If I had the time, or another life, I would be an art and design student. During my schooldays practical subjects like ‘domestic science’, sewing, art and crafts were believed to be the realm of the ‘less able’ girls. Those who couldn’t excel in academic subjects. When it came to practical skills and crafts I didn’t try because I didn’t see the point. What other-worldly plain did I exist on? Latin, now that was another story, worthy of effort. Well-written essays being far superior to anything hand-made. My attempts to sew were futile. The PE bag was too small to hold my pumps. And the pinafore was unwearable as I sewed together both armholes. I couldn’t make pastry as my hands were always warm. The pastry was grey and the family wouldn’t eat it. And a jelly and fruit salad I made didn’t set and ran down the top deck of a number 80 bus every time it jolted. Little was left and the jelly had started to set in rivulets down the sides of the bus. I got told off when I got home as my parents couldn’t figure out what they’d paid for. So, I am left with a lifetime of cerebral achievements and not many developed practical skills. Unlike the students whose work I saw today.
With great admiration and a little envy I watched the MA students’ final Fashion Show at the Royal College of Art. The craftsmanship, ingenuity and sheer hard work of the students was a joy to behold. I suppressed my inclination to think ‘Who would wear that?’ particularly in relation to sequinned men’s shorts and garish gas-mask hats. Everything has to be perfect and if it isn’t it has to be remade, even after the show. What does perfection look like? The materials were exquisite, the tailoring body perfect, the colours vibrant, the detailing precise. The best of British. But not for long.
My young friend Becci has benefited from a bursary to support her study and the high cost of materials, as well as a mandatory trip to Italy, to study tailoring. Apparently tuition fees have increased and bursaries withdrawn for next year. The consequence is obvious: little rich kids get to go and the course is marketed more heavily to international students. The creative industries make a vast contribution to the UK economy. What a shame it will be to deprive talented students from humble backgrounds the opportunity to benefit from this exceptional education.