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Alistair Smith

Career Path: Design Manager, Rapha
Location: United Kingdom

Design has always sparked my interest as an exciting path between art and commerce. Making products and creating experiences that put a smile on someone's face or improves their day-to-day life has always appealed to me. 

Since graduating, I wanted to work on creating products that solve problems. Sportswear, like workwear or military apparel, is function led, and a great combination of right and left brain thinking goes into making a product that's useful, gives comfort and performance and most importantly, is desirable.

What are you doing now?

I'm a Design Manager at Rapha. We make the best cycling clothing in the world. I oversee the apparel range and a great team of talented designers.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

I liked the creative led approach to the Fashion Design & Marketing course. Other similar courses at competing universities sounded much more business-led and less creative.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

It was great studying at Northumbria - mostly this was down to the great relationships with tutors. Friendly, understanding and passionate tutors go a long way when you're working endless late nights and struggling with the workload of your final year. All of the tutors had their own strengths that they specialised in which was a great help when having to combine lots of specialisms like graphics, photography, pattern cutting and construction, etc.

How connected was your course with industry?

My placement year at Nigel Cabourn was organised through Northumbria. It was a great year and a big learning curve.

What was the best thing about your course?

Getting to try and fail at lots of different things, an open creative environment, and really supportive tutors.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

The freedom of final year and being able to develop a tiny seed of an idea into a collection and film is an amazing feeling. Realising that this process of concept through to final product is empowering, and as you begin to do it over and over at the beginning of your career, you learn new skills, new tools, refine and improve this creation process.

Which skills/ knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

There were so many skills to learn - graphics, photography, CADs, sketching, pattern cutting, learning about materials, about construction, about who your creating for, etc. - mostly the course taught me to never stop learning. There are always new things to be learnt and you should be hungry to improve and sharpen your tools. This entrepreneurial mindset goes a long way, it's good to have itchy feet and stay curious.

What advice would you give somebody who is thinking of studying at Northumbria?

Talk to more people who've graduated from the course your interested in.

For more information about me visit:

*Alistair graduated from the course when it was known as Fashion Marketing.

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