WRITTEN BY YULIYA KYRPO
At age 13 Yuliya started to pursue her passion in a big way! She’s committed to nurturing her understanding of the industry she loves and she’s learned some valuable lessons along the way about what it takes to find success…
The Soviet Union broke up just before I was born in the small city of Vinnitsa in Ukraine. Soviet ideals were therefore still prevalent while I was growing up. A woman had to know how to cook, paint, clean and do other stereotypically female tasks.
This is probably one of the reasons why I learned how to sew; my mum used to sew for herself and so did my grandmother.
At school during technology lessons, boys used to do woodwork, mechanics etc. Meanwhile, girls used to do cooking and sewing. No one ever believes me that in Ukraine I was a bad student, even when it came to Art and Technology subjects.
However, at the same time I loved sewing Barbie dresses, making toy furniture and trying to utilise shells, boxes etc. and turn them into toys. I think I partly owe my creativity to the lack of toys and money we had in Ukraine.
Protecting the Good Reputation I Didn’t Have to Earn
When I was 13, I moved with my family to England so I don’t think I had a normal ‘teenagehood.’ I had to take responsibility for my future and, being in a new country with very little knowledge of the language, I couldn’t give into weakness or fear.
Stereotypical Ukrainian students are hardworking and clever, so from day one I felt like the teachers had high expectations for me. I am very grateful for that because, as the good reputation came without me earning it, I didn’t want to lose it. Therefore, I put all my effort into maintaining it.
I asked to be moved to the top set because the school program for academic subjects, apart from English, was equivalent to what I was studying in Ukraine two years ago. I also made sure to attend all possible school clubs and spend all my free time doing my homework to the best of my ability – unlike I used to do in Ukraine.
Young Designer of the Year 2007
One day I arrived to my Textile Technology class with a pencil case that I’d made. Everyone was very impressed and my teacher suggested I enter the Young Designer’s competition.
I entered and was the youngest contestant at the age of 13. Amazingly, I managed to win Young Designer of The Year 2007. I worked on the project all the time; I didn’t go out or see my friends, apart from when I was in school.
Looking at the garment now, I wonder to myself what could possibly have made me win this competition. The answer is passion. That was my hobby. Although I had an incentive to do it, it was making my ideas come true that motivated me most – and it worked!
My First Collection
The competition prize was a fabric sponsorship to create a design collection. So, whilst studying for my GCSEs, I designed and made six outfits inspired by blossom trees and roses and bees.
When I was little we use to make dolls out of toothpicks and upside down flowers and this was another vision come true for me.
The collection was exhibited during the Young Designer Awards 2008. It wasn’t part of the competition or any award, but to this day the work ethic and that I had during that time serves as a standard which I aspire to maintain.
1000 Paper Cranes Grant a Wish
If I can remember right, I was in year 11 when my mum brought the Metro Newspaper home and showed me a competition advertisement to design something out of recycled newspaper. Obviously the only thing that came into my mind was a dress because I love making them.
I don’t quite remember why I decided to use origami, but the reason I used birds was because Japanese ancient legend promises that anyone who folds 1000 origami paper cranes will be granted a wish. The prize for first place was £1000 and that coincidence really excited me. Again, I drowned myself in making the dress…
Those thousand paper cranes granted my wish. I won the first place in the METRO recreate competition in the design category.
I was shortly contacted by the Blue Peter show organisers to see if they could feature my dress in their program. I appeared on their show for 20 seconds alongside the presenter Kate Skelton who was wearing the origami dress.
After the show, the dress was displayed at my secondary school until I sold it on eBay to the London Science Museum for £132. I donated all of that money to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The Science Museum displayed the dress at the Fashion Trash Exhibition about clothes upcycling and recycling for awhile – and then I lost the track of the dress.
This project was probably one of the most accomplished and completed. Even my dad, who was (and probably still is) against my decision to study and work in fashion said:
‘The first award can be seen as accidental or lucky, however the second proves talent and recognition.’
These are wise words. Don’t rest on your laurels; keep going. Also, I would highly recommend folding 1000 origami paper cranes. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you know your wish from the start.
London College of Fashion
After my A-levels, I was accepted into London College of Fashion (LCF). Obviously blinded by the prestige and glamour, I applied to several courses and, as an alternative, I also picked Business and Finance to challenge my destiny.
Luckily, I got into the Bespoke Tailoring course. Although I didn’t get what I expected, I managed to make connections and establish a wider outlook on life and the fashion industry.
It is not as glamorous as everyone thinks. Not everybody wears Lady Gaga outfits or designer bags – and there’s lots of politics and subjectivity involved in selection processes, marking and shows.
It is not an open door into the fashion industry; it’s just a key-making workshop. If you learn how to make the right key – and can then find the right door – you will be in the right place. I don’t know whether I’ve made the right key for the right door just yet.
The Benefits of London College of Fashion
- good reputation
- great friends
- experienced and knowledgeable tutors
- technical technicians available
- access to sewing machines and cutting tables
- talks by industry professionals, writers and scholars
- access to libraries at all UAL sites
- opportunities/internships/jobs notice board
- technical resources across different sites
Downfalls of London College of Fashion
On the negative side, the opening hours could be longer and the teaching hours are very limited. Occasionally there are lectures and workshops, however on my course we get taught on average approximately only six hours per week.
To access all of the facilities you have to book, organise, find, prepare, and research. Therefore, to enjoy your stay at the LCF and to make the most you have to be organised, flexible, independent and proactive. Hard work really pays off because tutors really support students who are motivated and who have the right attitude to work.
Looking back at my little history, I can say that I have really developed practically, creatively and mentally. I believe that everyone you meet has a purpose and people should never underestimate others because nobody knows what change they can bring to your life.
I’m really grateful to people I’ve met along the way, from my textile teacher who suggested that I enter the competition and started me on this journey, to people like my school mentor who used to order dresses from me, and my tutor who suggested me for an internship.
I’ve also noticed how educational establishments can nurture animosity for the things we love because they try to impose rules and limits. For a creative student there could be nothing worse than that, however In Ukraine there is a saying:
‘Agreeable calf sucks two udders.’
It is very important to notice what the politics of university or any other course are – and to do all the work according to them. However, after that make sure to focus on what you are really passionate about – because that is what makes the work unique. And this way both sides will be pleased.
Another thing to keep in mind is my favourite quote by Alexander McQueen, who was a true genius:
‘You have to know the rules to break them.’
10,000 Hours to Master a Skill
Apparently it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, according to Dr. K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University. Talking from personal experience, the more time I have spent sewing, the more common sense things start to become. I am now able to find more functional solutions for patterns or stitching and designs.
Therefore, if somebody has a dream, start nurturing it now. What are you waiting for? Now is the time to start living the life you want.
INSPIRATIONAL AND USEFUL LINKS
- Written by: Yuliya Kyrpo
- Compiled, formatted and edited by: Krista Beauvais
- Photos: all photos are courtesy of Yuliya Kyrpo
- Attending: London College of Fashion
- Email: julik [at] hotmail [dot] co [dot] uk