There is no time like the present for enterprising fashion designers, says Annabel Smith.
The Fashion course leader and lecturer at Harrogate School of Art and Design, Annabel has run her own fashion design business and is currently researching a Doctorate in Design Practice that aims to pass entrepreneurial skills on to her creative students.
Australian-born Annabel has a degree in Fine Art, from La Trobe University, Melbourne. She uprooted to the UK in the 1980s, gaining a second degree in Fashion Design and Knitwear from the former Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort University) and a PGCE.
Annabel began teaching fashion at Harrogate School of Art in after gaining considerable industry experience. She spent two years designing bridalwear and five years running a design room for a company specialising in casual and smart-casual clothing, before launching her own business as a couture wedding gown designer in Windsor.
Moving to Harrogate in 1998, she brought the business to Yorkshire with her. And, since 2000, she has been heavily involved in the teaching and development of our Fashion offering.
She is now using her Doctorate research to design learning material to help students acquire the skills to enable them to start their own businesses. This material, and its delivery format, helps develop effective entrepreneurship and strategic thinking but in a way that suits her students’ creative learning styles. A five-year programme from the University of Northumbria, her doctorate has included a two-year taught MA. In it, Annabel’s uses her business acumen to enable our graduates to succeed.
“My hypothesis is fashion students are not being taught business in a language that’s appropriate to creative minds. I’m designing learning material that will be appropriate, accessible and in a format that creative students find relevant.”
One of the lessons Annabel has learned from her teaching practice is that creative people often learn in a “visual” way.
“I am currently in the middle of researching the theories and practice behind learning styles for my Doctorate thesis,” she says. “I don’t expect students to remember it all but, if it’s delivered in a format and a way that they enjoy – which they can identify with, which is visual, exciting, a story that they can access at any time and is relevant to them specifically – then with a bit of luck, it will stick.
“Some educationalists are already working along these lines. It’s interesting, it’s expanded exponentially. I intend to test my theory with active research methodology, assessing my students’ power of recall, as well as assessing the things they got bored with.”
Annabel attends entrepreneurship marketplace events in London, where she shares knowledge and expertise with businesspeople who wish to mentor creative students. She also gets her students involved in Yorkshire Young Enterprise, which offers mentored business support.
“My job is purely to give them that core information and core skills to get them started,” she says. “There is a lot of relevant material that we could be teaching in terms of the philosophy and ethics of business, which is very hard to convey to visual learners and is an area many fashion and art schools brush over. I want to make it relevant to fashion design students, and creative learners generally, so they can go out and contribute to business in the real world.”