What happens when fashion design schools across the U.K. come together to promote the best of their emerging creative talent? It’s called London’s Graduate Fashion Week, and it’s the future of fashion.
Move over North West, because Old Navy and Gap had front row seats at this year’s event, held May 30 – June 2 at Truman Brewery. Erin Herrera with Old Navy and Keisha Golding with The Gap, pictured above, were among the industry scouts watching the runways and perusing portfolios of students ready to launch their design careers.
“We want to be known for our amazing product,” Herrera said. “And, in order to do this, we have to find the best creative talent. These students are the future of Design and we want them at Old Navy.”
Ashley Patterson, a former women's design intern and Bath Spa University Student, was one of eight Gap Inc. interns meow-worthy enough to show collections on the GFW catwalk. Inspired by her Spanish heritage and urban U.S. upbringing, Patterson's collection had hits of denim, utility and a buttery pair of bronze jogger pants. Her time at Old Navy gave her a leg up on what it takes to create a commercial line.
One way the company's design teams attract and invest in A+ talent is by inviting up to 10 students, like Patterson, from top universities to intern with the company each summer. These rising stars work alongside designer for 12 weeks, helping create styles for the upcoming collection. These interns are involved in everything from design sketching to milestone meetings culminating in a final project presentation to their brand leadership — this isn’t about grabbing coffee and making copies.
This program fuels the talent pipeline for design and product development, with some of the best and brightest returning in full-time design roles. Since the start of the Old Navy’s program in 2011, nine intern alumni have returned as Assistant Designers, and Gap’s former interns hold half of the brand’s junior design roles. Vic Riches (Old Navy Design Intern, 2011) is now an Associate Designer on the Old Navy Women’s Concept team.
“My internship was invaluable. I can’t believe I’m doing what I love for a living. I’m creatively fulfilled and challenged every day,” she said.
Gap’s program gives former interns, now in full-time roles, the chance to pay it forward as leaders for the next year’s class — standing behind the brand’s belief in the important influence of young talent. Zehra Naqvi, a 2014 intern who's now an Assistant Designer for GapFit, led this summer’s intern project, which focused on fit and athleisure design. The creativity and fashion-forward thinking in the students’ work blew Mireille Gindrey, VP of GapBody Design, away. Perhaps these are future active designers in the making?
Patterson, just off the runway in London, has graduated and will start with Old Navy full-time this month. On starting her new gig, she said, “I see where Old Navy is headed and I want to be a part of pushing it forward.”
The next wave of future designers is upon us. Old Navy and Gap’s Design Internship Programs are in session now.