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In conversation with: May Gauntlett, BA (Hons) Fashion

May is a BA (Hons) Fashion student and student ambassador. In this blog they talk about their practice, goals for the future, and what it’s like to study Fashion at Norwich.

Hello, my name’s May! I’m a disabled BA (Hons) Fashion student here at Norwich University of the Arts. I’m originally based in a small Cornish town called Penzance. My practice focuses around designing clothing which is inclusive for people with disabilities and advocating for a more accessible world. A fun fact about me is I only wear the colour yellow!

Why did you choose to study at Norwich?

Choosing to study at Norwich was definitely the right choice for me. I love the creative vibes of the city and how close and community focused it is here. Studying at the University itself is always a lot of hard work mixed in with a lot of laughs which makes it especially enjoyable. In Fashion we are based in the Guntons Building, which is most often a hive of creativity. In the entrance we have the Illustration and Graphics courses decorating the walls with their most recent work and we get to see what the Creative Computing students are doing in the new Creative Tech Lab. Then you climb the stairs up to the Fashion studios, which are full of industry standard technology and buzzing with new designs and people’s creations! It’s really great to see everyone’s work changing day by day and displayed next to their vibrant concept boards. Alongside students, we have our lovely team of lecturers and technicians who are on hand to help us deliver our work — and they’re normally up for a bit of playful banter!

What does a typical day at University look like for you?

Getting into the studios in the morning my friend and I drive close to campus and wander into the building. I normally have to stop for coffee and something chocolatey to get the day started. There is always a chill vibe in the mornings; someone is normally playing music I’ve never heard of and we all sit at our desks having a bit of a natter before the workshops begin. We’re often shown lots of our lecturers’ work and portfolios to help inspire our current projects, and sometimes we’re given short tasks to help excite our tired morning minds! From there it’s on with developing our own ideas, whether this is practical working on pattern drafting, cutting or sewing. Or maybe something a little more digital, like working on our research and concepts — or if we’re feeling brave maybe having a go at Clo3D, a 3D fashion design program.

We always like to have a break after some hard work, which means more time to chat about our projects (or gossip about our lives). Normally over a hot drink and a cheese toasty from The Feed, our Uni cafe (shout out to The Feed’s cheese toasties, they’re the BEST!) Then it’s back to the studio!

For me this normally involves keeping up to date on the news about disabilities and looking at new ways which clothing can be adaptive. Sometimes I come up with something mad, sometimes something a little more bland (I prefer the mad ones though!) From there I might be creating concepts of representation, researching what life in the industry will be like or checking in with my tutors to make sure I’m on track. They are always willing to give feedback, even if it’s not what you want to hear!

How do you stay inspired and where do you look for inspiration?

One of the things which drives my practice is my personal experience of getting dressed or online shopping for adaptive clothing. Trying to find adaptive clothing which is sustainable and stylish (and yellow enough!) is quite close to impossible, and I want to change that! I want the disabled community to be involved more in the fashion industry, and to have the ideas and needs of people with disabilities to be taken seriously. There are very few designers in the industry who share the view that inclusive and accessible fashion is important, but my personal choice of someone who is doing it so well is Victoria Jenkins — who I have been lucky enough to work alongside! Victoria is an adaptive fashion designer who wants to revolutionise adaptive fashion to make it colourful, stylish and be worn by anybody. Which is simply incredible; adaptive and accessible fashion is so important for the inclusion of people with disabilities!

How has your course helped you develop your skills and prepare you for the future?

My course has helped me so much in developing my ideas and supporting me on my journey! We learn about all the different ways which design can be developed, and the practices I can take forward into the fashion industry when I graduate. I also completed a Year 0 (now Integrated Foundation Year) at Norwich, which helped build up my confidence and knowledge to get on my feet when starting my course. It was an amazing team effort, especially since at that time I was struggling with my health. I owe a lot to everyone here at Norwich University of the Arts.

Tell us about how you use the facilities at Norwich

Getting to use the equipment here has been a blast! I’ve been in pretty much every studio at the Uni because I have the freedom to do so! One of my favourites has been working in the 3D Workshop to begin creating my very own seated mannequin, helping with my studies towards making fashion for those who use wheelchairs to help with their mobility.

What has been your highlight so far and why?

It’s really difficult to pick a highlight of my time in Norwich because I’ve had so many amazing opportunities. From working in the University’s East Gallery to drawing my first project and then bringing it to life! I think my ultimate highlight has to be that I get to indulge in this massive communal hive of creativity! 

Do you have any plans for when you graduate? 

Honestly, I’m really looking forward to graduation and taking my mission of adaptive fashion forward to make the changes which need to be made! Don’t worry, I’m also very scared because that means that I’m also a grown up. But if my time here at Norwich has taught me anything it would be to believe in myself! I have valid ideas and I can make them happen.

See more of May’s work

May’s portfolio (opens in a new window)

Photography by Adam Billings.

Student work by Molly Green. Model wears a dress with 'fabric' made from strawberries

Fashion BA (Hons)

Learn from fashion industry leaders and build a professional portfolio on Norwich’s BA (Hons) Fashion degree course.

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