A Fashion Management Degree (UK), Bethany’s “passion for fashion”

Another great student story we have on the blog. This time we will have a look at Bethany’s story, “a passion for fashion”. Bethany started her degree in Fashion Management at 27 to pursue her dream of a high level career in the fashion industry.

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A Fashion Management Degree at 27, Bethany’s Story

Hi all, I’m Bethany and I’ve just finished my penultimate year of my degree in Fashion and Brand Management. I started university at 27 and this is my student story.

Note that I didn’t say mature student, and I did it on purpose. I never liked the idea of being labelled differently from other students! Even more importantly, I never felt any different!

Of course I was older, so what? I’ve met a lot of students at university from all ages (more than I was actually expecting); and I always told them they were students, not mature students!

I firmly believe that splitting students by categories only needs to discrimination; mature student, international student, first generation student and all that nonsense. I’m a student, you are a student, full stop.

My life before starting a Fashion Management Degree at 27

A very easy going girl who loved fashion is the best why to describe me! I liked the “luxury” lifestyle and big brands, which means shopping for me is a religion.

My dream was always to work in the fashion industry, and I thought retail would be the easiest way to get into the industry without needing a degree. Yes, university was never the plan back in the days, I couldn’t stand the idea of spending more years studying!

So I got a job as a retail assistant in a family-run clothing boutique. I learned a lot in my first job, and I was literally in tears when I left two years later. I felt I was part of the family, and I loved calling customers by name!

Most of them were habitual customers, I would see them regularly and we’d established a fantastic relationships. I left that job because there was no career growth opportunities; after all it was a small family-run business.

Life experience

Before getting a new job I wanted to take a break from the full time working life. So I decided to do some travelling with the money I’d saved. It turned out to be a long break as I ended up spending 14 months in Paris!

I always wanted to visit the city and learn French, loved the sound of it! I was originally going to stay there for a month to attend a French language school. As my expectations of learning the language in one month were obviously unmet, I decided to stay longer.

I got myself a job as a waitress job and kept going to that French school. The combination of my waiting job work and language school meant that I was able to speak French “fluently” in about a year! I spent the last month or so travelling around France before coming back to the UK.

Career progression

I quickly found a job I really wanted, retail assistant for a luxury French fashion brand.. won’t say the name but it’s one of the biggest. I mean, the job ad said something like “previous experience in luxury retail essential, French language a plus”. So I was like, this is for me, it’s perfect!

Indeed it was, cause I’m still there lol, I’m working part time and studying full time. Another massive learning curve for me, dealing with a completely different clientele, mainly tourists and wealthy people (the shop is located in a high street and it’s super busy!)

My salary is ok, but I get very good commissions on sales and performance bonuses. I’m very good at my job, which means sometimes I also get some nice tips:)

Why starting a Fashion Management Degree at 27

It all started the year before the pandemic. I wanted to grow in the company and I started looking at some potential careers I’d have liked. One in particular caught my interest, brand manager. I’m sure different companies have different titles for this position. It involves a lot of travelling, which as you might know I absolutely love!!

As a brand manager I would travel around visiting different stores to re-organise the layout for new arrivals, offers, meeting managers, assess performances etc. I would also need to take care of new openings, travelling around the UK making sure everything is in place. On top of that, I would take part in fashion events and conferences around the world to promote the company.. a dream job!

Few positions were advertised internally first, so I applied even though the ad said a degree was essential for the role. I was invited for an interview which I truly believed went really well. They liked (at least that’s what they said) my attitude, desire to work in the industry, the fact I spoke French and was willing to travel.

Well, the week after I received an email saying I had been rejected due to “lack of necessary qualifications”. I was heartbroken, I had already dreamed myself in that role. I used pretty much all my company training budget trying to upskill and improve my CV. So I completed a leadership course, and a high profile customer relationship management training too.

Few months later, I applied again hoping that I would be considered with a better CV. I wasn’t even interviewed! Rejected straight away, same reason. The role was later given externally to a graduate with no experience in the industry!

“I decided to start university at 27 when I was at my lowest point”

At that point the idea of starting university as a mature student (I didn’t know anything about this mature student nonsense) started to appeal to me. Honestly, I loved my job, but I loved the industry first! I wanted to become a brand manager no matter what.

I was already in touch with few university to discuss my return to education options, then the pandemic crashed my plans. For the first time ever in my life, I experienced depression and anxiety. I was alone during the first lockdown, and I basically spent time talking to myself.

My talks (with myself lol) brought me to a choice; either wait until everything was over to go back to my old life; or do something to improve it. I decided to improve my life! So when uncertainty was hitting the world hard, I found my strength.

I had to wait a couple of months to do the whole thing, universities were in a bit of “troubles” trying sorting admissions, online lecturing, protests and so on. But I did it, I started university at 27 in Fashion Management!

University at 27, what’s like?

My first semester was completely online for obvious reasons, which had its pros and cons. From no studies at all to studying at university level remotely was quite a steep learning curve.

As things slowly got back to normality, I had more face to face interactions. Finally, I started to physically attend classes and tutorials. I’m a very extroverted and friendly person, definitely an over sharer as you might have noticed:)

I’ve been living university life fully so far. Studying at the library, going to events and flat parties (although I haven’t joined a society). Mind that I’m still working part time while studying full time, around 30hrs a week. This takes a lot of my time away from the full university experience!

I’ve made quite a few friends too despite being a “mature” student. The legend that you won’t make friends at university because you are older is just wrong. My two best friends at uni are a lovely lady of 43, and a very young girl in her 20s. Our passion for fashion ties us more than our age gap takes as apart!

Is Fashion Management a good Degree?

I love the subject, but I also love the fact that I can choose different modules too. Fashion management covers all the fundamentals of the fashion industry, but it also leans heavily into business, marketing, visual communication, sustainability and much more!

If you like fashion as much as I do, you will absolutely love studying all the details “hidden” to the costumers’ eyes! For me it was nice to study these theories while partially see them at work though on a small scale.

Throughout my fashion management degree I’ve also been studying the different fabrics in detail, their supply chains and everything surrounding sustainability and environmental impact.

You cannot imagine how many wonderful conversations I had with customers around those! I always got complimented for my knowledge, I love being addressed as a fashion expert!

Next year is dissertation time for me, which I’ll do internally for the company I work for as a case study:) I can’t wait to get started! I will also attend the Milan fashion week as part of my last year, looking forward to that!!

Any advice for those who think it’s too late to start university?

Only one, always follow your passion! The way I like to think about it is that I wasn’t supposed to go to university when I was younger. I followed my passion for fashion, that led me to my first job in retail for a clothing boutique.

It was my passion for fashion (love the way this sounds) that made me want to learn French and led me to Paris. Thanks to that I was able to find a job I liked for a company I dreamed of. The same passion has then led me to start university at 27; and that passion will get me where I want!

So my advice is, follow your passion and it will lead where you want, doesn’t matter how, doesn’t matter when!

Thank you Bethany!

That was a wonderful story, thank you for sharing it Bethany! I’m sure your fashion management degree will take you to your dream career!

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