’ve started keeping it right next to my keys and sunglasses (both essentials). It is a bit disheartening to see so many people still not wearing theirs at the supermarkets, but it’s also great to see some shops offering to provide them, as well. And I definitely know where I’ll be getting my next mask from...
LISTENING TO: Obviously folklore. I mean, is there even another album on earth right now? I want to make it clear - until 1989, I was definitely a fairweather Swift listener. But this album...is cottagecore at its very, very best.
BUYING: These sneakers. I’ve never been a ‘trainer’ person, preferring very nondescript white casual shoes - and trust me, it’s not like I need anything for ‘running.’ But these leapt out at me - the perfect shade of ‘go-to peach.’
EATING: Coconut rice. Just learned how to make it. Do you ever eat something out all the time, and then much later you realise that you can just do it for yourself at your house, for no money? Yep. It’s super easy - which everyone already knew, and I'm the only one who hadn't yet twigged.